I live and write in the great, white, cold north, where the winters are long and the snows are deep and frequent. It takes a far hardier person than me to endure the endless winter months without heading south for an extended period of time to, as someone near and dear to me once described it, “tan my tonsils.” This winter, I headed down to enjoy the warmth of Florida, where I linger a bit on into early spring as I recover from the stress of our major law firm merger. (I’ve found that as I age and move closer to retirement, recovery time is more precious and necessary.) Since my time here is “extended,” I continue to work—but I do it remotely.
The Sun Is Shining, the Birds Are Singing and I’m Totally in Touch
Spending this time in the warm and sunny south while still ensuring our firm’s tech department remains on top of its game requires a seamless remote connection that allows me to read and reply to (endless) emails, as well as complete my necessary duties during this working holiday. Today’s technology makes that so easy—and often for free. All that’s needed is a good Internet connection and the proper tools. Now, whether working remotely during vacation is good for your sanity is a post for another time and a different blogger. But here are some remote tools that will keep your work running smoothly.
- Outlook Web Access. If all you’re looking for is easy access to your email, calendar and tasks and if you have Outlook running on an Exchange server at your office, speak to your techies to see if Outlook Web is available to you. If it is, you’ll have full access to a web-based version of your own Outlook mail from any Internet-enabled computer, tablet or smartphone. Outlook 2010 running on the latest Exchange server provides very robust web-based access to the full power of Outlook.
- Windows Remote Desktop Connection. Microsoft Windows 7 (Pro, Ultimate and Enterprise) users already have a great remote tool at their fingertips. Just configure and test the remote desktop connection before leaving, then access your computer remotely as if you were sitting in front of it. You will have almost every function available to you, including remote printing. (Note that speed will depend on the quality of connection, and it’s nice to warn everyone in advance before you start shooting stuff out of a remote printer!) Add a virtual private network (VPN) connection to the network, and you’ll have a fully secure remote connection to your office computer. If you have a Cisco security product, Cisco VPN may already be available to you. (For a roundup of some free VPN tools, see 7 Completely Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy from makeusof.)
- TeamViewer. If you’re taking your laptop or tablet on the road and want full access to your home computer or office workstation, prepare in advance by downloading and configuring TeamViewer on both machines before you go. TeamViewer allows for easy, secure remote access from one computer to another, including remote file copy and drag and drop—even from your iPad or Android device. TeamViewer is free for noncommercial use; otherwise you pay for a lifetime license.
- LogMeIn. LogMeIn has been around for a long, long time. They currently offer a completely free tool that allows for remote access to another computer to run programs remotely, including opening files. The free version is somewhat limited, not allowing file transfers from the remote computer, but it does provide complete remote ability and may be all you need—it’s a good place to start, in any event. If you find you need more, a Pro version is available.
- More free remote programs. PCWorld has a nice roundup of free remote access programs that might prove helpful for your next working vacation, too.
Just Be Smart About It
You shouldn’t, of course, neglect the vacation element of that phrase “working vacation.” So remember to sit back in the warm sun, and let the gentle breezes, scents and birdsong draw you deep into relaxation. And wait until it rains before you engage those remote tools.
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Barriston LLP (formerly Burgar Rowe PC) primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”
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