Coronavirus: How to access TeleForm remotely using VPN and RDC
As Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise in the UK, the Government has introduced new measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The measures include travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home and closing educational settings.
Suddenly, IT departments are being asked to support a distributed workforce with many employees accessing the office network from home. As a result, interest in remote home working has grown exponentially since the start of the Pandemic.
In this blog, we provide some guidance on using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) to access your TeleForm system if you are working from home.
First, let’s discuss VPN and RDC - two technologies designed to provide better security when connecting to an office network from a remote location.
What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
A VPN is a private connection between your home computer and an office network.
How VPN software works
When connected, your home PC is considered to be on the local office network and you can securely access personal, confidential or commercially sensitive data on file servers and applications as if you were at your desk, regardless of your geographical location.
Although many larger organisations may prefer the enhanced support provided by using commercial solutions, it is worth noting that many small business broadband routers and all current versions of Windows have VPN capabilities built-in. This means that if proper consideration is given to the security options, a VPN can be set up with no additional hardware or software costs.
Advantages of using a VPN
- Transfer information securely: a VPN can protect your data and transmit information between distributed offices without exposure, offering peace of mind when working from home or remotely.
- Use public Wi-Fi safely: VPN connections are useful for people working in a shared office, hotel or café as they encrypt traffic and connections over a public Wi-Fi that is unsecure and vulnerable to cyber-attacks by malicious hackers.
- Transparent: once connected, a VPN is invisible to the users and they can continue to work as if they were in the office.
- Supports scanning: when used in conjunction with TeleForm, this method supports scanning. Once connected over a VPN, you can run the TeleForm Scan Station to scan forms from a locally connected scanner.
Disadvantages of using a VPN
- Reduced speed: VPN connections are very slow due to the limited bandwidth of consumer broadband connections, the distance of the connection and data encryption, which adds extra security at the cost of speed.
- Complexity of setup: setting up your own VPN can be complex with many security and encryption options available. Ensuring you have it configured in a secure way can be difficult for the inexperienced and the last thing you want is an insecure network giving a false sense of security!
What is Remote Desktop?
Sometimes referred to as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Remote Desktop Services (RDS), a Remote Desktop provides a remote worker with a screen-sharing connection between their home computer and their work computer (physically still located in the office).
How remote desktop works
To set-up a connection, the remote worker will need to run RDP client software. At the same time, the office workstation must be permanently left on or in a ‘sleep’ state, running the RDP server software. All “Professional” and “Enterprise” editions of Windows include both an RDP server and client component and although the “Home” editions do not include a server component; they can still be used as a client.
Remote desktop client apps are also available for iOS, Android, Linux and macOS.
Advantages of remote desktop
- Simple setup: you can configure a remote desktop connection in a few simple steps. Once enabled, simply enter the IP address of host PC and wait for the connection to complete.
- Quick: once connected, you can access your files and use your normal applications at the same speed as if you were in the office.
- Cost effective: in most cases, you will be able to use the software installed on your office PC without needing to purchase additional licenses for your home PC.
Disadvantages of remote desktop
- No TeleForm scanning: there is no built-in support for accessing local USB devices, such as scanners. This prevents you from scanning forms into TeleForm.
- Can be insecure: To protect access, you will probably need a VPN in addition to the RDP connection itself.
Accessing TeleForm Workgroup when working from home
The best way to experience TeleForm is when the software and hardware is located on the same physical network. This is because TeleForm is designed for high volume and high-speed forms processing where images and many small transitions are performed by client PC’s over the network. The limited bandwidth of remote connections is a problem here, but more significant is the inherent latency of remote connections, which can slow applications such as the TeleForm verifier to an unacceptable level.
However, it is possible to connect remotely over a VPN.
This can be used where a connection to a physical scanner is necessary and where latency is not such an issue, such as scanning. You will need a USB scanner for connection to your home PC. Once the scanner is configured (and the VPN is set-up), you can scan forms via the TeleForm Scan Station on your PC, with the images sent to the TeleForm server over the VPN connection.
With scanning complete, the remote desktop connection to your office PC runs the high-volume parts of the process that require a low latency connection, such as the TeleForm Reader and Verifier. With RDP, even over a standard consumer broadband connection, it is possible to have a near-normal verification experience, with images displaying and the Verifier responding to keystrokes with only the slightest delay.
Additionally, a number of alternative solutions are available for TeleForm users scanning from home or distributed sites. These include:
- TeleForm Web Capture Option (WCO), to allow users to remotely scan into the TeleForm application through a browser.
- eScan, to provide scanning, reconciliation, image QC and transmission of scanned forms back to the TeleForm Reader from many distributed locations.
- eForm Suite, to create intelligent PDF and HTML forms. An add-on module for TeleForm and integrated with the Designer module, it allows you to export a form template as an electronic form in Acrobat PDF or HTML format. All fields created in the TeleForm Designer are converted to electronic fill-in fields with business rules automatically applied.
Should you be considering a move to eForms?
If you have a cloud-hosted subscription to one of our eForms and workflow solutions such as Process Director, you can continue to work remotely without interruption, accessing the platform in any modern browser.
Ultimately, the Coronavirus outbreak is shining a light on inefficient business processes as organisations struggle to collaborate and manage paper-based forms and approvals while working remotely.
If the Pandemic is making you consider replacing paper forms with a cloud-hosted eForms (and workflow) system, please contact us for a Process Director demo.
We wish you and your family well and extend our very best wishes during these challenging times.
Stay home and stay safe.