A Complete Guide to Remote Access Protocols

As a managed services provider (MSP), you likely already work with remote access protocols on a daily basis. But learning how to best explain the various types of remote access protocols and their advantages and disadvantages to customers is critical in helping them understand your decisions—and why they should trust you and your services. This guide will help define and lay out the different types of remote access protocols for your customers, and then recommend the remote access products that best suit their needs and help you facilitate effective remote access.

A remote access protocol is responsible for managing the connection between a remote access server and a remote computer. It’s necessary for desktop sharing and remote access for help desk activities. The primary remote access protocols in use today are the Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP), Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE), Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Remote Access Services (RAS), and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Types of remote access protocol

SERIAL LINE INTERNET PROTOCOL (SLIP)`

UNIX developed SLIP as a way of transmitting TCP/IP over serial connections. SLIP operates at both the data link and physical layers of the OSI model and continues to be used today in many network operating systems, as well as UNIX.

SLIP is associated with a low overhead and can be used to transport TCP/IP over serial connections, but it doesn’t feature packet addressing or error checking capabilities. You can only use it on serial connections, which is a notable restriction.

To set up SLIP for a remote connection, you’ll need a SLIP account on the host machine, as well as a batch file or script on the workstation. When you use SLIP to log in to a remote machine, you must configure a terminal mode after you’ve logged into the remote site. This ensures the script can enter each parameter. If you don’t use a script, you’ll need to establish the connection and then open a terminal window so you can manually log in to the remote access server.

POINT-TO-POINT PROTOCOL (PPP) AND PPPOE (POINT-TO-POINT PROTOCOL OVER ETHERNET)

PPP is a remote access protocol that allows you to implement TCP/IP. It establishes a connection via point-to-point links (i.e., dedicated leased lines and dial-up). PPP is used most often for remote connections to LANs and ISPs.

PPP utilizes the Link Control Protocol (LCP), which tests the link between client and PPP host and specifies PPP client configuration, to communicate between host and PPP client. LCP allows PPP to support authentication negotiation, in addition to compression and encryption negotiation between the client and the server, using encryption control protocols (ECPs) and compression control protocols (CCPs). PPP can support multiple network protocols by using protocol-specific network control protocols (NPCs). Because it can run over numerous physical media types and features error-checking functionalities, PPP has almost entirely replaced SLIP.

PPP can also automatically configure TCP/IP and alternative protocol parameters via IP control protocol (IPCP) NCP. Unfortunately, one of PPP’s disadvantages is it attracts a high overhead and isn’t compatible with certain older configurations.

For technicians, PPP is generally considered easily configurable. Once you connect the router via PPP, it assigns all other TCP/IP parameters for you. This is usually performed with the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). DHCP is a protocol within TCP/IP protocol stack that is responsible for assigning TCP/IP addressing information. This includes subnet mask, DNS configuration, and host IP address. This information can be assigned via a LAN connection or a dial-up connection. Once you connect to an ISP, the DHCP server will likely provide your IP address.

POINT-TO-POINT TUNNELING PROTOCOL (PPTP)

PPTP is a remote access protocol, based on PPP, created by Microsoft. It’s used to establish virtual connections across the internet via PPP and TCP/IP, enabling two networks to use the internet as their WAN link while retaining the security benefits of a private network. PPTP is a great option because it’s simple and secure.

To use PPTP, you’ll have to set up a PPP session between the server and the client, usually over the internet. Once the session is established, you’ll create a second dial-up session. This dial-up session will use PPTP to dial through the existing PPP session.

A PPTP session tunnels through an existing PPP connection, facilitating the creation of a secure session. This means you can use the internet to create a secure session between the server and the client. This type of connection is also called a virtual private network (VPN) and is less expensive than a direct connection.

PPTP is a good choice for network administrators who want to connect multiple LANs but don’t want to pay for dedicated leased lines. There are, however, a few disadvantages including:

  • It’s not a fully accepted standard
  • It’s harder to set up than PPP
  • It isn’t available on all server types

You can implement PPTP in two ways. You can set up a server so it acts as the gateway to the internet and is responsible for all the tunneling. This means the workstations will run normally without the need for any extra configuration. You might use this method if the aim is to connect entire networks.

The second way to use PPTP is to configure a single, remote workstation to make a connection with a corporate network via the internet. You should configure the workstation to connect via ISP, while configuring the VPN client with the VPN remote access server.

WINDOWS REMOTE ACCESS SERVICES (RAS)

Windows 2000 and Windows NT let users dial up a server and connect to both the server and the server’s host network. This is referred to as RAS, which is used in smaller networks where a dedicated dial-up router would not be possible or practical. With a RAS setup, you can connect a modem to a Windows 2000 or Windows NT server and configure the modem as dial-out only, dial-up only, or a combination of the two.

RAS can only provide LAN access to remote users. It doesn’t let LAN users use the modem to, for example, dial their AOL account. If you want to achieve this, you’ll need Microsoft’s Shared Modem Services.

REMOTE DESKTOP PROTOCOL (RDP)

Finally, there is the RDP, which is very similar to the Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol used by Citrix products. RDP is utilized to access Windows Terminal Services, which is a close relative of the product line provided by Citrix WinFrame.

RDP offers the same core functions as ICA, although there are some limitations. RDP provides remote access for Windows clients only, while ICA can provide access for numerous platforms. ICA also offers support for automatic client updates, publishing an app to a web browser, and more.

The right remote access product for Your MSP

Beyond understanding the different types of remote access protocols, it helps to have the right tool to gain safe and efficient remote access to your customers’ desktops. If you’re looking for remote access products built with security  in mind, to help you aid your customers, then you should choose SolarWinds® Take Control.

SolarWinds Take Control offers remote access for help desks, desktop sharing, and privileged access management capabilities. It was designed to help IT server providers support their customers in a fast and intuitive way, on almost any platform. Take Control gives you access to deep diagnostics through a user-friendly dashboard and it’s able to connect to devices in just a few seconds.

Take Control was created to suit your technicians’ workflows and designed to let you hit the ground running. No training or experience is required, making the process of providing remote support less of a headache. You also have the option of configuring the tool to suit your needs—you can even adopt personalized branding, which helps your customers keep your business top-of-mind.

In addition, Take Control streamlines support operations by letting you configure workflows and customize your reports to suit your specific needs. It also gives your technicians crystal clear visibility into devices—which is especially challenging when modern business customers use multiple monitors or other unique configurations. As a tool that is all about maximizing your control, Take Control offers quality assurance features, including giving managers the opportunity to conduct session recordings and chat transcript searches.

Perhaps most importantly, this remote access product is focused on security without compromising user-friendliness or range of functionality. It uses advanced encryption protocols as well as two-factor authentication and multilevel permissions to secure your remote access operations. It also gives you the option of automatic PIN and clipboard deletion once a session is complete. To start seeing the benefits today, access a 14-day free trial here.

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