A Simpler Way to Accommodate Remote Users

In the age of COVID, companies are faced with the challenge of accommodating users that are working remotely.

In a time of lockdowns and "stay-at-home" orders, a growing number of employees are working from home and companies are faced with the challenge of accommodating their computing needs while away from the office. The popular trend is to employ technologies such as "remote desktops" or "remote desktop servers" to facilitate access to software applications installed on users' desktop PCs or company servers. While both of these solutions can be very effective, and are often necessary particularly when dealing with larger numbers of users or old software systems, they do come at a cost.

Remote access configurations can take several forms in practice. At the most basic level, the office maintains physical PCs (often the users' actual office desktops) and allows users to connect to them remotely through the use of a VPN ("virtual private network"). This is a secure connection made over the internet to an office network. The remote user would require their own PC and a high-speed internet connection with sufficient bandwidth for them to connect to the office infrastructure and maintain that connection while they are working. In the alternative, companies could employ "virtual" desktops - a solution that requires one or more servers to act as the users' office desktops and accept remote connections to them.

In either case, the infrastructure and labor costs can be substantial. In addition to maintaining additional host PCs or servers, the office must maintain an internet connection capable of supporting concurrent and sustained connectivity with each and every one of their remote users. This usually involves VPN appliances, servers and all their infrastructure, and of course the people to keep it all running. The net effect of all this is typically a greatly diminished user experience, as software performance is entirely dependent on the quality of the individual internet connections as well as the traffic burden placed on the corporate infrastructure.

Clearly there are times when such implementations are necessary. Large user bases and software design to run only on on-premises servers are two of the most common. There are however, other alternatives that can be implemented quickly and without the need for the extensive - and expensive infrastructure.

While AVAproject can be deployed in a network or cloud based configuration through "Remote Desktop Services" (RDS), there is an even simpler choice. "Distributed deployment" - the practice of installing applications locally on each users machine is not only the most convenient and cost effective choice, but also one that provides the best overall user experience.

With no reliance on third-party servers, virtual desktop operating systems, VPNs, or VPN appliances users are unencumbered by the infrastructure and free to run applications at full speed on their local machines. As with any complex system, the overall performance on the software will be determined by the slowest component in the chain. Slow or overloaded servers and VPN connections will be felt by the various users as they perform daily tasks.

AVAproject can be installed on a user's PC, desktop or laptop, in a matter of minutes. User validation is done through a web-based password management system that facilitates the seamless downloading and updating of catalogs as new releases are issued. This type of "distributed" approach to deployment offers the greatest amount of flexibility for users. Users are free to work from the office, home, or wherever they may find themselves. This is especially beneficial for mobile users or those that reside in areas with slower internet connections; the performance of the software is not at all affected by the speed of those connections.

Data from AVAproject, AVAcad and AVAproject Fusion can be stored in discrete individual files, similar to those used by applications such as Microsoft Excel or Word. They can be easily stored on local hard drives and shared via a cloud-based file sharing platform such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. Users can even share the files through standard email. Files are encrypted for security purposes and users may further lock using passwords and other built-on security features.

During a time when remote work has become an all-too-common fact of life for office staff, most companies have found themselves searching for effective solutions to make this possible. Many have turned to complex and very costly solutions built upon remote desktops and "mirroring" office PCs with users' remote laptops. While there are certainly use cases for which these choices make sense, it might also be worth considering a simpler approach that does not come with all the incremental costs.

We welcome any questions, comments or suggestions about any topic mentioned in this edition of AVAwire. Please visit our website for more information, or contact us directly at (416) 239-9099.