3 Free Small Business Tools that allow you to Access your Computer from Anywhere

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The proliferation of cloud computing has changed the way many business owners and employees work.  No longer are they tethered to their computers and designated workspaces.  Business can be conducted anywhere with internet access, be it your home, an airport, a café or (if you are lucky) on the beach. 

There are an abundance of tools out there that allow small business owners to connect with their computers and data.  Three of these are discussed below:

Logmein

This is truly a tremendous tool for anyone who wants to be able to access either their own or a client’s computer remotely.  Setup is extremely simple:  After setting up an account on their website, users only need to click on the “add new computer” and download to the software to the computer that they want to be able to access.  Once the software is installed you are able access the host computer from anywhere that you have internet access. (note if you try and access it from the host computer it will take you into a weird loop ).  Best of all it is free!

Some comments: 

  • It is important to address security concerns.  Since employees will have access to all the data on the computer being accessed, wherever they are, it is possible to use this data for nefarious purposes.
  • Although I mostly use Chrome for browsing the internet, Logmein seems to work better with Firefox
  • While using you logmein it is mostly  like sitting in front of your computer.  It is not, however, exactly  like sitting in front of the computer you are accessing.  There is slight loss of clarity and speed, which can be a little irksome.  If I need to work at something at length,I usually deal with this by sending the files I need to the computer I am working on. 
  • To send the files to your own computer, you have to email them to yourself.  Alternatively you can save them to a DropBox account. (see below).  Logmein Pro,  which is the paid version allows you to simply transfer the files from the host computer to one you are working from
  • There does not appear to be a limit on the number of computers you can set up using the free service.
  • It appears that each computer can only be linked to one Logmein account.  This can be problematic if more than one person needs access.
  • They actually have several other paid services that are worth checking out.  These include backup services, access to other devices on your home network and a service for IT teams. 

Dropbox

Another fantastic tool that allows you to access designated files on your computer is Dropbox.  Users download the Dropbox app to their computers, which creates a folder on your hard drive.  Everything saved to this folder is automatically synchronized.  The app can then be installed on any computer or mobile device.  Additionally you can directly access their website and download our upload files from there.

  • DropBox gives you 2 GB of storage space for free.  You can then earn additional space by completing certain steps as well as having other people sign up.  A great guide to augmenting you space allocation can be found at The Cheapskate’s Guide to Getting Free Dropbox Space
  • If you require more space, you can upgrade to the paid service which costs $9.99 per month for 50GB or $19.99 monthly for 100 GB.
  • DropBox can be accessed via any computer of mobile device, which is very convenient when you need access to a file.  You can also upload files to dropbox and it will automatically sync with all the computers on which it is installed.
  • Depending on your space limitations, you can use Dropbox to house your “my documents”  folder on your computer as well as your photos and music.  If you use Outlook as your email program, you can also use it to save your .pst file (which contains all your emails).  This allows you to access your emails from more than one computer.
  • In addition to easy access, Dropbox is a great way to backup important files and folders. 

Remote Desktop Connection

Windows allows you to connect to another computer using the Remote Desktop feature.  This is free and can be useful when you are on the road or working from home.  This is a little more complicated to set up than logmein however provides for better security than logmein.  Also, it is almost exactly like sitting in front of your computer. 

Instructions on how to set up a remote desktop connection can be found here

While having this technologycan improve productivity and client service, there are detriments to always being connected.  The key is to use it so that it actually frees up time for more interesting and leisurely activities.

Ronika Khanna is Montreal accountant who helps small businesses achieve their financial goals.  To receive regular updates of articles pertaining to small business, accounting, tax and other topics of interest to business owners you can sign up here.  You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.