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What is secure remote access?

Secure remote access is an umbrella term that encompasses security measures, policies and technologies used to protect data and resources when accessing a company’s network from a remote location. This ensures that only authorized users can latch on to the network, and that their data is safe from interception and breach.

Let’s illustrate the concept further with an example. Imagine Sarah, a marketing manager, working from home. She needs access to a proprietary marketing tool that resides on the company’s private cloud servers. Secure remote access allows her to establish this connection safely. Here's how it works:

  • Sarah first connects to the company's Virtual Private Network (VPN), which uses encryption to shield data from prying eyes.
  • Next, she enters her password and a multi-factor authentication (MFA) token to confirm her identity as an authorized user.
  • Once her identity is confirmed, the access control system directs Sarah to a Single Sign-On (SSO) screen. Here, she sees only the applications she's authorized to use, including the marketing tool. This ensures Sarah can't access parts of the network she doesn't need for her job.

The entire process that Sarah followed – from the VPN connection and the MFA tokens to the SSO login – is governed by secure remote access.

What is secure remote access?

Why remote access security is important?

Secure remote access is gradually becoming a key business imperative for many organizations. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Supports remote work: Remote work is an excellent perk to offer employees, but it also introduces new security threats. Secure remote access solutions mitigate these threats by creating secure communication bridges between employee devices and the company network.
  • Enhances your security posture: Organizations have cloud infrastructures spread across AWS, Google Cloud, Azure and private cloud environments. Through secure remote access, they can increase their security posture by adding layers of security. This makes it significantly harder for attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.
  • Maintains compliance: Many industries are subject to regulations that require strict data protection measures. Secure remote access helps companies comply with these regulations to avoid legal penalties and fines.
  • Improves business continuity: Unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters or pandemics can disrupt physical office operations. Secure remote access allows employees to continue working productively from any location with an internet connection.
  • Increases workforce flexibility: Secure remote access empowers businesses to hire and retain top talent, regardless of location. Moreover, it fosters a more flexible work environment that can improve employee satisfaction and productivity.

How secure remote access works

In the next few headings, we will explore the different components of secure remote access and how they work.

Secure remote control

Secure remote control allows administrators to remotely access and control devices and applications. This can be useful for many reasons, including: troubleshooting issues remotely, performing maintenance tasks, enforcing endpoint security or offering IT support.

Here’s what a workflow would look like for an administrator looking to remotely perform software updates on an endpoint:

  1. The administrator identifies a device that needs a software update. They use the secure remote access platform to initiate a connection request. A VPN may or may not be required in this step.
  2. They log in to the device using their admin credentials. If needed, they may use the wake-on-LAN feature to remotely power on the device.
  3. Next, they transfer the update files to the endpoint. Depending on the size of the files, this may require a high-bandwidth connection.
  4. Finally, they install the update and restart the device, if needed.

Privileged Remote Access

It’s recommended to use a state-of-the-art privileged access management (PAM) solution to manage privileged remote access for administrators. These tools enable administrators to log in more securely and seamlessly, without even needing a VPN.

Secure remote workers

Employees use remote desktop or remote PC access software to access their office computer and personal data from any location. The workflow for this is typically straightforward (by design): employees open the remote access application, enter their login credentials and are granted access.

Secure remote access solutions can also integrate with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems, which allows remote workers to make and receive calls through the company network.

Remote access services

Employees and administrators can also access services and applications remotely. These can be any cloud services, like an Amazon RDS instance, or an on-premise application, like an accounting software. For the workflow of remotely accessible services, refer to the Sarah example we discussed earlier.

Remote access solutions log all user activity, providing a record of who accessed the network, when and what actions they performed. Moreover, they include IP address management to control and monitor which IP addresses are allowed to connect to the network. This helps prevent unauthorized access to internal and external services.

Secure remote access vs. VPN

Secure remote access and VPNs are both used to support remote connections, but they are two different concepts.

Secure remote access is a broader term that includes technologies, policies and processes for securely accessing a company's network resources from remote locations.

Conversely, A VPN is a specific technology that creates a secure encrypted tunnel between endpoints and a remote network. A VPN is often used to add layers of security to secure remote access.

Secure remote access vs. authentication

Secure remote access and authentication go hand in hand, but it’s important to recognize their differences.

As mentioned earlier, secure remote access is a comprehensive strategy that governs how authorized users can connect to a company's network resources from remote locations.

Authentication is a validation technique that verifies a user's identity before granting access to any resources. Strong authentication is a fundamental component of any secure remote access strategy.


With remote work becoming increasingly popular, companies must prioritize and implement secure remote access. It helps them create a robust enterprise network that supports remote work, ubiquitous access and increased efficiency – all while ensuring a secure and reliable connection.

Secure your privileged accounts with One Identity PAM solutions

One Identity Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions offer seamless security for privileged access that scales and evolves with your business.