You Can Reach Your Computer Equipment Away From Home
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
Your office has an IT staff that allows your company to do some amazing things. Some of those things are the ability to securely reach your company’s computer equipment while working from home, host a website, remotely access data files, security cameras, and more. There’s a whole host of equipment that’s reachable from the outside. You may want to do that with your equipment at home, but you don’t want to pay the money to hire someone to do it for you.
Well, it’s not as difficult as you might think, and there’s even some free help out there to do it. Some of you may be even paying companies like “Go To My PC” around $20 a month to access your computer from home, but you don’t have to do that. You have everything you need to access all of your stuff. You just need a little knowledge to push you in the right direction.
Let’s discuss the main technology items you may want to reach remotely: your PC, security camera, and DVR.
Every broadband connection (that’s any internet connection that’s not considered dial up) comes with a firewall. Up until a few years ago, you were responsible for the firewall because the internet service provider would just hand you an unsecured internet connection. But that caused the ISPs to become overwhelmed with hackers and other bad guys, so they started handing firewalls out with each order. If you’re not sure if your computer is behind a firewall, just do the following. Click on your start button and choose command prompt from the accessories menu (sometimes this gets moved around but you’ll find it). Type ipconfig and if your IP address starts with either a 10, 192, or 172, then you’re behind a firewall. These are all considered private IP addresses which means your firewall is hiding your real public IP behind it.
Look at the Default Gateway IP. This is the inside address of your firewall. Now go to a web browser and type in http://192.168.1.1, or whatever your gateway IP address is. A firewall login will likely come up where you can log in and take a look around. Look for the “Port Forwarding” option. A port is like a doorway into your computer. The login username and password may be different based on who set it up, but Comcast users can type in “cusadmin” and the password default is “highspeed.” Linksys firewalls tend to have no username and the password is “admin.” If you can’t figure it out you can always reset to factory defaults and call your ISP.
You access the internet using TCP/IP. The TCP portion has around 65,000 doors. By default every door is closed, but you can open them up to allow you to access the devices remotely. You should also see a DHCP tab. Click on that and you will see the list if IP addresses your equipment is using. If you go to your web browser and type in the IP address of each one with an http:// in front of them, then you’ll see which device is using which IP address.
For outside access, just go to the network or system status area and the firewall will tell you what public IP address you’re using. This is the address on the outside facing the internet. Every firewall has an inside IP and an outside IP. This will be crucial so you can connect to your devices remotely. This may occasionally change, so if your remote access doesn’t work anymore, you may need to log back into your firewall to see what it changed to. You can also use a free dynamic service to help you when it changes. It’s called Dynamic DNS. One good website that does this for free is no-ip.info.
Before you open any ports, be sure you have no usernames that have anything less than an 8 character password, at least one number, one letter, and one upper case letter. Also make sure the password doesn’t spell a known word. Dictionary attacks can usually guess these variations on words and numbers, so just make it random.
You can choose to port forward 80 or 443 to your security camera. This allows you to remotely log in to your security camera and see what it sees using a web browser. Think of it! You can now see what your dog is eating in your home while you’re at work. You can keep tabs on the babysitter or in general make sure your home is safe. Some higher-end cameras come with low light sensors for when it’s dark, and some have fire detection capabilities. You can also get this with your security alarm system, but there’s no monthly fee if you do it yourself.
Your computer has all kinds of free ways to access it remotely. If you have a professional version of Windows, you can use the free built in remote tool called Remote Desktop Protocol. Just port forward TCP 3389 and you can log into your computer from anywhere in the world just as if you were sitting there. From your remote computer, open the Remote Desktop program under Communications and type in the public IP address of your firewall to connect. If you have a home version of Windows, then download a free program called VNC from download.com and port forward TCP 5500. Make sure your Windows firewall allows for these programs to pass through. There is an exception list under Control Panel- Windows Firewall.
The other device people want to see is their TV set and have the ability to record or watch programs while away. You can purchase a Sling Box for this. Plug it into your cable box on one end and your internet connection on the other, and now you can record or watch programs with no monthly fee. The stream gets sent to Slingbox.com and you log into your account to watch shows through your web browser. There are even apps on smart phones where you can watch. No port forwarding is necessary.
You may have to occasionally check your DHCP tab on your firewall in case your public or private IP addresses change. Typically they don’t change, but if it stops working then you know where to check.
There are all kinds of things you can do without recurring monthly charges for remotely accessing your equipment, and these just scratch the surface. If you have any questions just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
To reach our company for computer support at your home or business, call All Tech 1 at 503-598-8408. We have a team of Microsoft certified technicians and engineers.
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