You may have seen our blog post announcing Nomad, our free utility to help prepare for a remote workflow, and may have already begun running it in-house, but accessing your online media from off-site may require some additional setup.
Taking the time to properly configure remote access to your EVO storage server in your local environment can add a significant amount of options for remote/work-from-home flexibility and productivity.
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have your own end-to-end connection when working off-site, any remote workflow is going to involve the internet, which means no matter how high-speed your server and workstation connections are, once that traffic leaves the building, the path and time it takes to get to its destination is unpredictable.
For a high-bandwidth, low-latency workflow, considerations need to be made for the innumerable connection points between client and server. Fortunately, project files themselves are relatively small, and working with proxies rather than source media can greatly lighten the load and often make it possible to still edit in place, even when working from a remote location.
Networking involves opening ports on systems for communication, and widening this network to include access over the internet obviously calls security into consideration.
Gaining secure access to your local (in-house) network resources from a remote location typically requires employment of one of the following methods:
VPN (virtual private network)
VPN has somewhat become a household term in recent years, but the typical use case often advertised on television is for the purpose of anonymizing the consumer’s online activity. In that case, a user subscribes to a service that allows them to obfuscate their internet traffic by first sending it through servers in other locations, making it appear as if their online activity is actually originating from elsewhere. The customer uses a VPN client to connect to a VPN server provided by this service.
The use case in this article is completely different, in that you have your own VPN server for outside clients to connect to, which does not require a subscription to any kind of service. Chances are good that you already have a device in the work environment that can be quickly configured as a VPN server to provide secure access to clients of your choosing.
When connecting to a VPN, a secure "tunnel" is created between the remote user's workstation and the local network, where all data sent between the two are encrypted. This can be thought of as a virtual Ethernet cable connecting the remote user's workstation to the local network's router. The remote workstation is treated as though it is physically connected to the local network. This allows the remote user to access resources on the local network as though they were in the same room.
With VPN access, the only real limitation is the internet connection speed, since the user is free to use their own machine’s resources to communicate directly with other computers in the work environment.
A VPN server can be configured on a dedicated appliance, existing workstation, or many models of routers and switches. Many of these provide their own wizards to simplify the initial setup, and once properly configured, access to network resources is truly only one click away.
Pros: Working from any location in the world is seamless, and connection speed aside, completely indistinguishable from sitting in an editing bay at work. Connections are encrypted and do not require third-party involvement. No additional software is required.
Cons: Requires configuration of a VPN server in the work environment, as well as VPN client configuration for each machine that will have access to the local network. Depending on the clients, it may not be practical to offer this type of access to everyone. Additional security considerations may be required to silo users on a case-by-case basis. Unless the site has a static external IP address, the address may change periodically, requiring update to the both server and client configurations.
Remote Desktop Software
Remote desktop software works a bit differently from VPN. Instead of the remote user's workstation appearing to be in the same environment as the workgroup, screen-sharing software allows a user to take control of a workstation that is already physically connected to the local network, using an intermediary server to pass communication between the local and remote machines.
Remote desktop software streams the connected workstation’s screen to the remote user. The mouse and keyboard commands that the user takes on their workstation are mimicked on the remote workstation. It is worth noting that audio is often not included when using screen-sharing software, which may be important in some editing workflows. Additionally, the video stream will have added latency, and is not frame accurate.
Many screen-sharing applications provide the ability to copy files between the connected workstations. If audio, or frame accurate editing is required, the remote user can copy the necessary files to their workstation, edit, then copy back when finished.
As with VPN access, the connection speed between the remote user’s workstation and the local workstation will be limited by the slowest part of the internet connection in between, but the physically connected workstation’s access to local network resources will not.
Setting up remote desktop software is often as simple as installing the required client application, and can be installed on any workstation running a supported operating system. However, some screen-sharing software may limit the number of remote users that can be connected at a given time, and a monthly or annual subscription fee may also be required.
Pros: Quick and easy to set up, with no additional servers to maintain. A single machine can be easily dedicated to provide continuous access to content of your choice. Access permissions apply to anyone connected to the machine, so they can be considered once, rather than on a case-by-case basis. Great for on-the-fly access to upload/download content between local and remote networks.
Cons: Relies on third-party servers to facilitate communications between the connected workstations. Generally slower than VPN, and often provides video only, which may not be suitable for users who need to work with audio sources. Video playback is also not frame accurate. Additional software required.