As a consultant at client sites I often times find myself needing to get something from my home computer or need to demo how I use my own personal Sharepoint web server. Sometimes I’ll need to get on a messenger service when the company has all messaging ports firewalled. Well, I think I’ve found a clever way to get access to your computer from just about any internet connection even if your home network has a dynamic IP address. And the best part about it is that it only takes about 30 mins and it’s free!
The following steps are for Windows XP Pro and Windows Server 2003. It might be slightly different if you’re using XP Home or Media Center.
1. First step is to make sure you have Remote Desktop enabled. You can turn this on by going to System Properties (Right-Click My Computer > Remote Tab). Make sure the “Enable Remote Desktop on this computer” box is checked.
2. Next step is to sign up for an account at http://www.dyndns.org. This free service monitors your dynamic IP address and changes global DNS records as needed to point to your given friendly domain name. For example, they let you pick a domain name something like mydomain.dnsdojo.com. This domain name will be mapped to your IP address. If your IP address changes because you’re cheap like me and pay $12.99 for SBC DSL, DynDns.org will make sure everyone that hits mydomain.dnsdojo.com will be redirected to the proper IP addres. To configure this go to My Services > My Hosts > Dynamic DNS after logging into the DynDns.org website and follow the prompts.
3. Now, here’s the part that can get a little bit tricky if you have a network router firewall installed. Some might give you trouble, some might not. I’m using a Netgear WGT624 router and sometimes I have 4 computers on my home network at any given time. If you want to configure a web server to run websites from your home computer, you’ll want to configure port forwarding. This will direct say all of your web traffic on port 80 to your specific web server. Some routers also let you configure Dynamic DNS settings to update DynDns.org about your new IP address. If it doesn’t have this option then you’ll have to download a free software that runs on your computer and notifies DynDns.org of your current IP address. You can download that here: http://www.dyndns.com/support/clients/.
Now, how to access your home computer while on the road? You’ll need to be running Windows XP Pro or in the case that you’re using a Mac you can download Remote Desktop here.
1. In XP Pro go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection or you could type “mstsc” in the run box.
2. Type in your domain name that you configured at DynDns.org and hit enter.
3. Type in your login information and voila! You can now access your home computer from anywhere and anytime that your computer is on.
In the case that you’re hosting a website like Windows Sharepoint Services you can type your domain name into a browser and it should pull up your webpage.
I prefer to use UltraVNC over Remote Desktop. It is free; has an encryption plugin; can be set on a non-standard port; can use Windows accounts for authentication; and allows screen sharing.
My 2c worth.
thanks for the tip!