Planning for remote access

In distributed businesses, employees need to remotely access corporate resources. You must create a plan to ensure that users who need remote access will experience the network as if they were on site, without compromising the security, reliability, performance and manageability of the overall network.

Before you begin
__ Create a table with the users that need remote access to the corporate infrastructure in one column and all of the applications that they use in a related column.
Remote access planning tasks
__ Plan for remote offices

A remote office extends the network topology to off-site locations. At a minimum, it contains one or more hosts and might contain servers, hubs, bridges, routers, or switches. You can either connect the remote office to the local office through a private leased line or through a virtual private network (VPN), which creates a secure connection over the Internet. A physical private network is easier to manage, performs better, and is more secure than a VPN at a substantially higher cost. The decision to use a VPN rather than committing to a leased line is typically based on the size of the office. Home office employees and small satellite offices are best suited to VPNs. For medium-sized and large remote offices, leased lines are recommended. Also, if small offices have high-bandwidth or low-latency needs, such as video conferencing or Voice over IP (VoIP) respectively, a leased line is recommended.

To learn more about how to plan for remote offices, see the chapter on remote access in the IP Network Design Guide.Link to a PDF

__ Plan for Internet connections

You need to choose internet service providers (ISPs) and design connections to them when developing your network plan. Various technologies enable your company to connect to the Internet, and for clients and remote offices to access your company resources and enable remote access to your company resources. Large companies typically use leased lines to connect to an ISP. Small companies and small offices can often save on cost by using broadband connections, such as DSL. In addition to the connection type, you must take several other design considerations into account. For example, you need to decide whether your ISP hosts your Web and e-mail servers, or whether you do. These decisions effect many later network planning decisions, such as the locations of firewall servers.

To learn more about how to plan for Internet connections, see the chapter on remote access in the IP Network Design Guide.Link to a PDF

__ Plan for other remote access
Often employees will need to dial into your network while traveling or for server and network diagnostics. If traveling employees have Internet access, this is typically done through the same VPN that you set up for small satellite offices. You also need to plan for remote personnel to dial directly into your network through a modem that is connected to a server. There are several reasons to plan for direct remote access:
  • It is often the most economical solution for text-based data transfer.
  • It is often necessary for service providers.
  • It can provide emergency failover if your ISP or your leased line connection are out of service.

To learn more about how to plan for remote dial-in access, see the chapter on remote access in the IP Network Design Guide.Link to a PDF

When you have completed these tasks, you should have a remote access plan that identifies these elements:

__ Record a topology of all off-site network resources, including the remote access connection points to your local area network (LAN).
__ Record a list of service providers and leased lines that are in use and determine the peak bandwidth of each line.
__ Estimate future remote access needs and record a strategy for improving the reliability, manageability, security, and accessibility of your remote networks, while lowering their cost.