May 12, 2006

My Top Ten Tools For Working Remotely

Sometimes, I think we take technology for granted. This evening, after getting home from the office, I made edits to our Web site from the comfort of my couch - even though the server is back at headquarters. While I've done this for years, technology continues to improve to make the process easier. With my heading off to another trade show this coming week, this time in Chicago, remote access will be essential. Here's how we do it.

1. The Apple iPod.

What? You thought this was a toy for listening to music and watching TV shows? You'd usually be right, but the iPod acts as my primary storage device, to and from the office. Now, any Mac with a Firewire or USB port is my office. So long as I backup the iPod to my home laptop (and I do), the data is not only portable, but safe.

2. Microsoft Outlook Webmail

This is one thing Microsoft does really well. I can access all my work e-mail from any computer, just through the Web. From the Web interface, I can not only send and receive e-mail, but sort data in folders, and send meeting invites, or view the calendar. With an acceptance that most corporations continue to use Windows and Outlook, I'm surprisingly happy with this tool.

3. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection

Two Microsoft in a row! (Looks at the window toward the East to see any visitors...)

Remote Desktop Connection takes off where VNC ends. Though I've used a number of variants of VNC over the years, Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection lets me log in securely to the company's Web site, and make changes. Even while running Mac OS X, I can pop open a window to the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 box and make edits - and then log out as simply as if I were standing in front of the box in our datacenter. This, and VNC before it, prevent me from having to utilize "sneakernet" and shuttle data from my local disk to the remote machine or run local scripts.

4. FTP (Fetch 4.0.3)

The old reliable... though competitors like CuteFTP and Anarchie popped up now and again, Fetch remains a strong FTP client. As with Microsoft's RDC, I can remotely log in to upload or download data. Used in combination with all those tools above, I can upload a file from the iPod, FTP it over with Fetch, and log into Microsoft RDC to move it to the right directory before testing. (Fetch is also used to manage the graphics on this site.)

5 - 8. .Mac Sync with Apple's Safari, Address Book and iCal

This probably deserves to be higher. As a .Mac member, Apple automatically synchronizes my bookmarks in Safari, my Address Book, and my calendar (iCal) between the home laptop and the desktop at the office. This way, I don't have to wish that I had all my tools at hand - instead, I know they are there, so I can run the same queries and get the same results across boxes.

9. RIM Blackberry

When away from the desktop, the Blackberry one-ups Webmail, by taking my e-mail, calendar, and cell phone with me in one device. While I'm not the type who likes sending out large messages from the Blackberry, real-time synchronization with Exchange is essential to keep up to date. Call history and Caller ID is very nice as well - something we take all too much for granted.

10. Bare Bones BBEdit

It wouldn't do me any good to take files back and forth on the iPod from the office if I couldn't mangle them the same way at home as I do from the corporate desk. BBEdit has been my text and HTML editor of choice for nearly 10 years now, and until I gain more savvy or am up for a challenge, that isn't going to change. BBEdit was built for Web editing and ensures I see the same output on any browser or operating system, whether I'm working from home, the road, or headquarters.

Listening to ''University Microfilms International (Non Album Track)'', by Stereolab (Play Count: 11)