As our office’s resident Mac geek I get asked plenty of questions by employees on how to do this or that. One of the questions that comes up more often in the era of home and office computers, is:
“How can I connect to my Mac (or PC) at home?” That’s a fair enough question. The answer is both easy and complex. And there are a dozen ways to connect to your home network from a remote location.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Sam
To employ the KISS method implies the fewest number of complications that may exist in your Mac’s home network. So, let me assume that you have a phone company DSL modem router, or a broadband Cable router.
The idea is to reduce the number of steps to connect from office (or any remote location) to home.
The more steps, the more complicated the whole remote connection becomes. For example, if you have a wireless (WiFi) router connected to your DSL or Cable router, that adds extra security, but it’s also an extra hoop to jump through.
One of the easiest Mac remote connection tools I’ve used is ShareTool.
Bonjour, Let’s Share The Night Together
ShareTool relies on Apple’s built-in Bonjour services so whatever Mac apps use Bonjour can usually connect to your local network and Mac from a remote network and a Mac notebook.
A number of features make ShareTool a good choice for most Mac users who want to connect to their Macs while on the road (assumes you have a Mac while you’re on the road). First, your connection is encrypted so any file transfers are secure.
Second, you can control your home Mac’s screen from a remote location (like the Mac’s built-in Screen Sharing). Finally, you can connect to iTunes or iPhoto to listen to music from home, or view photos from the home Mac.
ShareTool is easy to set up and mostly a self configuration, thanks to Bonjour.
Home network connections and configurations vary, but if you’re using a modern router at home on DSL or Cable, you should be able to connect remotely with few problems.
Since ShareTool acts as the central traffic cop, it always knows where you are, and where your home Mac network is, so there’s no IP addresses to remember. You can even connect to multiple networks in multiple locations at one time.
Your login information is stored securely in your Mac’s keychain. All data from remote to home network is encrypted in an SSH tunnel (that’s good). Even many VPN connections (good for office to home connections) are supported.
Installation of ShareTool is straightforward. Download, install, double click to launch.
You’ll need to enter your ShareTool registration information, and the ShareTool folder needs to stay in your Mac’s Applications folder. Your home router also needs to support UPnP, a modern protocol found on most recent routers. Even if it doesn’t ShareTool can work, but requires a few more steps.
What you can use once connected from a remote Mac to your local Mac at home are File Sharing, Screen Sharing, iTunes Sharing, Web Sharing, which makes it almost like your home Mac is directly connected to your remote Mac. Well, actually, it is. That’s what makes ShareTool such a good option for remote connections.