Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a tool that allows you to connect to a Windows PC or server over a network. You can use the RDP to access other computers over a local network or via the internet. It is crucial for remote users who still need a connection to their networks or work servers. For instance, remote staff can access and operate their work computers from home using their home computers.
For this reason, RDP is considered a remote desktop access solution for remote users. While it offers many benefits, it is fraught with challenges and security risks. Users and organizations must come to terms with many aspects of RDP before using the connection tool for professional and personal purposes. This article will show you how to use RDP, what it does, and its benefits and limitations.
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- The RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) is a remote access solution that allows users to access and use Windows on a device using input and output devices in another location
- Two essential components are needed for an RDP connection: an RDP server and an RDP client
- An RDP creates an encrypted connection between the RDP host system and the client (remote) device
- The most popular type of RDP client for enterprises is the Microsoft Remote Desktop, but depending on your needs, it might not be the right client
- RDP is a flexible protocol that is adaptable to any environment
What Is Remote Desktop Protocol?
The RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) is a remote desktop access solution that allows users to access and use Windows on a device using input and output devices in another location. The input devices, such as the keyboard and mouse, are networked with the remote machine to work as if they are plugged directly into the Windows computer you are accessing remotely. It is a seamless way for network administrators, remote employees, and professional users to access and manage Windows computers remotely.
You need two essential components for an RDP connection:
- An RDP server: The RDP server is the Windows PC or server you want to access and control remotely.
- An RDP client: The client is the device or PC you wish to use to control the remote PC or client. You need to install an RDP client app on the client’s device.
You can use the Microsoft RDP client for Windows or macOS and a third-party app for Linux and other operating systems.
History of RDP
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a remote access solution that Microsoft introduced in 1998 as one of the features of the Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition. According to Microsoft, the initial purpose of the RDP was to allow the deployment of “thin client‚ architectures.” This protocol allowed the business to access resources from powerful Windows servers via business computers and other devices. The user provided inputs and operated the servers using keyboard and mouse commands from the local device.
As the RDP became a standard feature on Microsoft servers and desktop rotating systems, network administrators began to leverage it for maintenance and business operations. Administrators could troubleshoot and update all business computers from a single location using the Remote Desktop Protocol. They also used it to grant employees access to their work computers from remote locations.
How Does RDP Work?
An RDP creates an encrypted connection between the RDP host system and the client (remote) device. Through this network connection, the user gives instructions to the host system via their local mouse and keyword while the host system transmits information and data into the client’s display. The applications, processing, and data storage remain on the host system. The client system only provides a way to access the informant, perform tasks and view data.
The host server or PC can be located in the exact location of the client device or far away. Many companies now use cloud services or on-premises servers to operate virtual instances of the Windows desktop operating system. This connection with the RDP allows users to access these virtual desktops regardless of whether they are on-site or working remotely. Businesses use this operating model to keep sensitive information on protected systems while allowing staff and authorized users to access the systems from their preferred location and with their preferred devices.
What Is RDP Used for?
RDP was initially designed for network administrators to manage business computers and devices without physically attending to each computer. The protocol has become an integral connection tool in most companies in recent decades.
Here is how businesses, employees, professionals, and private users use RDP:
1. Remote Access and Control
The RDP primarily aims to provide network administrators with remote desktop access and control. It is a standard feature of the Microsoft server and desktop operating systems, so there is no expense to implementing it. Administrators can use it as a management tool to manage computers within their company. Companies that use BYOD (bring your own device) also adopt it to onboard and offboard users.
However, RDP is not limited to corporate workplaces. Private users such as game developers, web builders, developers, and engineers who need high-level performance systems can leverage RDP to get the performance they need while working on general-purpose devices.
2. IT Administration
IT administrators use RDP to manage Windows PC and servers. Companies that rely on the Windows operating system (server, desktop, or both) use the RDP to maintain all their devices.
Thanks to the Remote Desktop Protocol, engineers do not have to visit each floor for maintenance or troubleshooting. They can troubleshoot individual scythes remotely, thereby saving time and effort.
RDP also allows remote installation and updates. For instance, if a company’s IT crew decides to install a new antivirus software on their computers, they don’t have to install it manually. They can initiate the installation and handle any issues that may arrive remotely. This function is beneficial in settings where the systems may not be physically present, as in cases where the company has several locations.
3. Remote Work
RDP has always been a remote connection solution for people who work offsite. RDP became more important as the world transitioned to a work-from-home setting. Staff who had to work remotely during the global pandemic of 2020 did not have to take their work computers home. By using RDP, they could access their work computers from home, access files and folders, and carry out business operations.
Even full-time remote workers can benefit from the Remote Desktop Protocol. All they need to do is set up their computers to access the central server or PC. Many companies now run virtual instances of their operating system on cloud services. Remote workers can use their devices to use those virtual desktops and work as if they are on-site.
4. Collaborative Work
The Remote Desktop Protocol allows more than one client to access the server at a time. This multi-access helps team members to collaborate on a single task from multiple locations. They can use the RDP to share their desktops with other team members. The other team members can then comment on or directly modify projects as they deem fit.
The advantages of using RDP for collaborative work are numerous:
- It is a way for members to share projects and provide direct inputs
- It can be a more secure option when done correctly than other collaborative tools online
- Team members have direct access to information, data, and computing resources that can make their projects faster and more efficient
5. Training and Support
HR departments can provide training and onboarding support remotely using the Remote Desktop Protocol. New employees don’t need to be physically present to access important information and gain access to the resources they need. Once connected to the central server via the RDP, they can operate as if they are on-site.
Furthermore, they can share their desktop with trainers who will show them how to use company tools and resources.
In cases where the employees have an issue, IT personnel can also provide remote support. The support agent can view the issue directly through RDP and make any needed upgrades, troubleshooting, or installations to resolve the program. This approach saves time and resources while fixing the problem on time. It also allows remote staff to move freely, knowing that support is always available via the network.
What Is RDP in Networking?
RDP is a networking protocol that facilitates instruction and information between the Terminal Server and the Terminal Server Client. It is an extension of the T-120 family of protocol standards. It allows the flow of different information, such as presentation data, serial device communication, licensing information, and highly encrypted data, such as keyboard and mouse activity.
Since RDP is an extension of the core T.Share protocol, it retains other capabilities, including architectural features necessary to support multipoint data delivery (multiparty sessions). RDP allows data flow from an application to multiple parties in real-time by sending the data to all sessions. The Windows Terminal Server included the protocol to provide reliable and fast point-to-point (single-session) communications.
Microsoft designed the RDP to support ISDN, POTS, and other network topologies. It also supports LAN protocols, including IPX, NetBIOS, and TCP/IP. However, the current version of RDP only runs on the TCP/IP LAN protocol. Experts may add support for other protocols in future versions based on customer feedback.
The Remote Desktop Protocol stack uses the same process in sending and receiving data as common seven-layer OSI model standards, which is today’s standard for LAN networking. The data to be transmitted is obtained from the application or service, sectioned, and directed to a channel. At the channel, the data is encrypted, wrapped, framed, packaged onto the network protocol, and finally addressed. It is then sent over the wire to the Terminal client.
Instructions from the client also involve the same activity, only in reverse. The packet is first unwrapped, decrypted, and then sent to the Terminal Server via the channel. Certain modifications of the protocol stack occur between the fourth and seventh layers.
What Port Is RDP?
The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) enables connection to other computers using the default TCP Port 3389. After implementing the RDP in a Windows operating system, the Remote Desktop Services (TermService) listens on Port 3389. You can change this default RDP port number using the Registry Editor and PowerShell.
For many reasons, you should change the default RDP port number in Windows from 3389. The most common reason is to reduce the chances of malicious actors exploiting RDP vulnerabilities and reduce the occurrence of RDP brute force attacks and other attacks.
Even after changing the RDP port number, exposing the RDP port to the internet is ill-advised. Malicious actors use port scanners to listen for RDP port numbers. If you want to open your RDP port to another computer over the internet, use secure connection tools such as a VPN, RD Web Access, or RDS Gateway.
When changing the RDP port, avoid port numbers 1-1023. Ports within this range are known ports that can open your host to several attacks. Select a free port from 1024 to 49151 or use a dynamic port from the RPC range (49152 to 65535).
Types Of RDP Clients
The most popular type of RDP client for enterprises is the Microsoft Remote Desktop software, but depending on your needs, there might not be a better client. The top five RDP clients that cut across all operating systems are:
1. Microsoft Remote Desktop
The Microsoft Remote Desktop is the official RDP client developed by Microsoft. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. It allows you to securely connect to remote machines through a remote desktop gateway on secure connection.
You can install the Microsoft Remote Desktop software on PCs that run on Windows 8, Windows 10 or higher, and Xbox One Console. It supports multi-session handling and offers easy screen capture and viewing. It comes as a free application but will incur a monthly subscription if you want it on a device where it is not preinstalled.
2. Chrome Remote Desktop
Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop is the best free alternative to the Microsoft Remote Desktop. It is free and is compatible with Android and iOS. You can use it to share your screen with another device and to view the other device’s screen. There is also excellent customer support available to all users.
The Chrome remote desktop is beginner friendly, so you can use it even if you don’t have any background in networking. It also offers excellent developer features for those who want to use it for remote work or troubleshooting.
The downside is that it is limited to Google’s Chrome browser and is not compatible with Windows devices.
TeamViewer is a third-party RDP client that offers several features, including remote file transfer and screen sharing. Unlike the Chrome Remote Desktop, this client is compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. The only popular operating software that it doesn’t support is Android. It is not free, but you get a 14-day trial before you must select a plan.
TeamViewer is an excellent option because you can easily connect without the traditional VPN. Other features include file sharing, video conferencing, private remote access, and remote printing for Windows and macOS devices. The protocol also offers responsive customer support for both minor and severe issues.
Splashtop is a secure, scalable, high-performance remote computer access and remote support solution that supports multi-monitor displays and HD video streaming. Teams and professionals use the protocol for remote access when working remotely or on the go. It is easy to set up, use and administer. It also offers fast connections.
Other notable features include 2FA verification, unique plans for business professionals and teams, and chat support. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Splashtop is a paid remote connection tool, but you can use it free for seven days before you are required to subscribe to a plan.
5. VNC (Virtual Network Computing)
RealVNC’s VNC (Virtual Network Computing) is a comprehensive remote desktop software. It has a user-friendly interface and a wide selection of features. It comes in both free and paid versions. The paid version offers two plans — Professional and Enterprise. Both plans offer similar features and require you to purchase the plan again if you want to add a new device.
The application is easy to install and use. It is excellent for both beginners and professionals. It is also compatible with all popular operating systems.
Benefits of Using Remote Desktop Protocol
The Remote Desktop Service is famous for its many benefits to companies, business professionals, teams, remote staff, and private individuals. Here’s of some of the benefits of using RDP in both corporate and personal settings:
RDP eliminates the need for physical presence. Anyone can access any PC or server from anywhere in the world, provided they have the proper setup and internet connection. This benefit makes it a cost-effective way for companies and businesses to work. It also helps initials to save costs they would have used in transportation.
While RDP is not the only remote access technology, it is the most cost-effective. It doesn’t require any expensive hardware installation or maintenance. Even the software requirements are few and attainable by most entities and individuals. Companies looking to manage their machines and support their BYOD policies effectively will benefit more from using RDP compared to other remote access solutions.
Flexibility and Scalability
RDP is a flexible protocol that is adaptable to any environment. You can use it over local networks and via an internet connection. Aside from Windows operating systems, it is also compatible with other operating systems such as MacOS and Android. This flexibility makes it the first choice for IT administrators who want to manage many devices remotely.
Scaling RDP to match up with growing demand is also very easy. Depending on your needs, you can scale up or down without incurring expensive costs. As such, we recommend it for growing businesses that want access to servers while keeping operational requirements low and manageable remotely.
Although Microsoft initially designed RDP for network administrators, it is now popularly used by professionals and teams for remote access. Thanks to the Remote Desktop Protocol, anyone can access resources remotely provided they have the authorization and intent connection. This feature makes it a staple for businesses that allow staff to work remotely.
Even support teams, HR departments, and private individuals enjoy this benefit. For instance, support teams can assist customers remotely by accessing their devices and fixing any issues. HR departments can also set up remote support to onboard new staff and provide live training without the trainee physically present. Private users can also use RDP to access their other devices to get the needed resources and information when working remotely or on the go.
RDP is a secure remote access solution. It encrypts the information from the host Terminal to safeguard it from malicious actors monitoring the connection. The packet stays encrypted until it arrives at the authorized client. Most clients like the Windows Remote Desktop encrypt the entire remote desktop session.
RDP offers other security measures, such as 2FA verification and access controls, to prevent unauthorized connections. 2FA verification adds a second layer of security which is very useful in preventing or slowing down unauthorized access. Access controls allow administrators to add or remove devices from the connection.
Integration With Existing Systems
RDP integrates well with existing IT infrastructure and tools. You can implement it on your server and desktop operating system without any itch. It also has broad compatibility with other Microsoft products and services, giving you a wide selection of applications you can access remotely.
Because of its seamless integration with existing systems, implementing RDP within your servers and PCs is a very straightforward process. It also makes it easy to customize access and activate automation options based on your unique need. This feature translates to streamlined workflows and better collaborations.
Performance And Reliability
In today’s world, timely access to real-time data is crucial for personal and business performance and growth. RDP allows companies and individuals to access resources in real-time without being physically present with the machine. As long as the RDP connection has been established between both devices, they can quickly access much-needed data and resources without time lags.
RDP connections are reliable, provided the installations and setups are done correctly. A lag in performance may stem from the quality of connection (local or internet) and the state of the connected machines. On its own, RDP is a reliable and secure way to access data and resources from other machines remotely. It also offers advanced features and capabilities for file sharing and conferencing.
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Future Outlook for RDP Technology
Although the RDP is decades old, it still has a bright outlook. Thanks to its cross-platform compatibility, impressive features, far-reaching benefits, and adaptability, it will undoubtedly be a significant application. As the world embraces remote access protocols, we expect RDP to remain in demand for many years. Here are some potential areas to consider regarding the future outlook for RDP technology:
1. Cloud-Based RDP
We expect to see more integration of RDP clients with cloud-hosted servers. The integration will likely be powered by powerful cloud computing platforms such as Azure and AWS. As a direct result, there will be increased use of RDP for businesses’ virtual desktops. Cloud-based RDP solutions will offer better performance, faster scalability, and enhanced security, which will, in turn, boost the broad adoption of RDPs
2. Mobile RDP
The world is rolling towards mobile-oriented connections as smartphones become more powerful and versatile. We expect to see more RDP clients on millennium devices. Currently, the connection is typically between mobile devices and desktop computers. Mobile-to-mobile RDP connections will go mainstream as the demand increases due to their massive user benefits.
3. Remote Workforce
RDP is a vital feature of remote working environments. It allows remote workers to access company data and resources and collaborate remotely with other team members seamlessly. Since the shift to remote jobs is sure to increase, we expect to see an increase in the deployment of RDP for corporate, professional, and personal use.
4. Integration with Emerging Technologies
RDP is compatible across multiple platforms and integrates well with existing systems and applications. We expect to see a merging between RDP and emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and virtual and augmented reality. It can also add more features and functionality to existing technologies such as telecommunications, online education, remote control of robots and drones, and remote training and education.
RDP is a useful application for network administrators, IT technicians, collaborative teams, business professionals, and private users. Its benefits, such as remote access and enhanced support, are too good to ignore. However, like other pieces of technology, you get the most benefits when you have the correct setup.
Next Steps: What now?
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