One of the best things about having a tablet is the fact that I can be productive just about anywhere. While I didn’t opt for a tablet with 3G or 4G, I can still work anywhere that I can find a wireless network, which is surprisingly lots of places – restaurants, coffee houses, hotels and even some retail stores.
With both my previous job as an automation engineer and my current job as an IT analyst, I had the option to connect from home and work using a VPN connection. In my previous job I never really had the need, since the bulk of my work had to be done on-site, but in my new role I am sometimes on call and need to monitor email, as well as connect to servers remotely.
When I am on call and something important comes up, it’s nice to be able to connect to my work email and check a few things out quickly without the need to open up and start my work laptop. That’s why having a tablet is so nice, because you can just click the on-button, connect to work via VPN, and then check email or connect to servers in just a few seconds rather than a few minutes.
Many people don’t even realize that you can connect to work via VPN, but if you do have VPN credentials with your employer, and you’re authorized to remotely connect, then you can indeed connect in using your Android tablet. All you need is a VPN client, and then a couple of productivity tools to connect to your work email or remote in to servers or computers at work.
Connect To VPN With An Android Tablet
Obviously, the single most important thing needed to connect to any VPN account that your employer may have offered you is a VPN client.
There are a mix of VPN client applications out there, but none is quite as popular or widely-used as Cisco AnyConnect. You can download one of the Cisco AnyConnect apps that are available. There are a number of them depending on your device. There’s one for HTC, one for Samsung, one for Android 4.0+ devices, or one for rooted devices. You’ll need to find the one that is compatible with your device. For the Asus Prime, I was able to use the rooted app, since Google Play listed it as compatible.
Setting Up Your VPN Connection
When you first launch AnyConnect, you’ll need to set up your VPN connection. You should have the name of your VPN server if you received a VPN account through your employer. If you don’t know it, contact your IT department and ask for the VPN server to use to log in. Once you have it, launch Cisco AnyConnect and click on “Add New VPN Connection…”
The first thing you’ll need to do is type in the name of the VPN server.
Once AnyConnect is able to make the remote connection to the server, it’ll ask for your login credentials. Again, your IT department should have provided this to you if you have a VPN account.
Once you click OK, Cisco AnyConnect will establish your secure connection, and you’ll see the AnyConnect VPN status switch to “ON”.
That’s all there is to connecting your Tablet to your company network. At this point, you could use any app that lets you ping one of the PCs or servers on your network, and that ping would work fine. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to include the correct corporate domain extension to anything you do. For example, if my server name is MyServer and my company domain is Apple.com, you’ll need to ping MyServer.Apple.com.
Checking Your Work Email
Of course, the main reason most people want to connect is just to check email. All you need to accomplish this is an email client that will let you connect to your work Exchange server. There are a number of apps that can do this, but of course the one most people use is a mobile version of the same app you probably use at work to check email – Outlook.
Microsoft has created an app called Outlook 2003 Mobile Web Email, which will give you nearly full-function access to your work email, your calendar, and all of your contacts. Keep in mind, this particular app isn’t free – it’s currently $4.99, but well worth the price.
Once you launch the app, all you have to do to connect is to click on “web address“, and type in the OWA server name of the Exchange server. Again, if you don’t know this, contact your IT department and ask them for the web address of your OWA (Outlook Web Access) server.
You just need to use the same username and password that you normally use to check your email at work. This is typically the same username and password as when you log into your network, but of course this all depends on how email is set up with your employer. The IT department can help you figure all of those details out if you don’t know them.
Once you’ve entered the correct OWA name and your login credentials – viola! You are now connected to your work email just as though you’re sitting right at your desk at work, and this is all from your little Android tablet. How cool is that?
Want to quickly check your schedule to see whether you have any appointments coming up? Just click on “Calendar” and you have access to the same Exchange calendar that you use at the office.
Schedule meetings, check for upcoming appointments, and otherwise manage your schedule right from your tablet.
Connect To Servers & PCs At Work
Checking email from anywhere using your tablet is great for your everyday user, but if you are an IT analyst in charge of managing servers or computers at work, you really need a way to do more. One of the most common things that IT staff need to do when connecting into work via VPN is to remotely connect to servers or PCs.
Believe it or not, you can also do this from your Android tablet. You just need an app that provides a way to connect via RDP (remote desktop protocol). One such app that provides such a feature is PocketCloud.
PocketCloud lets you add connections for PCs or servers that are on your work network.
To add a new connection, just click on “Connection Settings“, and then fill in the form. If you’ve connected via RDP before, then this is all pretty straightforward. Just remember that you will probably have to include the full domain of the device – myServer.apple.com for example – to make a connection. You’ll use the same Username and Password you would use if you were sitting at the computer and logging into it.
Keep in mind that in a Windows environment, you will need to have authorization to remotely connect to these devices. If you’re an IT analyst in charge of supporting those PCs and servers, the odds are good that you have that authorization. However, if you’re a standard user and you want to remotely connect to your desktop PC at work, you might not automatically have access, and you’ll need to request that authorization from your IT department.
Again, most standard users don’t need such access, but there are cases where engineers may need remote access to their work desktop PCs in order to run tests or do other tasks that they can only do from that particular PC.
Of course, the nicest thing about PocketCloud is that IT experts can remotely connect to servers from home. This is extremely useful when you need to do patching or other maintenance tasks when a facility might be shut down during the holidays and you want to do that work from the comfort of your own home, without the need to drive into work.
Up until now, most IT staff would do all of these things from a home PC or laptop, but thanks to the advent of tablets and the creation of these useful apps, you can now connect to work by just flipping open your tablet and firing up the the AnyConnect app.
Keep in mind that the free version of these apps might be limited – such as PocketCloud only allowing you to create one remote PC or server connection. However, for standard users that may need to connect to only one PC anyway, the free version will do the trick. For IT staff, the paid PRO version may be better suited for your needs.
No matter how you intend to use your remote connection with your tablet, the ability to do so creates a whole new realm of possibilities. Now you can travel anywhere in the world without the need to lug around your laptop. So long as you have your tablet with you, you can connect into work and accomplish the usual amazing things you do from your own desk.
Do you normally VPN in to work? Can you see the usefulness of doing so with your tablet? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Man Laying in Hammock via Shutterstock