You don’t have to head into the office to be productive. You don’t even need that bulky Windows laptop! With nothing but your Android tablet, a stable internet connection, and a private VPN connection, you can work remotely from just about anywhere.
For example, my university VPN account grants me access to the university library’s digital subscriptions of otherwise costly scientific publications. This allows me to do my research and readings from home or any of my favorite public spaces. The VPN not only routes me directly into the university network, it also provides a private and secure internet connection.
While any free or paid VPN service can secure your connection on a public network, your work VPN will also give you private access to work email, servers, databases, and more. Your employer might even require you to use a VPN to remotely log into work systems. Once you have setup the VPN connection on your Android tablet, you can quickly log in with the click of a button.
Here is how to set it all up!
Before we dive into setting up a VPN client, let’s make sure you have all the basics lined up.
Most importantly, you’ll need the VPN login credentials from your employer, including the VPN server URL, your username, and password. If you don’t have this information, contact your IT department and ask for the VPN server details for a secure remote login.
You can use any Android device, including a tablet, phone, or Kindle Fire, provided it can run the Google Play Store.
Finally, you’ll need a VPN client that runs on your Android device. We recommend AnyConnect, a free VPN client from Cisco Systems. Since Cisco has a great reputation in the field of IT networks, it’s very likely that your employer will also recommend this client. That said, you may use other Android VPN clients, as long as they let you set up a custom connection.
Download: AnyConnect (Free)
Connecting to a VPN with an Android Tablet
First, install the VPN client of your choice. We’ll demonstrate the subsequent process using AnyConnect.
Setup Your VPN Connection
When you first launch AnyConnect, you’ll see a simple start screen. Click on Connection, this will open the Advanced Preferences window. Here, tap Add New VPN Connection… to setup your VPN connection.
In the Connection Editor, add a Description for your connection (optional), add the Server Address, and edit Advanced Preferences… (optional). Tap Done when you’ve entered all required details.
Now you’re ready to connect to your VPN. Note that if you have multiple connections set up, you can open the Connection list and select the server you’d like to connect to.
Connect to Your VPN
From the AnyConnect start screen, just switch the AnyConnect VPN slider from Off to On by tapping it.
AnyConnect will connect to the server and query you for your login credentials.
Once you click Connect to confirm your Username and Password, AnyConnect will establish your secure connection, and the status will switch to On.
And that’s all there is to connecting your Android tablet to your company network.
Using the VPN to Work Remotely
At this point, you could use any app that lets you ping one of the PCs or servers on your network. Let’s look at two of the most common options.
Checking Your Work Email
Of course, the main reason most people want to connect is just to check work email. All you need to accomplish this is an email client that will let you connect to your work Exchange server. While a number of apps can do this, the one most people use is Outlook.
The mobile version of Microsoft Outlook will give you nearly full access to your work email, your calendar, and all of your contacts. The app is free and available for Android version 4.0.3 and up.
Download: Microsoft Outlook (Free)
When you first launch the app, you have to set up your Outlook work account. Tap Get Started, enter your Email address, and select Continue. If Outlook doesn’t recognize the email domain, you can choose to Setup Account Manually. In the Choose account type window, you can select between Office 365, Outlook, Exchange, and several other account types.
If you have an Exchange email account, enter your regular password and tap Show Advanced Settings to enter Server, Domain, and Username details, as required.
Once you’ve entered the correct information and your login credentials, you should see your familiar Outlook account. Congratulations! You are now connected to your work email.
And just as you could at your desktop PC, you can check your emails, look into your calendar for upcoming appointments, and schedule meetings. And this is all from your little Android tablet. How cool is that?
Keep in mind that you’ll need to use the correct corporate domain extension for 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.
Again, if you don’t know these details, contact your IT department and ask them for the web address of your OWA (Outlook Web Access) server. They can also help you figure out any other steps you’re unsure about.
Connecting 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).
We recommend Microsoft Remote Desktop. This app lets you add connections for Windows Professional PCs or servers on your work network.
To add a new connection, tap the + icon in the top right, select the type of connection you’d like to set up (Desktop, Remote Resource Feed, or Azure RemoteApp), then fill in the respective details.
If you choose Desktop, the app will automatically recognize the machines on your network, but you can select Add Manually if you know the host name or IP address and other required details.
Download: Microsoft Remote Desktop (Free)
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 — for example, myServer.apple.com — 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 Microsoft Remote Desktop 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.
Work Securely and Remotely from Your Tablet
Until recently, most IT staff would do these things from a home PC or laptop. Thanks to mobile devices and these useful apps, you can now safely connect to work by just flipping open your tablet and firing up the AnyConnect app.
No matter how you intend to use the 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 to work and accomplish the usual amazing things you do from your own desk.
Have you ever connected to work using a VPN? Can you see yourself doing work from your tablet? Let us hear your thoughts and insights in the comments below!
Image Credit: prince_apple via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Ryan Dube on January 3rd, 2013.