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I have a local network of 80 machines, all with Ubuntu 10.04 installed on them. All the machines are connected to a central switch.

I have some contractors that are located overseas. I would like to dedicate each of them a single machine, so that all the work they do will be performed on one of my 'local' machines (through remote access).

Ideally, I'd prefer a secure solution (VPN?) that will allow each of the users to securely connect to a remote machine, view 'X' (meaning, be able to open programs like Evolution, send emails, write documents using Open Office etc) and also open a terminal, run scripts etc. Ideally, the solution should be fast (meaning, I don't want a long delay between every punch on their keyboard to when their screen gets updated) and secure.

I should also have the ability to access the machine they're working on and block their access, in case they're doing something they're not supposed to do.

Is it easy to handle / setup? any idea what the costs are?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The simplest thing to do (requires almost no set-up) is just using SSH to tunnel X connections. SSH can forward your local computer's x-server connection to the remote computer. That way you can run a program on a remote computer but display it's windows locally. The performance isn't too great though. If your contractors are using Windows then they'll need to download Putty and Xming. You can also tunnel VNC over SSH if they have a VNC client, but VNC's performance is even worse.

If you want to minimize the time you are paying your contractors to look a loading screens then you'll probably want to use NX. While X works remotely it's not optimized for non LAN networks. NX fixes this by using compression and getting rid of redundant Xlib calls.

While the NX client is free, NoMachine's NX-server isn't. Luckily, if you don't mind a little work, you can use Google's NX-server NeatX. NX uses SSH tunneling behind the scenes so it is as secure as ssh -X. And doesn't require setting up a VPN.

If your desktop machines are behind a NAT or a proxy though, you'll need to use a VPN.

Setting-up a VPN is a little bit of work though. Luckily I find the community documentation of OpenVPN to be pretty easy to follow.

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thank you. Can you tell me how much a VPN would cost? Will I be able to see the contractor's screen while he is working? will using NeatX be secure & fast? (I really don't want the contractors to have a huge delay from the moment they punch a key until it is visible on the screen, as they will do lots of programming). –  user11833 May 16 '11 at 2:14
    
OpenVPN is free (both the server and client). And can always use self-signed certificates which cost no money to create. (OpenVPN Client for Windows: openvpn.se/index.html) –  wm_eddie May 16 '11 at 4:59
    
thank you for your help. –  user11833 May 16 '11 at 13:55

What you are searching for is a VNC (Virtual Network Computing) Solution.

Ubuntu already has a Programm preinstalle it's called Vino
Other popular Programms are:

  • UltraVNC
  • TightVNC
  • RealVNC

To make this more secure you can use it via SSH ( https://help.ubuntu.com/community/VNC?action=show&redirect=VNCOverSSH )

Another nice and easy Solution is TeamViewer although this might not be the best solution when managing 80 computers. ( http://www.teamviewer.com )

Edit: TeamViewer even has an android client. On a phone it might be a little small but a tablet should be nice.

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thank you. Will these solutions be fast? I really want to make sure there is no series delay from the moment they punch a key until it is visible on the screen, as they will do lots of programming. Ideally, I'd like to have every contractor log-in to one specific computer. Is it complicated? –  user11833 May 16 '11 at 2:16
1  
I personally used UltraVNC and TeamViewer before and its quite fast you see the letters appear as you type in real-time so i guess it's sufficiently fast. –  K. Hendrik May 16 '11 at 2:23
    
Thank you for your suggestion. –  user11833 May 16 '11 at 2:29
1  
You're welcome (upvotes always appreciated) –  K. Hendrik May 16 '11 at 2:34

Take a look at the AccessIT (http://www.minicom.com/kvm-enterprise.htm), it just the solution you are looking for... you can incorporate it with VNC, SSH, Telnet, ILO, Drack or just about anything your have setup in your servers.. and with it you can manage who will have access to your servers (through what protocol they will connect), and block their access if required.

ndary

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here is a link to the product page: minicom.com/kvm_accessit.htm –  ndary May 16 '11 at 11:24
    
thanks. any idea how much this would cost? –  user11833 May 17 '11 at 2:11

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