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What is Linux® Remote Access?

By H.R. Childress
Updated May 16, 2024
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Linux remote access allows a user to access their Linux operating system from another computer. Depending on the type of remote access used, it may allow access to the entire desktop or only to the command line. Different levels of security may also be implemented for Linux remote access.

To use remote access, a computer must either be connected to the Internet or be logged onto a local network from which the computer is accessed. The user must also know her router IP address in order to access the desktop remotely. To make a secure connection, the user has to install a secure shell (SSH) network protocol, which creates a secure "tunnel" between the two systems. A secure connection should always be used when connecting over the internet, but it is not usually necessary on a local network.

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is used to remotely connect to the entire desktop system on a Linux machine. In most cases, both machines must have a VNC client installed in order to make the connection. There are freeware VNC clients available, but the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu also comes with a VNC tool installed. Linux remote access preferences can be set from the system preferences menu in Ubuntu.

SSH creates secure connections between machines and also allows access to the "shell" of the machine, which essentially gives the user command line functionality on the remote machine. An SSH server must be installed on both machines in order to make the connection. The server can be installed on any Linux operating system by typing "sudo apt-get install openssh-server" at the command line.

Once an SSH server is set up, the user makes the remote connection by typing "ssh -L" plus the IP address and other information needed to connect to the remote computer. After the computers are connected, the user can either work in the shell of the remote computer or connect the VNC so that she can work with the entire remote desktop. The VNC is connected by typing the name of the VNC client plus the remote computer's IP address at the command line.

In addition to connecting remotely from another Linux system, a user can also connect with Linux remote access from a Windows or Mac operating system. To do this, the Linux system is set up in the same way as for connecting to another Linux system, and the other operating system must have a VNC client and an SSH client installed. Once these applications are set up, the user enters the IP address and router port to connect to the Linux machine.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Dec 11, 2014

@Logicfest -- True, and something I bet a lot of people don't know is that they can usually control their home or business routers remotely. That can be important if you need to reboot a router or something.

Of course, security is a concern whether you are letting someone log into your computer or are accessing your router remotely. Luckily, the security protocols are pretty well established and those can keep you safe.

That is one of the great things about Linux. The security is usually the best with that operating system, so people using Linux remote access are probably safer than most.

By Logicfest — On Dec 10, 2014

You do not have to run Linux to control your computer remotely. Programs exist that allow Windows and Mac users to easily control their machines remotely and some of those are even available for free.

In fact, there are quite a few technical support folks who fix computers by logging in remotely and taking control of them. That saves a lot of time because IT pros don't have to try to talk someone through a computer issue on the phone.

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