Recently I found out that it is sometimes faster to use Remote Desktop than to run an application locally, and simply having it access files on a remote network share. Let me give you some background.
My company uses Quickbooks for some accounting stuff. I don’t really know what they use it for, and I don’t really care. All I know is that there is a Quickbooks file sitting on a network share, which is accessed by 2-3 people in the office. One of our employees who usually works from home was assigned some responsibilities that require using Quickbooks. She would not be coming into the office often however, so we had to figure out a way to set her up so that she could work from the remote site.
My initial idea was simple: make her VPN into the office and mount the network share as a remote drive. Then you can use Quickbooks to access the file the same way all the people in the office do – only the data will flow over the internet via the VPN tunnel, instead of just the local network.
It turned out that this was a horrible idea. The way Quickbooks works with it’s files is beyond retarded – apparently this application was never designed to be used this way. The slow file access would mean that the application’s interface would seize-up for seconds at a time, and remain unresponsive until all the data was downloaded. Clicking anywhere in the interface as it was pulling in data would lead to the dreaded “Not Responding” message which usually prompts users to kill the application. Of course if you would wait 10-20 seconds the UI would unfreeze itself and become responsive again. But that kind of behavior makes for piss poor user experience.
So I decided on an alternative approach. We had a spare workstation in the office that no one really used. It was sitting in a cube usually occupied by summer interns if we get any. It didn’t look like we were getting any interns this summer so I grabbed that machine and set it up to allow Remote Desktop access.
So now our telecommuter has to vpn in, then connect to the spare workstation via Remote Desktop, and launch Quickbooks on the remote machine. Amazingly enough this method provides much smoother user experience. Rdesktop is really good at refreshing the screen in a seamless and extremely responsive manner even on slow over-the-internet connections. Quickbooks remains responsive because working with files on the local network has never been a problem.
So here you go – sometimes it’s better to give your telecommuter access to a local box at the office, rather than have them run some application locally.
[tags]remote desktop, telecommuting, work, quickbooks[/tags]