June 15, 2020 | Remote Access

FAQ for the Remote Access Dashboard

Over 200 colleges and universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Access Dashboard to provide students with remote access to campus computers.

8 min

Updated 6/15/20

Over 200 colleges and universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Desktop Access Dashboard to provide students with remote access to campus computers. 

Our goal is to ensure your students still have access to the resources they need, and you have the accurate, timely and reliable usage data to make informed decisions. 

Below are some common questions and answers regarding the tool. 

What is the Remote Desktop Access Dashboard?

The LabStats Remote Access Dashboard is a tool that can be used by students to find an available computer on campus. It also provides them with a mechanism to remotely log into that computer without any special knowledge needed.

How does it work?

The LabStats Remote Computer Access Dashboard starts off by advertising to students which computers are available to connect to (those computers that are powered on, are connected to the internet, and are not in use by a student). 

It randomizes the computers that it shows to students to try and spread the load out across them and prevent two students from trying to use the same computer at the same time. 

Then the dashboard gives the student a “Connect” function, where that individual is given an RDP connection file, which is used to establish an RDP connection. There will also be support for other alternative connection methods. If you’re not using a standard RDP approach, contact us to verify if we can support your method.

Who can use it?

The tool runs on LabStats real-time usage data, so universities wanting to use the tool will need to have LabStats installed on the machines they wish to make available to students. 

When will it be available?

The LabStats Remote Access Dashboard is available now, at no additional cost to LabStats users. Dozens of universities are already using it to connect students to campus resources remotely.

How much does it cost?

The Remote Access Dashboard is available at no additional cost to LabStats users. If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, schedule a tutorial with your account manager to get set up. 

If you do not have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough and see how the Remote Access Dashboard works. Our team will help you get started quickly and get your students connected with the resources they need.

Is it available for LabStats Cloud and On-Premise users?

If you’re using LabStats in the cloud, you can get started with the Remote Access Dashboard right away. 

The tool is available for On-Prem customers, however, there is an important note: you’ll either need to have your students remote into your network with a VPN and host this tool within your network, or you’ll have to ensure your LabStats Portal is publicly accessible over the internet so that the dashboard can get the availability information.

How will I get updates?

Our team is actively working on new features and improved functionality to better serve colleges and universities during this critical time. All updates will be pushed out automatically, so you can rest assured that you always have the most updated version.

Will the Remote Access Dashboard allow users to log in to campus computers using a link?

Yes, but every environment is unique. You’ll just need to work with our developers to ensure we have the correct connection information for your particular RDP approach. 

Can students connect to campus computers from their personal Mac computer? 

Yes, students may use their personal Mac computer to connect to a campus computer. They will have to download Microsoft Remote Desktop from the Mac App Store first.

Can this tool be used to connect to Mac computers on campus?

Updated 4/15/20

Yes, students can connect to Mac computers on campus using the Remote Access Dashboard. 

Similar to RDP for Windows, the de facto remote connection approach on the Mac platform is VNC, which the Remote Access Dashboard supports. VNC offers seamless connections from a Mac to a Mac but does require a VNC viewer when connecting from Windows to Mac. We want to stress the importance of proper setup and configuration, as is the case with any remote access tool you choose, to ensure secure and private connections.

Additionally, you may contact us if you are utilizing an approach other than VNC as we’ve also been able to offer some level of support for alternatives such as TeamViewer and Apache Guacamole.

What do I need to get this set up?

Schools will need to have LabStats clients on the computers that they wish to provide access to. Usually, this is the computers in labs, libraries, classrooms, or any student-facing computers. If you wish to use the tool to provide access to faculty and staff resources, you’ll need to have the LabStats client installed on those machines as well. 

To request the tool, log into LabStats. Under “Lab Tools” click on “Remote Access.” Check the box to enable the Remote Access Dashboard on your campus and follow the instructions.

You can also Schedule a Tutorial with your Account Manager, or if you don’t have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough. Your rep will gather information, and the LabStats development team will do the setup and provide you with a link to publish.

You can then publish the link to students via email, a link on your school’s website, or embed it in your website.

Can I embed the Remote Access Dashboard in an existing webpage?

Yes, you can embed this tool in another webpage (using an “iframe”), or you can link directly to it.

What prevents the student from skipping going to the website and just connecting via the published IP?  

Because of the way RDP connections work, it is possible for a student to use the dashboard once, and then skip the tool and connect straight to the IP. However, the dashboard is the only way to ensure the computer you’re trying to connect to is not already in use, so we anticipate students returning to the dashboard every time they need to connect to a computer.

Can I try this with a couple of groups and then later add more?

Yes, you can do this two ways.

  1. In the initial set up, request to display all groups. New groups will appear automatically as you create new ones.
  2. In the initial set up, provide a list of filtered groups. If you want to add more groups later, you can contact us to make that change..

Does this authenticate users by the school’s domain name?

No. This dashboard does not authenticate. The authentication happens in the Remote Desktop connection itself using school/university systems, as well as with the VPN connection (if applicable). 

This dashboard surfaces the available computers (spreading the load across the computers while doing that), and creates an RDP file pre-filled with connection information to simplify the process for the student. 

At that point RDP on school/university computers takes over and requires whatever authentication was set up on their end. In this way, LabStats facilitates getting students into the school/university computer systems, but it leaves authentication up to the school for maximum flexibility. 

What is the best way for schools to show students what applications are available in a specific lab?

Currently, organizing stations by lab will help students find appropriate software. If they normally access statistics software in the Mathematics or Engineering Lab, they should expect to find it on the computers in that group. You can also add a note or a link to a software list in the custom header.

Does this require VPN access for the remote users?

No, it does not. A VPN is not necessary, but it is a possibility. 

Instead, you could use a remote desktop gateway or you could make your computers available directly through the internet by adding firewall exceptions for RDP access and by using static IP addresses. Both of these options reduce the amount of additional traffic that would be sent through your network and potentially reduce the risk of direct network access.

RD Gateway

According to Microsoft, “end users can connect to internal network resources securely from outside the corporate firewall through RD Gateway.” To learn more about RD Gateways and why Microsoft recommends using them, read Remote Desktop Services – Access from Anywhere.

How to Set Up an RD Gateway

Follow Microsoft’s set up guide: Deploy Your Remote Desktop Environment.

What happens after I request my dashboard to be created?

Within a few hours, our development team will contact you to confirm receipt and inform you that we’ve started work. They will ask you to provide information about how you are supporting remote connections, such as:

  • Are you planning on using a remote desktop gateway (along with RDP)?
  • Are you planning on using a VPN (along with RDP)?
  • Are you planning to open up your firewall to allow your computers to be accessed directly via RDP using public static IP addresses or fully qualified domain names?

Depending on your environment, you may be asked to provide a list of IP addresses or fully qualified domain names for each of your computers.

What is the estimated turnaround time?

We understand the urgency of the situation and are committed to helping you make a smooth and secure transition to alternative learning environments.

If you already have LabStats installed, our team can likely get you set up within 24 hours (on business days) of providing all pertinent information. 

If you don’t have LabStats installed yet, it could take longer, but we’re committed to getting you up and running as soon as possible.

Do on-premises customers have any special requirements or instructions?

Yes, if you have LabStats on premises, there are a few special requirements.

  1. Applies to all on-premise users. You will need to set up a LabMap which will serve the purpose of making the computer availability information available to the Remote Access dashboard. This map will not be displayed, so it is therefore not important to make it look presentable with a background and neatly arranged stations. It simply needs to be created to include the stations that the customer wishes to publish in this tool.
  2. This requirement only applies if you are NOT requiring students to VPN into the college/university network first. If you are not requiring VPN, your LabStats Portal will need to be publicly accessible from the internet. This is a requirement, not because students will be logging into the LabStats Portal, but because the Remote Access Dashboard has to “talk” to that Portal to get computer availability information. 

Will this show stations that are not assigned to groups?

It will only display stations in groups. If you need to temporarily assign stations to a group, please do so.

Will students be able to connect to VDI machines remotely?

Yes, VDI machines should behave the same way as a physical machine.

What about the LabStats API?

If your team is looking for a custom solution, check out our powerful API. You can use the LabStats API to securely connect LabStats data to a wide range of in-house solutions.

LabStats API Documentation and Testing Sandbox 

https://api.labstats.com/index.html

LabStats Support Documentation on the API 

API

Is it possible to add or remove computers from this dashboard?

You can choose which groups are displayed (groups generally reflect the computer labs you have on campus). There are two ways to manage the computers that appear on your dashboard:

If you need to change which computers show up within a specific group, you can make that change directly in the LabStats Portal. The dashboard will display computers that are assigned to the group, so if you want to change what appears, you can add or remove them from the group. Consider creating a temporary “holding group” if you don’t want the change to be permanent.

If you’d like to add or remove groups, email us and we’ll update it for you. 

How can I make the dashboard available to students?

Where to place your Remote Access Dashboard link

Once your dashboard is created, you’ll receive a link you can publish to give students access to the tool. Most schools choose to embed the link right on their school website. For added security, you can embed the link behind an authentication page. This requires students, staff and faculty to use their school login credentials before they can access the link.

How to generate awareness

Once your link is embedded in your school or department webpage, you can notify students, staff and faculty with a mass email. You can also point students to the tool through your school’s social media channels as well.

Ongoing Support

If you have any other questions, we’re happy to discuss and test new solutions with you. Contact your account manager or our support team at support@labstats.com.

We’re committed to partnering with you to find the best solutions for your unique environment, to ensure the success of your students wherever they may be.