May 11, 2020 | Remote Access

Maintaining Security with Remote Access

The LabStats Remote Access Dashboard is a tool that can be used by students to find an available computer on campus. The data moves securely to ensure quick, reliable access to students.

4 min

We know the need for this tool comes at a challenging time, so we are hopeful that we might be able to ease the burden on you in some way. 

Keeping your data private and secure is a concern we take very seriously. We’re committed to providing ironclad data protection so you can use our applications with confidence, especially as the need to implement new tools is more urgent than ever.

The LabStats Remote Access Dashboard is a dashboard 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 it Works

The Remote Access Dashboard displays 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). 

The Remote Access Dashboard randomizes the computers that it shows to students, which spreads the load out across available stations and prevents two students from trying to use the same computer at the same time. 

The dashboard then gives the student a “Connect” function, where that individual is given an RDP connection file, which is used to establish an RDP connection. There is also support for other alternative connection methods. If you’re not using a standard RDP approach, see other connections

The required data moves securely to ensure safe, reliable access to students.

Flow of Information

The following diagram shows how information flows from your environment to students who are working remotely. 

Remote Access Dashboard Security Layout
LabStats Remote Access Dashboard

Most of the journey occurs across the longstanding “core” product of LabStats–which exists in the Microsoft Azure cloud (unless you’re running LabStats on-premises)–and consists of the LabStats Client Server, your “customer” database, and the LabStats API. 

The LabStats API provides the necessary data to the newly built Remote Computer Access dashboard with the use of a revocable, narrow-scoped API key and a high level of security. 

What’s Displayed

The Remote Access Dashboard only displays information that students will need to select a computer. 

  • Lab Information
    • group names (i.e. computer lab names)
  • Machine Information
    • computer hostnames within those groups
    • remote connection address (hostnames, IP addresses or fully qualified domain names)
    • operating systems

Authentication

The Remote Access Dashboard does not have built-in authentication as it simply prepares the RDP connection for users (after facilitating the “student-to-available computer” match). 

The RDP connection itself performs that authorization and is the gate to keep all unauthorized users out. The dashboard doesn’t actually open up a connection into your network and relies on RDP with a proper user account that you’ve authorized in your network.

Access with a VPN

If you are having students first access with a VPN connection, it is not necessary to require a password on RDP, as the user will have already authenticated into your network. Any unauthorized user from outside of your network would be unable to to resolve an RDP connection to your local IP address or the hostname. 

How to Set Up

The Remote Access Dashboard 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. 

If you already have LabStats installed in your environment, go to the “LabTools” tab and select “Remote Access” to get started. If you don’t have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough.

You’ll need to ensure that all your computers have remote desktop connections enabled. Otherwise, your students won’t be able to make a successful connection.

Optional: Custom VPN Instructions

You have the option to customize the VPN instructions in the header to help students out. Some organizations have included links to documentation and VPN downloads.

How to Share

Once your tool has been configured, you’ll receive a link from the LabStats team. You can then publish the link to students via email, a link on your school’s website, or embed it in your website using an “iframe.”

Ongoing Support

Dozens of universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Access Dashboard as part of their commitment to the success of their students, whether on campus or at home. 

We’re committed to supporting you in your efforts to connect students to critical campus resources while maintaining the highest standards of data security.

If you have any questions about sharing live availability of computers to remote students, we’re here to help.