July 30, 2020, by The Digital Research Specialist Team

Supporting the PGR community in working remotely

Following a recent town hall meeting for PGRs, there was clear feedback from the community around difficulties in accessing software and data remotely.

Working with a number of postgraduate researchers, our Digital Research Specialists have helped explore a variety of technical options and found solutions that are available to the entire community.

Depending on the needs of the PGR, options for successful remote working have included Teams, which lets you share control of desktops, Azure ‘blob’ storage for managing and sharing very large data sets, or making use of the University’s new Windows Virtual Desktop service.

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Isabelle Sims, Biosciences PGR, found that her personal laptop was struggling to run large files and process large datasets. A remote desktop connection into the lab computer was “still running very slowly and regularly freezing/crashing”. Isabelle is now using the Virtual Desktop and running the remote desktop connection through that:

“For some tasks I don’t need the second layer of the remote desktop connection because I have access to all my files and most programs on the Virtual Desktop, however for specialist software that I have installed on my desktop on campus, I can access it through the remote desktop.”

“[The solution] is very good for me because it runs quickly and I have access to everything that I need. Even the automatic log-out doesn’t affect me if I am using the remote desktop connection as well, because it only logs out of the connection but doesn’t turn off my desktop computer. Thank you all so much for your help!”

Elliot Howley, Psychology PGR, was having difficulties combining his home Windows machine with the Mac tools he needed for research. “My home desktop is Windows, but many of the tools I use are only available for use with Mac. Previously I had been trying to remote access my Mac by connecting to it through Fortinet VPN, but this was too unreliable and slow to use.”

Remote desktop proved to be the best solution.

“Connecting to my Mac using the VNC client provided by Remote Desktop was much easier to set up than the previous method, with only the remote access settings on my Mac needing to be changed. Although the experience is still a bit clunky compared to having physical access to my Mac, it is a much smoother and more reliable connection compared to the previous method. I would definitely recommend moving over to this method if you are remote accessing your Mac through the VPN currently.”

Elliot also had positive words about the Windows Virtual Desktop:

“I would also definitely recommend the Virtual Desktop … It comes pre-installed with a number of programs and requests can be put in to install programs you may need. I have had no issues with Virtual Desktop’s speed or reliability, and it also requires no setup on your office desktop.”

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If you’re interested in hearing more about options for remote working, you can watch this short video.

Speak with Campus IT Support if you are having difficulty accessing any of the options described above.

If you are facing a particular challenge, please don’t hesitate to contact a Digital Research Specialist.

Posted in Advice and Guidance