Nov 24, 2009
Connecting to CERN from home
With an eye on news reports and concerns raised by various flu viruses currently circulating, this article outlines the best practices for connecting to the CERN computing environment should you need to work from home.
• Webmail: access to your CERN mail via the web.
• Windows Terminal service: access to a standard CERN Windows environment, making your own folders and files stored in "My Documents" available to you.
• Windows Remote Desktop Gateway: access to your own CERN PC via this pilot project – which is only recommended if you need to use specialized locally installed programs, or files stored on your local drive.
• Secure Shell (SSH) at CERN: for connecting to LXPLUS and SSH tunnelling for Linux, Macintosh and Windows systems. See http://cern.ch/security/ssh for details.
The MMM website – My Mail and More (https://cern.ch/mmmservices/) allows you to log on to the Outlook Web Access interface. All of your CERN mail folders stored on the server are available through this simple-to-use webmail interface. Your contacts and calendar are also there, making this an effective method for staying in touch.
From the MMM page you can also make use of the CERN Mail Tools, such as setting your out-of-office message, your mail forwarding rules, etc.
This practical service is recommended for all users because this simple webmail interface works with all standard browsers on the usual platforms.
Windows Terminal Service
This service gives you immediate access to the most common applications used at CERN in addition to your own folders.
The Windows Terminal Service (WTS) is easy to connect to, all you have to do from a Windows PC is:
• Register to use this service: https://cern.ch/winservices/tsc/Tools/Register.aspx.
• From home, open the Remote Desktop Connection (Start menu – All programs – Accessories) and enter "cernts.cern.ch" in the "Computer" field.
• Login with your CERN username and password.
There are clients available for Linux and Macintosh, and it is also possible to use Internet Explorer directly from Windows. More information is available on the internet at https://cern.ch/winservices/Help/?fdid=30.
There are many benefits to using this service, such as having MS Office applications available, including Outlook and PowerPoint which are not included in home editions of Windows. You also gain access to your browser favourites stored at work, making this environment feel very similar to your work desk.
The "My Documents" folder will be available with any other files stored on the server. As this service means you are connected to the CERN network, you can access websites that are restricted to the CERN domain, and populate the links in "My Network Places" to edit webpages as if you were at CERN.
The standard WTS profile is also simple to customize, for example by adding quick launch shortcuts and desktop shortcuts to specific applications or folders. Although this basic CERN Windows environment will not include any application customizations you might have made on your work computer, e.g. customized toolbars, you can add them so that they are included in your profile for the next time you use the service.
Windows Remote Desktop Gateway – pilot phase
The pilot Remote Desktop Gateway is available for advanced PC users who need to access their CERN computer from home – either for specialized locally installed software, or to access local files/folders.
For the Remote Desktop Gateway to work, your office computer must be:
• left powered on and running (not hibernated or on stand-by);
• connected to the network;
• running Windows;
• and a member of the "cern.ch" domain.
In addition, your home computer must be running Windows.
Although this method may be easier to set up than the alternative SSH tunnelling via LXPLUS, it is difficult to track down any errors and it is not possible to resolve problems remotely via the Helpdesk.
The basic setup procedure is to:
• Prepare your desktop computer by following the instructions at https://cern.ch/winservices/tsc/gateway/SetRemoteAccessAccounts.aspx.
• Use the "Download Remote Desktop Connection Shortcuts" to download the "From the internet" shortcut. If you download this at CERN, save the shortcut and copy it to the PC you will be using at home. See https://cern.ch/winservices/Help/?kbid=350001 for details.
General security recommendations applicable to all methods
Please ensure that your computer is properly protected before you connect to CERN: both with the latest patches and a suitable up-to-date anti-virus program. Don't forget that CERN has a license for Windows users at home for MS Forefront Client Security. Details are available from https://cern.ch/winservices/Help/?kbid=051092.