Sharing files between two or more computers on the same network is easy, you can set up a workgroup, using system’s network file sharing or even use the popular Lan cable method. But these methods has limitations i.e. – both the machines should be at the same place.
But what if you want to remotely access your Computer’s files? Like browsing files on your home computer from your office laptop or even from your smartphone.
Here we’ve made a list of all the possible way of to remotely access your computer files. Although, all the following methods are free, works on almost every platform, and has no bandwidth restriction at all. Some method do require the host computer should be turned ON and connected to the Internet all the time.
Remotely Access Your Computer’s Files
1. Cloud Storage Services
Online backup services like OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc provides an easy way to access files from anywhere. Simply create a free account (almost every cloud service offers 10 GB free storage) and upload your files on their servers. Now to access them remotely, all you have to do is log into your account and you’ll find all your files there.
Pros: Easy to use, Secure, Access any file remotely without the need of host machine kept ON.
Cons: You get some limited space to their servers, it’s not possible to clone the entire hard drive to cloud
2. Dedicated NAS Devices
NAS (network-attached storage) devices are like setting up your personal cloud storage. Consider it as a big external hard drive connected to your home network; you store all your files on this NAS, which you can access later over the Internet. They are great for file sharing and backups of multiple computers, and also offers remote file access via FTP or web browsers.
Some NAS devices don’t have this remote access turned on by default, but one can easily forward ports to make its web interface accessible on the internet. It’s not a secure technique, though.
Pros: Access any file remotely without the need of host machine kept ON.
Cons: NAS are expensive and designed for being accessed from the local network. Remote FTP should not be the only reason why you should buy a NAS. But if you already have one, then it make sense to use it for this feature.
3. Router With USB Port
Another remote file sharing option is to connect your USB flash drive to your home router. Some routers come with a USB port where you simply attach a USB external drive or a pen drive and then access all its content from anywhere in the world. To get this setup, you need to enable remote sharing and setup dynamic DNS on your router. Usually, this is hard to setup (if you are not familiar with home networking) but the following video will give you a good idea.
Pros: Access any file remotely without the need of host machine kept ON. Cheaper than NAS.
Cons: Mostly Consumer router’s Internet file sharing features are insecure.
Related: How to access your router remotely
Another good option to access your PC’s files remotly is setting up a VPN server on your home network and then access your computer files just as you would do on your local network. VPN make your remote computer appear as a part of the local network and allows access to all the local file shares.
This is the way large business grant access to their shared files remotely. To overcome the problem of an insecure web interface, VPN servers are widely used with NAS.
Pros: Offers the most control out of other options available.
Cons: Requires the remote desktop to stay ON. Complicated and time-consuming.
FTP (File Transfer Protocols) are partially similar to VPNs where you install them on your home computer and grant access to it from the Internet. Normally FTP is unencrypted, which means people can easily monitor your files in transit and spoof your passwords.
It may not be an ideal method from the security perspective, as you’d have to expose your FTP server to the Internet.
Pros: Offers complete control to the user
Cons: Normally FTP’s are unencrypted and considered unsafe. Requires the remote desktop to stay ON.
6. Remote Desktop Softwares
One of the simplest ways to remotely accessing your computer which take care of all the geeky stuff is the remote file sharing software like Unity, GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, PushBullet etc. Let’s take a look at few of them.
LogMeIn Pro: is popular software which offers some extra functionalities like remote printing, 1TB extra storage, unlimited users. But all this comes at a price. LogMeIn Pro varies from $149/year to $2,999/year for large businesses.
GoToMyPC: It is a per month based subscription service from Citrix starting at Rs.840 for one computer (Mac or Windows). It offers similar advanced features like drag and drop file transfer in any other Remote Desktop Apps.
Pros: Simple and secure way for remote file access. Cross-platform support
Cons: Requires the remote desktop to stay ON. Paid services.
7. TeamViewer (recommended)
Finally, it is by far the best, a simple and secure way of remotely accessing the files over Internet. Most people knew TeamViewer as screen sharing software but it has a hidden feature which also lets you access PCs files remotely.
TeamViewer is completely free for personal use, support PC, Mac and Linux and also has no bandwidth restrictions. But the best part is you can access your files remotely from any device – even your smartphones.
Pros: Cross-platform support, Simple and secure way of remote accessing files
Cons: Requires the remote desktop to stay ON.
There are many ways to remotely access files on your Computer over the Internet; but we recommend TeamViewer
Cloud storage services can be useful if you’re happy syncing your files online provided that limited storage is allocated to each free user.
If you can afford to buy a NAS device or router then that can also help accessing your files remotely. If you have a larger network like a business with multiple file shares then you may set up a VPN server.
However, we would recommend not to use VPN, SSH, or FTP servers unless you know much about it as configuring the software incorrectly could be highly risky over the Net.