Local home networks don't just get your computers onto the Internet. They also let you stream media from one device to another, or just transfer files. And with the right setup, you can access amore
Local home networks don't just get your computers onto the Internet. They also let you stream media from one device to another, or just transfer files. And with the right setup, you can access a networked Mac or PC from miles away. Because of that, these devices can also benefit from firewall software. Let's give you some shopping pointers. (If you're looking for download monitors, VPN software, or cloud data backup, check out our Internet Software section for recommendations.
There are some connections you might want to make from miles away, however. For example, what if you get to work and realize that you left an important file on your computer back at home? This is where remote desktop software comes in. It allows you to see your home computer like a website on the Internet (protected by a user name and password, of course) and move files back and forth. There are a number of subscription-based services available, which can scale up to hundreds of users -- and also thousands of dollars. For individuals, the Remote Desktop extension for the Google Chrome browser is free to use and fairly straightforward to set up. (Android and iPhone users will need to download a separate Chrome Remote Desktop app to access the computer on the other end, instead of using the Chrome browser itself.) Windows has its Remote Desktop utility built-in, but it requires making some changes to your network router settings, which can be tricky for non-technical users.
While desktop PCs are usually safe behind a network router, a laptop away from home can benefit from a software firewall, because public Wi-Fi can leave you exposed. Someone connected to the same network as you can see your device and potentially gain unauthorized access more easily than if they were miles away. Apps like Zonealarm can go further than the firewall that's built into Windows 7,8, and 10.
If you have a collection of audio and video files that you want to use on multiple devices within your household, you don't have to take the time to move them around. Instead, you can keep them on one device and stream them to another over your local network. An app like Plex can organize your media library and make it visible to other nearby devices that are on the same Wi-Fi network.