What is a remote desktop and how does it work?

| By:
Michael Bannerman

Remote desktop applications allow MSPs and other IT professionals to access client computers from a remote location. At the core, what a remote desktop is allows MSPs and IT technicians to grow and scale by operating another computer as if they were sitting right in front of it.

This technology is indispensable for MSPs. Learning how to use a remote desktop is essential to scaling your business while not overtaxing your team or your company resources. 

What does a remote desktop do?

A remote desktop platform will enable the user to “remote in” to another computer at another location. Once inside, the user can view the computer’s screen, control the cursor, and access any files stored on that particular machine. This level of control allows IT support technicians to troubleshoot software problems, manage system resources, check device health, and more.

Most remote desktop applications even allow for file-sharing with the client’s computer. In some cases, the person in charge of the remote computer may even be able to share complex media like audio and video. These features come in handy for tech support and have also been instrumental in keeping operations running during the rise of remote work environments.

Why do MSPs use remote desktops?

While there are many reasons to use a remote desktop application, MSPs use them primarily to assist with tech support functions. By remotely accessing client computers, technicians can:

  • Resolve “quick fix” computer problems
  • Demonstrate new software, applications, or processes
  • Monitor device health
  • Manage system resources
  • Improve the speed and quality of their customer service

The online resources available in the ConnectWise cybersecurity center demonstrate many ways MSPs can use remote desktops to be more effective. Also, be sure to read our eBook, 10 Reasons Why You Need A Remote Control Tool, to ensure you’re getting the remote desktop solution with the resources and features that are right for you.

Benefits of remote desktops

Learning how to set up a remote desktop and use it properly is like adding a new member to your team. Using the software properly will expand your reach, improve customer relationships, and ultimately drive revenue. In addition, remote desktops can also help you with the following:

  • Make your business more agile with the ability to work from anywhere
  • Scale your business without taking on any additional team members, office space, or expenses
  • Respond more quickly to clients’ incoming cybersecurity threats
  • Control access to sensitive files, systems, or machines within an organization’s IT infrastructure

Through each of these individual benefits, remote desktops end up having significant positive macro effects on an MSP business. By accomplishing the above tasks and freeing MSPs to focus on more complex business and IT tasks, they begin to see stark improvements in operational efficiency and business profitability.

Challenges with using remote desktops

Once you learn how to enable a remote desktop and leverage the technology to further your business – you probably won’t look back. Using these platforms properly will provide several significant positive impacts for you and your clients. However, like with any other technology, some challenges are inherent to what a remote desktop is. Some of these drawbacks include the following:

  • Remotely accessing a client’s computer requires bandwidth. There may be lagging and glitches during the remote session. Clients may even see system performance slow down on their end.
  • Certain remote desktop options can be expensive.
  • Different tools have different features. MSPs need to clarify exactly what tools will help their business before investing in a remote desktop platform.
  • Video and audio quality may be affected over a remote connection due to remote desktop protocol (RDP).

Despite these pitfalls, remote desktop platforms are a net positive overall. MSPs would do well to work them into their current business infrastructure. 

To learn more about bandwidth, remote monitoring and management (RMM), and other concepts that affect remote desktops, be sure to visit the ConnectWise Control blog.

Getting started with remote desktops

Now that you’re familiar with what a remote desktop is and how it works, the next step is implementing one in your own MSP business. For that, ConnectWise is here to help.

Our software tools provide MSPs with exactly what they need to grow all aspects of their business. ConnectWise Control allows technicians to remotely access their clients’ endpoint machines to provide “white glove” customer service and elite-level cybersecurity threat response. In addition, contact us if you are ready to put the benefits of remote desktops to use for your MSP business.


TCP Port 3389 is the primary port for remote connections to other computers. Using this channel allows users remote access via an encrypted channel that protects both computers involved.

ConnectWise Control is a good remote desktop software option. It’s received a 4.5-star rating from TrustPilot and offers users all the major features they would need to operate end-user terminals remotely.

Remote desktop protocol (RDP) is a standard IT professionals use to govern the operation of remote desktop applications. RDP provides users with the interface necessary to access other computers without leaving their workstations.