Last time round we were discussing how Microsoft’s ClickOnce technology improves the installation experience for your users and eases the pain of rolling out the client and any subsequent updates for you.
This time we’re going to talk about working with the NAV client remotely. Remote working used to mean connecting to a VPN, taking reams of data offline with you or calling into the office to ask a colleague to check something on the system.
Usually, anyone who tried to use NAV’s classic client over a VPN quickly found that it was a non-starter. The classic client makes a direct connection to your SQL server and a lot of data is passed back and forth between the two. You either need a fast connection, or a lot of patience.
Microsoft have been putting a lot of effort into making the new NAV client as “thin” as possible i.e. keeping as much of the data crunching at the server end and passing as little information as possible to the client. This, combined with ever improving internet connections make it perfectly feasible to have your NAV client access the server over a wide area network or your home internet connection.
How does it all work?
Your ClickOnce installation can be made available over a network share or deployed from a website so that your users can download it when they are not connected to your office network. The NAV server can be exposed to the outside world with an external IP address and the NAV client pre-configured to connect to this IP address.
A certificate is used to encrypt the data between the client and the server and keep everything secure. New authentication methods on the server also make it possible to prompt the user for credentials when they connect. Previously, only Windows Authentication i.e. the user that you have logged onto the computer as was available. This opens the door to connecting to the server from outside the network.
So, you could be sat in the server room at the office, or you could be sunning yourself on the beach using your laptop tethered to your mobile. As long as you’re connected to the internet you can access your NAV system.
But why bother? You might already have a terminal server that users can log into to work remotely. You might make the NAV client available as a published RemoteApp.
The main benefit is that the client is installed locally on the user’s machine. As such, it is able to interact with all of the other local resources – printers, Outlook, Excel, Word, OneNote, local files, the clipboard, USB devices etc. Remote apps are pretty good at looking like local applications and providing an almost seamless remote / local user experience, but in this scenario the NAV client is a local application and just works wherever your user is.