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How Can I Access Work Files and E-Mail from Off-Campus?
Larry Gilbert and Linc Nesheim
Winter 2004

Do you occasionally need to check your email from home or while you’re on the road at a conference? Are you trying to finish up a work project on your home computer, but just realized you have the document you need on your office computer? There are ready solutions to each of these problems, but the number of options available can be confusing. So we thought we’d do a little tutorial to help you pick the right method.

Accessing Files Remotely

There are three ways to access your work files when you are at home or on the road. Each method requires you to do some advance planning so the files you need are accessible.

File Attachments via Email

If you only occasionally need access to files when away from campus, the simplest method is to just email the file as an attachment. Simply address an Outlook email to the email address you use at home, click the paperclip icon in your Outlook email header, and attach the file or files you need. Remember that you can also email the attachment using your on-campus email address, as you can always access this using the Outlook web email method outlined below.

When you get home, just reverse this process by opening the attachments, editing them, and saving the files on your home desktop. Then email the edited files back to yourself at work. This method is quick and easy, but it does have limits in terms of the size of files that you can attach and send.

MyFiles Web Access

But what if you don’t remember to send the file as an attachment before you leave work, or if you just need access to a work file on the spur-of-the-moment? No problem - the new MyFiles capability allows you to get quick access to all of your Novell files from any web browser. Using the MyFiles mechanism to connect to your network drives is a fast and efficient way to grab a document from home when you need to edit files from home.  This is a very simple solution because all you need is an internet connection and a web browser; no setup is needed.  Information can be found at http://west.wwu.edu/atus/helpdesk/myfiles/.

Your Novell files are any computer files that are stored on the network computer drives assigned to all users of the campus network (usually the U: drive). The important thing to remember is that MyFiles can only access computer files stored on the campus network; it cannot access files stored on your individual computer’s hard-drive space (usually the C: drive). If you already use the campus network to store your computer files, all of those files are already accessible using MyFiles. If, on the other hand, you normally choose to store your work files on your individual work computer, you must remember to transfer any files you want to access from home to your network storage before you can get access to those files with MyFiles.

Since MyFiles is a web-based process, it’s probably the easiest way to access all your network computer files from home; the only real limitation is the inability to use ‘drag-and-drop’ techniques for file manipulation.

WebDav File Access

Some people work with their office files at home often enough that they will prefer the convenience of a more robust method of accessing files remotely. The WebDAV connection is better suited for accessing lots of files at the same time. 

This type of non-web connection does take more time to set up, and requires access to either Windows XP or Windows 2000. However, WebDav has significant advantages by allowing saving your files directly back to your campus network storage -- no saving and re-sending of files from your home computer -- as well as allowing use of the same “drag and drop” features used for files on your computer on campus. Setup directions can be found at http://west.wwu.edu/atus/helpdesk/webdav/

Accessing Email Remotely

If you are using the campus-standard Outlook email, there are two ways to get access to your campus email from off-campus. You might want to try the Outlook web access first to see if it suits you. If not, the more involved use of the complete Outlook client may better meet your needs.

Outlook Web Access By far the most commonly used method is to use your web browser on any computer to go to http://www.wwu.edu/outlook. This web location provides you with access to all of your on-campus email stored on the Exchange server (the campus server that stores your email). You’re provided with a login screen that requires you to type in your standard campus user ID and password.

Moments after logging in, all of your campus email pops up in your browser window ready for viewing. Although the screen looks a little different than the Outlook screen you see at work, you retain the same ability to read, compose, and forward email that you have on campus. In addition, the Outlook web interface also allows you to check your work calendar and look up contact information. The Outlook web interface in the upcoming Office 2003 mimics most of the features of the familiar Outlook client you use at work.

Outlook Client Access

For those who work from home and use Outlook on a continual basis, you may choose to install the same Outlook software that you use on campus on your home computer. This process is quite a bit more complicated, in that it requires you to:

  1. Configure the Outlook Client on your home computer to receive your WWU email. You can request a copy of Outlook for home use from ATUS Software Services at X3159. Configuration instructions are available at http://west.wwu.edu/atus/helpdesk/handouts/OutlookXPprofile.doc
  2. Request access to the campus VPN server
  3. Activate the Virtual Private Network (VPN) client on your home computer
  4. Use the VPN client each time you use the Outlook client from home. For complete instructions on setting up the new VPN on your home computer, please see http://west.wwu.edu/atus/vpn/.

Our busy schedules and work-loads sometimes require us to gain access to information that’s stored on campus when we’re away. No need to make that trip in to your office to catch up though. Try out the methods above that best suit your needs and you’ll see that remote access to your campus resources is a snap.

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