Raspberry PI Remote Management and Access Tools


Raspberry PI remote management and access allows you to control your Raspberry PI device remotely from your home network or from internet. Latter case will be possible if you have control of your router (managing firewall rules if necessary) and a public IP address from your internet provider. This gives you remote control to your Raspberry PI projects and remote access to their results. It is a must when installing in your linux device services like IoT functions, web server, sensors, python scripts, docker containers or other third party software.

All my tutorials and projects (available in peppe8o.com home page or in my RPI projects list) suggest to start your Raspberry PI configuration enabling at least ssh and wifi when you install your operating system for first time. This assures an access to your linux device which allows any following integration – if needed – without a GUI. This also allows to use many open-source software to completely manage your single board computer.

Every remote management tool will need that you get your Raspberry PI’s IP address to connect.

To manage your RPI from local network, you simply need to know your Raspberry PI local IP address (with ifconfig command from RPI terminal or identifying it from your router).

To manage your RPI from internet, you will also need your external (public) IP address used by your router. This is usually identifiable with a web browser, using online services like whatismyip.com. But some internet providers manage their customers internet connections with private IPs. If you are not sure about, you can simply ask your provider. Internet remote access and management usually needs some addictional configs in your router: usually you need to setup port forwarding (used to expose home network devices to internet) and sometimes firewall rules (if firewall is enabled). A guide to use free public domains with a personal host name is available in How to configure No-IP DUC service in your Raspberry PI. Sometimes a workaround can be setting up a VPN tunnel to reach directly your local network.

If you want to remote control your Raspberry PI device from internet, it is strongly suggested to change at least RPI default password and using 2 factor authentication (token) login.

In this article I’ll list a number of ways and tools to access it for different needs. It will be separated in Raspberry PI OS Lite installation and Raspberry PI OS Desktop installation (last one adding to Lite more graphical ways). Also a final section on Smartphone access is included.

Finally, following tools will also work with old Raspbian operating system. All of these tolls are working with Debian linux distribution, on which Raspberry PI operating systems are based.

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Raspberry PI OS Lite Remote Management and Access

Headless Raspberry PI installation (lite) doesn’t include a desktop environment, so remote access and management will be based on command line access or remote tools using Raspberry PI as a server. Username and password to login will be usually the same you use to access (default username is “pi”, default passowrd is “raspberry”).

Usually, all SSH (Secure shell) based access methods can be enabled at first OS installation by adding in your sd card boot partition an empty file named “ssh” (with no file extension), This tells the OS to accept secure shell sessions from remote ssh client.

If you don’t need an internal gui (for example in server or iot projects), this is the best solution.

SSH (Secure Socket Shell) – port 22

SSH allows you to get remote command line control from ssh client software (like Putty, available both for linux and windows pc). By default it is enabled if you added the “ssh” empty file in your SD card after flashing with Raspberry PI OS. Otherwise, you need to enable it (raspi-config -> Interfacing Options -> SSH). In this case, you have to configure your ssh client (Putty) by using Raspberry PI ip address and setting port to 22.

With SSH you get full control of your device, even if commands can be a bit harder compared to desktop management. From terminal. you can set all RPI preferences (including networking ones like proxy and ethernet/wifi) and manage all accessories without the need of mouse.

Only on very first access (after OS installation), your ssh client can give you an alert because of a new ssh key. This can be accepted since you are confident that you are connecting to your RPI.

SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) – port 22

FTP is used mainly for websites file transfer management. With SFTP you can run your FTP session on SSH protocol (using same port and same security layer). It is supported from a wide range of FTP software like the famous and free Filezilla.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) – port 21

Like SFTP, FTP is commonly used for transferring files between computers. But FTP doesn’t use SSH layer, so resulting in less secure communication.

SCP (Secure Copy Protocol) – port 22

Another remote access using SSH protocol. SCP is used to copy files between computers. Remote computer starting path maches user home folder.

SSHFS (SSH Filesystem) – port 22

Another file management way. But SSHFS differs from others because it mounts in your local PC the remote folder (so appearing as a local folder in your local PC). It uses FUSE (filesystem in user Space) and is available for Linux, Unix and MacOS.

Rsync – port 873

rsync is an utility to syncronize file copies on two computer systems. Commonly found on Unix-like systems, it works as both a file synchronization and file transfer program.

Common usage of rsync is in conjunction with cron jobs, to keep costantly aligned files or folders.

SMB/CIFS (Session Message Block / Common Internet File System) – port 445

SMB (also known as Samba) / CIFS allows to share folders between Linux systems and Windows computers. By default, Raspberry PI OS doesn’t have CIFS/SMB enabled. You need to install and configure to get it working (take care on configuring correct Windows workgroup or domain).

The very easy and basic setup can be achieved by installing samba from terminal:

sudo apt install samba

and adding your pi user within samba users:

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

A new samba password will be asked for your default PI user. Then you will be able to access your pi home folder from File Explorer in windows using in address bar a double backslash + RPI address + “\pi\” (for example “\\\pi\” if is your Rapsberry PI’s IP address). Here a password prompt will appear asking user (pi) and samba password (the one just set).

Web Server – port 80 (http) or 443 (https)

Raspberry PI can easily host web server services. You can opt for Apache (the most spread) or NGINX (emerging one), Both are open source. Both allows you to expose web page for remote browsers, publishing files like html or php and web services. You will browse it by using RPI Internet Protocol address as url.

Raspberry PI OS Desktop Remote Management and Access

With Desktop environment operating system you could also need accessing its graphical environment. Anyway, all following tools will be in addiction to Lite ones, which will be available also on Raspberry PI OS Desktop version.

VNC (Virtual Network Computing) – port 5900

VNC allows you to remotely control desktop interface of your Raspberry PI (running VNC Server) from another computer or mobile device (running VNC Viewer). It also allows you to use your local keyboard and mouse in your remote PC.

Windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) – port 3389

Windows integrates by default a remote desktop client (RDP). This can be used and configured to pass keyboard and mouse events, but also file transfer from local computer to remote one. From Raspberry PI side, you need to install xrdp service with following command:

sudo apt install xrdp

Teamviewer – port 5938

Teamviewer host for Raspberry PI is another option to manage your Raspberry PI desktop from remote. In my past, I personally found really useful teamviewer to support my inexperienced parents with their Windows PC because it is really simple to install and use both from remote side and local side. I recently discovered that Teamviewer published their Raspberry PI host version, so it is for me a must to test.

Apache Guacamole

Apache Guacamole is quite different from previous options. It is more a remote desktop web gateway, allowing you to create a bridge from local and remote computers. It can support many protocols, including also RDP, VNS, SSH.

Raspberry PI OS smartphone apps

Finally, a brief mension to Smartphone apps which allows you to control your Raspberry PI shell and components.

For Android smartphones, I recommend Raspcontroller. It is simply to use, gives many useful info about Raspberry PI status (internal temp, resources load, GPIO control and so on). It also included an SSH shell client, able to record your most used commands for easy recall.

For Apple smartphones, one of best reviewed app is Dataplicity, a remote terminal for your Raspberry PI.

Please suggest your favourite remote management and access tool if not included in this list.

Check hardware prices with following links:

Amazon raspberry pi boards box
Amazon Micro SD box

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