Secure Workbench

Research IT supplies researchers with access to a secure desktop environment to query, process, and analyze sensitive or High Risk data. This service permits users to interact with High Risk data using a 'virtual desktop' environment through a secure VPN channel. Key benefits of the Secure Workbench include:

  • Data Security: no PHI or High Risk data ever leaves the protected data center.
  • Access Control: two-factor authentication with UIT-issued security tokens
  • Clinical Data Access: direct database connectivity can be established between your Secure Workbench and clinical data for complex queries or data mining projects
  • Software Flexibility: virtually any PC software package can be installed on your secure workbench and not your local laptop
  • Collaboration: shared directories can be configured to link multiple and share access the same data inside the Secure Workbench
  • Global Access: work with your data securely from a computer anywhere in the world

Secure Access

The SDA server is hosted behind an additional secure firewall and requires additional validation for access. Please see the instructions section below for connection assistance.


With the exception of minimal licensing fees, most of the costs associated with the basic setup and configuration of the SDA service are currently being covered by Research IT. Significant customization or assistance may require additional fees.

Item Amount Payment Details
Server Maintenance -- Covered by Research IT
Server Backups -- Covered by Research IT
Basic Account Setup -- Covered by Research IT
Windows RDS Licensing $21.31 User pays license costs
Microsoft Office Licensing $51.77   User obtains license
Advanced Customization   TBD User obtains software licenses and hourly engineering costs for configuration. 


Requesting an Account

Please schedule a free consultation with our group to discuss the Secure Workbench and see if it is the best choice for your research needs.

Connection Instructions

If you have already met with us and are ready to connect to your Secure Workbench,  connection instructions are given below. You must have the name of your Secure Workbench server and a provisioned Secure Computing token to connect.

Step 1: Request access

Please submit a consultation request to obtain access for the first time.

Step 2: Launch the Stanford VPN

For data security reasons, the Secure Workbench is only accessible to machines running the Stanford VPN.

To set this up for the first time please follow the instructions here:

Step 3: Create a Remote Desktop Connection Profile

You will connect to the Secure Workbench using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Please use the following instructions to create your profile. Once configured your profile is saved to your local computer and run directly without returning to this website.

If you are using a Mac, you may need to install the RDC software first. In 2013 Microsoft greatly improved the RDP Client for iOS; it is available via iTunes here:


Option 1: Using Microsoft Remote Desktop on a MAC

If you have the new Microsoft Client, you should just create a new connection by following the example in the image below:

Option 2: Make a RDP Profile from Scratch

These directions are given with a Windows PC in mind. If you have a MAC, download and install the latest Microsoft Remote Desktop from the App Store, then use the details from the Windows example below to complete your profile.

  1. Launch the Remote Desktop connection software. On a PC, press the Start button and enter 'mstsc.exe' to launch the Remote Desktop Connection application.
  2. Click on the Options button to expand the window. You should now see six tabs across the top.
  3. Starting with the 'General Tab', under Computer enter in the server name you were supplied with (e.g. and for username supply win\SUNetID (for example, win\jdoe - the 'win\' is the Stanford domain that windows accounts are associated with and is required!)
  4. Under the 'Display' tab set the connection for full-screen (unless you would like something smaller)
  5. Under the 'Local Resources' tab, you can choose to map local drives to the server by clicking on the 'More' button at the bottom and selecting the appropriate drives. After connecting, you will be able to see your local drives from the SDA desktop under 'My Computer'. Please note that while this makes it easier to pull and push files from your SDA desktop to your local computer, you should not push any sensitive data to your local computer.
  6. Under the 'Experience' tab, select a choice appropriate to your speed. I recommend trying the 'LAN' setting first if you have a high-speed connection. You can always turn off options in the future if you have problems. Please check the 'Desktop Background' option as it will post important information on your desktop and does not affect performance negatively.
  7. Lastly, return to the 'General' tab and press the 'Save As' button. You can then save a custom .rdp file with your connection settings to your computer. In the future you can simply double-click on this settings file to launch your RDP session.

Step 4: Run your RDP Profile and Connect

The first time you connect with a new profile, you may be prompted with a warning message about the server. Press the connect button to continue.

Warning Message

Step 5: Logging Off

When you are done with your SDA session, please log off of the remote desktop. This allows us to maximize resources as well as perform routine server maintenance. If you leave a session disconnected for an extended period of time, you could loose any unsaved information in that session.

Feedback and Assistance

Please remember you must first connect through Bastion with your security token before you can attempt your RDP connection.

Please bring any issues you might have to our attention by completing this web-based feedback form.