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Finding a Good PC Remote Control Solution

Written By: Dino Sims

If you have to take care of computers for a living, or rely on them for yourlivelihood you know what I’m talking about. Your pager goes off, or a customer calls. It’s a downed website that requires you to hop in your carto fix it on some cold lonely morning around 3am. Looking for good remote control software?

So was I. Here’s what I found…

I was looking for some software that would let me remotely administer myclient’s mostly Windows servers and Windows based PC’s. I work withcomputers for a living. I’m often called on to fix this or that thing. And a lotof times I can’t get to a remote site fast enough, so having a good way toadminister systems remotely would allow me to make more money, as well as havemore of a life!

The Remote Control Solution had to meetthe following requirements:

1) Work from either Internet Explorer, Mozilla or Firefox 2) Work from multiple Operating Systems like Windows, Linux, etc. 3) Easy to configure and setup 4) Good Performance 5) Good Security Features 6) Low Bandwidth and Resource Requirements 7) Reasonable cost

After reviewing a whole lot of remote control products, I narrowed my choices down the following 4 contenders:

1) GoToMyPC 2) LogMeIn 3) VNC 4) PC Anywhere

You’ll find my review and recommended choice for the following categories.

1) Subscription based 2) One time cost 3) Low to No Cost

Subscription Based Solutions

My top two contenders in this category are: GoToMyPC and LogMeIn Out of the two I’ve used GoToMyPC the most. I’ve only used LogMeIn a short while.Both products are two-tiered and client server based in operation.

1) Work from either IE, Mozilla or Firefox

GoToMyPC: N/A LogMeIn: Yes

While LogMeIn works with browsers, GoToMyPC takes a slightly differentapproach. They load their own little application on your PC that takes about 30 secondsor so to download. Both worked great, I had no problems with performanceat all. Now if you’re using Linux, you’ll probably favor GoToMyPCsince you can use it with any Java enabled browser. While LogMeIn did work, it was a little quirky and sometimes thescreen was garbled. I was able to use it with Linux, but it was buggy.If you’re using Linux, GoToMyPC will be a better fit for you.My Linux setup was Gentoo 2005 running KDE and using Firefox asmy browser. Another thing to note is that GoToMyPC will work with your Windows based PDA.

2) Work from multiple Operating Systems like Windows, Linux, etc. (Covered above.)

3) Easy to configure and setup Both were a snap to configure.I had both up and running in about 5 minutes or less.

4) Good Performance Other than the Linux issues withLogMeIn, they were both good. However, it seemed to me thatGoToMyPC was a little faster overall.

5) Good Security Features When I first looked at LogMeInthey did not have robust security, However, they they’re pretty muchon par with GoToMyPC now. In this category they’re fairly even.

6) Low Bandwidth and Resource Requirements

I’ve used both in Lan, Cable, DSL and dial-up situations anduntil you use dial-up both are about the same. However, with dial-up GoToMyPC has the performance edge.It could be that they’re using some borrowed technology from Citrix which is their parent co. Citrix has a product calledMetaframe that I’ve used in the past. It only needs 20Kbs of bandwidth.GoToMyPC has been around longer so they’ve had more time to workout the bugs.

7) Reasonable cost

Without creating a table, and doingan apples-to-apples comparison, I found both to be reasonablypriced. Both offer volume and other discounts so depending on your situation one could be alittle more or less than the other.

My pick in this category is GoToMyPC. It performed better inmore situations for me than LogMeIn. You can try out GoToMyPCfor free at: http://GoToMyPCAt3AM.Com

One Time Cost

I have to admit that I have a bias in this category. Most of the One-Time-Cost products that I’ve used have just been a BIG PAIN!They’ve required me to call people and reboot the PC’s and they don’toffer good security. So in this category there’s only one product that I’d recommend…If you really, really have to use this on a single, standalone system.That’s PC Anywhere by Symantec. You can check it out at: http://www.symantec.com.

Low to No Cost

In this category we bring back LogMeIn to rumble with VNC.VNC is an old product that I’ve used on Unix/Linux as well asWindows for a long time. It works great for a free product.Especially in a LAN environment. However, it has virtually no in-builtsecurity when compared to a product like LogMeIn.While it performs well, the screen paints are slower than LogMeIn,particularly when you’re on dial-up. LogMeIn, at the time of this writinghas a free version of their product.

So, if you’re looking for security and performance, and you’re workingwith Windows mostly, go with LogMeIn. If you work in Unix/Linux and a needa solution that will let you access Windows and Unix/Linux based systems,VNC is the way to go. I should also note that there’s a product called TightVNC that improveson VNC performance and features that you may also want to check out.I’ve not used this much but it’s free and is compatible with VNC as well.

Overall I prefer VNC and GoToMyPC. They offer me the best of both worlds in terms of flexibility, security andperformance. They’re both reasonably priced – VNC is Free and GoToMyPC ispretty reasonable. Especially when it’s 3am and you don’t have to leavehome to fix that crashed system at your customer site. Since I’m acomputer professional, I don’t mind spending the extra money for aproduct like GoToMyPC. Especially when it can help me helpmy clients faster, and allow me to get more sleep. ;-)

Best Overall:GoToMyPC: http://GoToMyPCAt3AM.Com

Best Free:Log me in: http://www.logmein.com

Best for Linux/Unix:VNC: http://www.realvnc.com

Honorable mention goes GoToMyPC for working with Linux: http://GoToMyPCAt3AM.Com

Happy Remote Computing! Dino Sims

P.S. If you’re going to use GoToMyPC from Linux, make sure that you’re using GoToMyPC version 4.X or higher.
About the Author

Dino Sims is an Electronics Engineer and Computer Technology Consultantfocusing on E-commerce, Networking, Security and Open Source Solutions.He’s been involved with computers since 1981 when he got his firstcomputer: a Radio Shack “trash80″ TRS-80 Model-I with a WHOPPING 4Kof RAM! He can be reached at: http://www.dinosims.com.

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