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Remote desktop software

Remote desktop software, or remote access software, is software that allows you to access a remote computer. Specifically, it allows you to view the desktop of a remote computer, manipulate its mouse cursor and send keystrokes. Additionally, many remote desktop software programs make it possible to send files to and from the remote computer, chat with the user working at the remote PC and perform other operations.

Remote Desktop Software

Remote desktop software utilizes the so-called client-server model. Normally, the client part is called the Viewer and the server part is called the Server or Host. Different programs, however, may name the client and server differently. Sometimes developers combine both parts in a single installer file in order to simplify the installation process for the user.

How can Remote Utilities help?

Remote Utilities is one of the best remote desktop software programs on the market. Designed specifically for system administration and remote helpdesk, this software is unmatched when it comes to working speed and security. Although it works flawlessly for Internet connections and allows firewalls and proxies to be bypassed, Remote Utilities truly shines in the local network administration environment.

Typical uses of remote access software

Suppose you have your desktop PC, laptops of your family members and a home server all connected in a local network with the Internet access via a router. If you install the host component of remote desktop software on every PC, you can easily gain remote access to your home network from anywhere in the world. You can view and edit your documents, listen to your music, and help your family members by connecting to their PCs through a secure channel.

Another use of remote control software is performing remote administration in a corporate network. There are many administrative tasks that must be done on every computer in a network. Remote desktop software saves you a lot of time, since you don't have to travel around the office to maintain unattended PCs in your network. Aside from regular connection modes such as viewing the remote computer screen and gaining access to its mouse and keyboard, there are also modes that grant direct access to a remote computer's task manager or Windows registry.

Finally, you can use remote desktop software for remote customer support. You can remotely access the computer of your co-worker or a customer in need of assistance. They may not even have to install the host component. Instead, they can run the executable file downloaded from the vendor's website and allow incoming connection from you and — voila! — you can see their desktop and control their mouse cursor.

Connecting to a remote PC

The process of connecting to a remote computer is straightforward. In most cases you need to know its IP address and the password set on the host component of the remote desktop software. To initiate the connection, enter the IP address and password and select the desired connection mode.

To connect over the Internet successfully you need to know the public IP address of the remote computer. This is a rare case because many PCs and networks today are located behind some kind of router or firewall and do not have a public IP address. To circumvent this limitation, some remote access programs allow bypassing the firewall, thus making the remote connection possible in all cases. Usually (but not always) the firewall bypass feature involves using intermediary web servers hosted by the company that produces remote desktop software. Another way to bypass the firewall is to initiate a "callback" connection, in which case the client PC has a public IP address and the host pings the client to keep the tunnel open and make the regular connection possible.

A variation of a mediated remote connection is a local gateway server. This is an exact replica of a regular mediation web-server used by the company that developed the remote control software. The local gateway mediation server is installed on your premises, however. This is a major advantage because you no longer depend on overseas global servers and your connection speeds may increase.

How safe is remote desktop software?

When it comes to remote access security, there are two main aspects meriting attention: how well the host is protected against unauthorized access and how securely the data transmitted over the network between the host and the client.

The authorization options usually involve entering your password when you connect to a remote computer. You set the password on the host component during installation, but you can change it later if necessary. Some programs are very strict and will not allow you to save the password on the viewer side, while others do provide such option.

The data travelling between the host and the client is encrypted using a popular encryption standard such as AES. However, some remote control software programs, especially those available for free, do not provide data encryption, which makes your data vulnerable. It is not recommended to use such software, as there are no shortcuts when it comes to security.

Besides data encryption and password protection, remote access software can have other features that make it even more secure. For example, you can set IP filters that allow (or block) remote connections from IP addresses you specify. Or the software may have brute-force password cracking protection that blocks the hacker's IP address after several unsuccessful break-in attempts have been made.

How remote desktop software is licensed

Because of the dual nature of remote desktop software its licensing can be quite complicated. Broadly speaking, licensing options can be broken down into three categories, depending on what part of the program (or feature) is subject to licensing:

  • Viewer is free, host is paid. Every remote computer must have a license if the program continues to be used beyond the trial period. This type of licensing is widespread because it scales well. If you have few PCs to administer remotely, you don't have to pay extra money; you only pay for the number of licenses you actually need.
  • Host is free, viewer is paid. This is a rarely seen licensing model because of its inherent flaws. From a business perspective, this model is impractical because it does not distinguish between a home user with one PC and a big corporation with hundreds of PCs and virtually unlimited resources. This licensing approach, however, is often used by manufacturers with seamy products who are trying to gain market share quickly by selling their product at a very low price. The saying "you get what you pay for" holds true in this case.
  • Per-channel licensing. This license type allows unlimited host installations. There are limitations, however, on how many clients can work simultaneously via a mediated connection. Per-channel licensing is suitable for helpdesks because the number of technicians that can use the software is more important than the number of remote host installations (which can be unlimited in this case).

Conclusion

To find the best remote desktop software you should identify which features are most important to you. Are you are planning to use the software mostly in a local network (LAN), or do you plan to connect most often over the Internet? In the latter case, the bypass firewall feature is useful because it saves you time by eliminating configuration issues on the host side. There are many good offerings in this market, and you should try and find the one that best suits your needs.

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