Friday, July 07, 2006

Remote Computers

Control your Computer Remotely

You just can’t deny the convenience of using remote control while watching your favorite programs on TV. While still lying in sofa; with remote, you can surf channels, make advanced settings, mute sound during important conversations etc. Now imagine that you have to administer a network having installed more than a hundred workstations and you are given a tool similar to Remote control of your TV, through which you can administer and control each and every aspect of every computer that is connected to the network. For a network administrator, nothing is better bliss than remote control tool that he can use for administering and troubleshooting his networked computers.

Remote control tools were available since the days the concept of network computing born. Software like Symantec’s PCAnywhere and Altiris’s Carbon Copy were proven remote control tool available since long, and were considered cute babies for system administrators; yet they did not get mature enough for mass use. However, with the introduction of Windows terminal service and Windows XP Remote assistance tool, the concept of remote computing gets redefined and had got a new ways of life. Remote computing concept were further added support from web based tool like GoToMyPc through which you can control virtually any computer connected to Internet form anywhere and at any time. Now imagine the scenario that you don’t need to carry even your laptop to access your PC running your application at your workplace or home. You simply have to use web services like GoToMyPc or Control F1 to connect your computer across Internet; for example, you can just walk in to a Cyber Café at Ratlam from where you can access your workstation and run applications; that is installed at your office in New Delhi, that too without making any configuration settings!

Some positive traits of Remote Computing..

Barring some security issues, Remote Computing gives you various benefits that include:

  • Full control over remote computer is possible from anywhere in real time.
  • Applications, regardless of Operating System, as some remote control tool like VNC support; can be used from anywhere as true, flexible hot-docking environment– but beware you may violate application license agreement while using application installed in a system that is not allowed to be used at other locations. In general, remote control tools perform and execute applications remotely at the client end where they are legally installed. They simply transmit the display and other output thus generated to host end. Hence you are actually using the application exactly where it is installed and if user is same, then there may not be any such problem like license violation will arise.
  • Remote computing tool provide you facility of remote system administration and troubleshooting.
  • Both the support personnel and end user can see the problem and its solution in real time.
  • Remote tools provide you faster problem resolution and more effective support desk.
  • Remote system administration improves customer service.
  • These tools can be effectively used in cutting cost in business having large networked environment.
  • Remote tools can be used as effective educational tool in illustrating things interactively and in real time over remote computers.
  • Remote control tools allow you to snoop over the other computers you want to look at. It can act as a short of closed circuit television that allows you to view other computers screen in real time with or without knowing the user. With these tools, organizations can tab a watch on their employee that what they do in their computer in business hour. Further, these screen actions can be recorded as movie files along with keystrokes and mouse click logs as evidence.
  • You can run heavy and intensive task on a remote machine that has faster processor, more memory or has fewer jobs compared to your own. Remote control tool can also be used as resource sharing tool.
  • You can share your documents in real time with others at remote end.
  • Remote tools such as WindowsXP Remote control can provide real time online interactive support with the help of simple applications like Outlook and MS Messenger.

It appears that Remote control tools are going to be a necessity in future computing. But not before solving some serious security issues that comes while using Remote Computing. Remote tools are notorious in by-passing security such as firewalls. Further, securities are managed by remote control tool provider and applications and hence you have to depend on them. Some Remote Control tools may provide you strong security settings such as allowable login attempts, time and date to login and secured password authentication etc. yet they may not be reliable enough. Once a computer is set to be used with remote tools, a hacker or an un-authorized person can sneak in, disguise himself and can take full control of that computer. Using applications remotely through remote tools may violate software license. Looking to all these facts, remote control architecture my not be used for convenience and an alternative to application portability. Instead, traditional mobile system or thin-client solutions may be opted till these issues are sorted. Still, Remote Control tool have no alternative and you have to use it, however, cautiously. Some remote control tools are reviewed below so that you can choose an appropriate one for you.

WindowsXp Remote Assistance

WindowsXP comes with built in remote assistance tool. To use it, you have to go to Control Panel, click on Systems and then click on Remote tab. Select “Allow Remote Assistance invitation to be sent from this computer” and “Allow users to connect remotely to this Computer”. Now your computer is ready to use it’s built in remote control tool. However, you have to specify some advance settings and set users so that they can use particular computer. This tool works manually or automatically through Outlook or MSN Messenger. With this tool, other machines running WindowsXP can be controlled remotely.

VNC

VNC, (WinVNC for Windows etc.) the short form of Virtual Network Computing is a freeware tool that you can get from http://www.realvnc.com. VNC is a tiny application yet powerful enough to provide you tools for controlling computers remotely. VNC can also be extended to support SSL and SSH security standards. VNC is designed to perform across various platforms and you can control a Windows machine from Linux or MacOS or BeOS or vice versa. VNC is very simple in use, needs little configuration and you have to install VNC in both end. For security reasons, to allow a Computer to be controlled remotely, the VNC viewer should be running by the user. VNC has built in strong password authentication tool that can be scaled or extended for added security. VNC is freeware and its source code is also free and hence has potential to be customized at users end. With VNC, you can control nearly every aspect of remote computer, but file transfer facility between the connected computers are not supported and you have to use other applications or services like ftp for that. VNC can be run from LAN or Internet, even with a low band Dialup modem connection. VNC is a best, free solution to control remote computer especially on cross platform.

IncrediSoft Remote PC

Remote PC from IncrediSoft is a shareware application for controlling your computers remotely. This application is Windows based and supports Win9X/NT/2000 versions. It installs separately as Client or a Server; and both applications can be installed in same machine. Client application lets you access other PC remotely and Server application lets your PC access securely to other PC running authorized Remote PC Clients. Remote PC is hassle free, simple tool for windows based remote control solutions.

Net Support Manager

As its name shows, this remote control tool has been designed to address support across remote locations. This tool is cross platform compatible and works irrespective of Operating System or Network protocol at either end. This tool supports new security standards like DES/AES encryption technology. Besides tools for remote computing, it has some extra features that make it a true remote support manager. There may be multiple, problem specific control which a user can request for a help. It also has full two way audio – video support and all the clients connected to a control can be set to be scan automatically. The desktop of each client can be displayed at an interval in cycle on host machine. This enables Net Support Manager as a spy tool to keep a watch as what clients are running on their computer. The demo version of Net Support Manager is available to download for free at http://www.pci.co.uk

Emco Remote Desktop

This Windows based program can be used effectively as network administration tool. Full control of client machine is possible through host machine. The program can automatically detect the machine connected to a network and defined as host/clients. The user interface is simple and you can straightway start using this application since it needs little settings. For more information or for a look at demo, visit http://www.emco.is

Cool! Remote Control

This remote control application has a new typical, designer interface. The application is meant for allowing control of your office PC (remote PC) at your home (Local PC) across TCP/IP protocol. The application runs smoothly on Win9x/ME and is somewhat slow on WinNT/2000. You simply have to give the IP address and password of computer you want to connect and you are done. This tool is designed for simple remote control solutions; hence you may not find security settings here. The shareware version of Cool! Remote Control can be downloaded from http://www.yaosoft.com

TomaWeb XpressControl

This tool is specifically designed as remote network administration tool. You have to install this application in both the host and client machine and any machine can act either as host or client. To connect to a host, the client machine must be in listening mode, running Xpress Control. The application does not require complex setting and once connected, you can view and operate remote computer either in window or in full screen. This is Windows based application and meant for network management. Have a look at the evaluation version of this application from http://www.tomaweb.com

pcAnywhere

There are some other remote control applications available including pcAnywhere, CarbonCopy, RemotelyAnywhere, Timbaktu, EZ-Win, Unicenter Remote Control, OmniGate etc. These applications are Windows based and allow you to control Computers at remote locations. These applications lets you connect through a variety of system including LAN, WAN, high speed Broadband or Dialup Modem connection or through serial or parallel port connection. These applications are easy in use, need a little input and give you full control over remote computer. Among these, Symantec’s pcAnywhere is a proven, popular application and is staying in tool box of administrators for a little while because of its some extra, nice features such as Remote Control Wizards, Speed send file transfer technology, Drag and Drop capability, Multiple host configuration compatibility, Host conferencing i.e. ability to connect to a large number of computers simultaneously, Central management system integration, enhanced security and support of OLE automation etc.

GoToMyPc

This is a unique web based application that allows you to control your computer remotely across Internet through its web site. There is a small application you have to download and install in your computer which you want to control remotely. Now it is ready for control remotely through any other computer through Internet. Simply login to its web site http://www.gotomypc.com, to connect to your remote computer on which you installed GoToMyPc application. No any additional configuration is required. You only have to put user name and Password to access securely your computer remotely over 128 bit AES encryption technology. It is as simple as that. GoToMyPc is true platform independent and you can control virtually any computer having any Operating system as long as it support any Java enabled web browser. GoToMyPc is deployed as web service rather than application; yet it has certain advantage over applications like pcAnywhere and other VPN solutions. It has built in scalable, customizable corporate plan for large business users.

Screenshot descriptions:

  1. VNC01.png Remote computing in action: Workstation Unique2 having Windows98 Operating System is running remotely in Workstation Unique1 having Windows2000 Operating System.
  2. VNC02.png If defined in settings, every aspect of computer can be accessed and altered remotely including system settings.
  3. VNC03.png WinVNC, the platform independent tiny, yet powerful remote control tool needs little configuration to run.
  4. VNC04.png RemotePC lets you install software either as clients or a server. For example, if you do not allow other users to use a certain PC, you can install only RemotePC client on it.
  5. VNC05.png RemotePC lets you select the way a certain PC is handled remotely. For example, if it is set as ‘View Only’ then it can be viewed only on remote machine and you can not take control of it.
  6. VNC06.png Incredisoft RemotePC server lets you authorize certain users to access certain PC securely.
  7. VNC07.png RemotePC Client – ready to run. You simply have to give its network address and you will be connected to that computer.
  8. VNC08.png Net support client allows you to send request messages to control as other users defined in group which can help you interactively from remote locations.
  9. VNC09.png Emco Remote Desktop automatically scans other computers connected on LAN for remote management.
  10. VNC10.png Emco Remote Desktop lets you control several PC simultaneously.
  11. VNC11.png WindowsXP Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop are built in tool for remote management and troubleshooting of computers.
  12. VNC12.png WindowsXP Remote Assistance in action. Users can control how their PC can be accessed remotely.
  13. VNC13.png Cool! Remote Control is a simple, down to earth Windows application to control computers remotely.
  14. VNC14.png XpressControl uses friendly wizards to connect to remote computers.
  15. VNC15.png pcAnywhere – the popular, proven remote control program lets you manage total remote control solution across wide variety of environment.
  16. VNC16.png pcAnywhere has simple interface with multiple features that makes it better remote control tool over its competitors in its category.
  17. VNC17.png Remote control tools come with extensive, elaborate help.
  18. VNC18.png Tinbaktu Pro has some other attractive features such as it allows you to Chat, function as an Intercom in addition to control your computer remotely.

(The article has been previously published in IT magazine)


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