A little over a year ago, LogMeIn surprised and upset a lot of MSPs by shutting down the free version of their popular remote PC access service.
LogMeIn wasn’t the first service of its kind, but it was arguably the most popular because it was easy to use and free. Although LogMeIn sells a professional version, a lot of MSPs decided to look elsewhere.
When I worked in IT, we used a combination of LogMeIn and Windows Remote Desktop depending on the customer and what needed to be done. A good remote PC access service is one of the most important tools for any service provider who hopes to help clients remotely, so this week, I want to take a look at the remote desktop market and attempt to answer the question: has anyone been able to fill the hole left by LogMeIn?
Even if you’re happy with the product you use today, it’s not a bad idea to see what else is happening in such a crowded field of players.
With over a billion downloads, VNC is the de facto standard for controlling remote computers. Some might even say VNC became too popular when the original developers commercialized the product under the RealVNC moniker. VNC is an open-source remote-control and display technology that is implemented by a number of companies that are worth a look, including RealVNC, TightVNC and UltraVNC.
RealVNC offers a free product for private use, but also sells personal and enterprise editions with advanced features such as 256-bit AES encryption and file transfer. MSPs searching for a solid product that’s been trusted by IT for many years would do well to consider RealVNC.
Free version: Yes
Commercial versions: $30 to $44/desktop.
Although I have mixed feelings about TeamViewer, I’m including it here because it does remote access as good as any product I’ve used. At Puget Systems, we use the product to handle all our remote support. It’s proven to be a very robust solution. My problem with TeamViewer is that some of the functionality gets lost in all the many other features, such as web conferencing.
When I first used TeamViewer three year ago it felt like primarily a web conferencing solution with remote administration tacked on as an afterthought. But recently released version have shown that TeamViewer is serious about remote access by adding features such as wake-on-LAN and the ability to open multiple connections.
TeamViewer has been around for over a decade and is used by companies large and small with claims of over 200 million installations. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. TeamViewer is the most polished product in this roundup, but it comes at a price. Unlike some competing products, TeamViewer is sold as a standalone product without any monthly fees.
Free version: 30-day trial only
Commercial version: Starts at $739
While researching this article, I kept seeing people mention NoMachine, often in the comments of reviews for various remote desktop products. I decided to take it for a test drive, and found it to be simple to use and very fast, even on one of my older Windows PC.
What impressed me about NoMachine the most is that it’s the polar opposite of TeamViewer in that it’s focused on proving the best remote desktop experience without all the other bells and whistles. Remember the first time you downloaded and launched Chrome after running a plugin-laden Internet Explorer or Firefox for years? That’s how NoMachine feels.
NoMachine supports Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Free version: Yes
Commercial versions: Starts at $795
ScreenConnect is worth a look if you’re an MSP managing a smaller number of machines. Its licensing model is comparatively affordable for those who manage fewer than 100 systems. Another reason MSPs are fond of ScreenConnect is that it can be customized with your company’s colors, logos and messaging through a simple admin panel. This helps reinforce your brand.
ScreenConnect runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Most of these products also support Android and iOS and ScreenConnect is no exception. While not as polished as TeamViewer, it gets the job done with minimal fuss.
Free version: 30-day trial
Commercial versions: Starts at $325
As an MSP, I know you’re looking for a product that’s simple to use and is affordable. LogMeIn was the perfect solution for many of you. TeamViewer came the closest to LogMeIn in terms of ease of use, but it’s not cheap. That said, it’s not a bad place to start. We continue to use it at Puget Systems, but are keeping our eyes open for a less expensive option.
With that in mind, there are a number of free options.
Areoadmin – Free for personal and commercial use. Includes the most features of the free products including simultaneous connections and AES encryption.
Guacamole – Now for something completely different. Guacamole is a clientless remote gateway that supports VNC and RDP protocols. It promises to always be free and open source software. Guacamole is installed on a Linux or UNIX server and then accessed via browser using HTML5.
These are just a few of the remote PC access options available today.
What products do you use?
Image credit: Ryan McFarland