Choosing your Remote Access application
If you are a professional who sometimes works from home, the simplest way to access your work computer may be by remote access. Choosing your Remote Access application can be a complicated matter for all sorts of reasons including security, costs and ease of use. Over the last 10 or 11 years CTS has invested considerable time and money, each year, in choosing the right solution to use with our clients and we thought it might be an idea to share some of our findings to benefit you.
In this article we will briefly look at three remote access applications, some with more functionality than others, but it will be the remote access part that we will really focus on.
Remote PC has become a real power tool over the last couple of years. It’s clean lines and ease of use makes it a product we love. There is always one sticking point and that is if you choose to use it as a remote access tool for clients. The amount of work you need to do to enable that first connection requires clear communication, but more on that later.
Remote PC permits connections to multiple devices concurrently and it’s probably because of this that to perform a specific action on a device, say opening a file transfer window, you are requires to select the option from the taskbar ribbon and then double click the online device.
You have the option of connecting using the default viewer or remote desktop, either way the display is clear and easy to see, the small menu in the view screen allows you to change the display size which can be seriously affected by the resolution of the end point PC, so this feature is a necessity.
All in all, we really like Remote PC, it is easy to use, has a great set of functions and is very reliable. We also like the fact you can turn on the remote camera, this could be used as a security feature.
Remote PC Agent
Remote PC comes with two distinct files, the installation for management (Viewer) and the Host (the end point installation). Once the endpoint has been installed you need to determine it’s identity to connect to it.
This is done via a unique ID generated within the Host application. It is at this point that end users get confused, you have to direct them to the installed and running application in the task bar and direct them to generate the code which you then need to receive.
Having said that, we really like Remote PC, you can have up to 10 connections for no cost but if you need more connections their is an annual fee.
You can find out more at Remote PC.
Centrastage is a product we have used since we first became aware of it about 6 or more years ago. During that time it has proved itself to be reliable as a remote access tool, but like some others we are looking at here, it does a lot more than just remote access. In fact it was designed to be a Managed Services tool providing monitoring and even automated repair of computers and servers.
In 2016 Autotask well known for their Kaseya based system purchased Centrastage renaming it AEM, they have not made any serious changes to the system instead providing better integration with Autotask.
So what about the remote access ability? Centrastage provides access to a complete range of devices based on Operating System for Windows and OS X devices. It is also possible to remote to mobile devices including phones and tablets.
Once you have entered the required username and password, you can see a list of all the remote machines you have access to, clicking on a machine name will allow you to do a host of tasks including access a command line prompt, start or stop services, remote reboot and of course remote access.
The remote access choices depend on the machine operating system, so for Windows systems you can use Remote Desktop of the Ultra VNC based connection.
Once connected to the remote machine the display is clear, reactive and really very usable. The ability to open multiple task based tabs on a single machine and also to connect to multiple machines at the same time makes this a technicians dream choice.
What about Cost?
As you would expect from a professional system, there is a running cost of £1 per agent per month but now that AEM (Autotask Endpoint Management) has been integrated into the Kaseya system you may well find that their are other costs in setting up this system.
One other tool we tried this year was AeroAdmin, I have to say that although the website suggests this application is easy to use and we believed it was probably the most ideal tool for casual remote sessions with clients, we found it to be very unreliable.
In fact, we tried to get it to run on a couple of Windows 10 and a Windows 8.1 PC with no joy at all due to the authentication being blocked automatically by our Firewall. When we investigated why we found that the authentication servers used had been blacklisted by several security applications.
Now this may easily be a temporary thing, but it was really frustrating, especially when we contacted the vendor pointing out the results of our work to receive a reply that basically said that they were not going to do anything to fix the problem as it would go away on its own eventually.
We are not saying it is a bad product, but if you are reliant on AeroAdmin for a connection and have no backup then you may come unstuck.