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Grow Your Business Technology

Remote Desktop: Connecting to Your PC From Anywhere

Remote Desktop: Connecting to Your PC From Anywhere
Remote desktop software allows you or an IT expert to access your work computer from offsite. / Credit: Keith A Frith | Shutterstock

The days of needing to access an office computer strictly between 9 to 5 are over for many workers. Whether it's employees wanting to get projects or tasks completed at home or IT experts needing to fix a computer from offsite, the ability to remotely access computers is critical for those employees and IT specialists.

Accessing a work computer from another computer or mobile device used to be nearly impossible, but remote desktop software makes it extremely simple. By using remote desktop software, employees are able to access their office computer from home, while IT personnel can use the software to fix other computers from the comfort of their own office. In essence, the software makes it as if the user is sitting right in front of the computer they are accessing, when in fact they may be at home, in a coffee shop or in another office hundreds of miles away.

In order to use the software to access computers remotely, users must first download the software onto the computer they wish to access as well as the computer or device they wish to access it from. Once the software is on both devices, users can follow the instructions to connect the two.

There are two main types of remote desktop applications. One is designed for IT specialists as a way to solve their client's computer problems without having to actually sit down in front of their computer. Rather than needing to personally inspect the computer, they can log onto it from their own office and fix any necessary problems. This saves time and allows IT specialists to handle many more issues than they would if it were necessary to visit each computer personally. Among the things remote desktop IT service providers can do with the software are download files, reboot computers or simply chat via the connection about problems that arise. Remote desktop software also gives IT professionals the opportunity to record sessions to help train other employees on how best to solve problems.

Employees who want to access their personal computer from work or their work computer from home generally use the second type of remote desktop software, remote PC access. Remote PC software gives employees the opportunity to log onto the work computer or home computer from any other computer or mobile device. Once logged in with the remote software, users are able to access every file and program on the PC they are accessing. This eliminates stress for employees who are worried about forgetting a file in the office, or working on a project at home and forgetting to bring it into work the next day. In those situations, they are able to remotely access their computer to retrieve the needed documents.

When choosing remote desktop software, there are a number of features and options users should be looking for. In addition to being able to access the computer's files and software, any remote desktop application should have the ability to transfer files, such as drivers and patches, and retrieve system information.

Employees or IT experts using remote desktop software should also look for an option that is easy to use and download. Complicated set-up processes or login procedures will become frustrating and make the remote desktop software more of a chore than a tool for getting work done easily.

Because sensitive or confidential information is often being accessed via the remote desktop software, security features are of critical importance. Any remote desktop option should use Secure Socket Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to provide secure transmissions over the Internet.

When picking a remote PC software option, users should make sure it offers several important features, including the ability to access a remote computer from more than one device, turn the remote computer on and off, stream music and turn on a webcam.

The software should also include file synchronizing, the ability to drag and drop files between the computer and the device accessing it, and the capacity to conduct private chat conversations between the two.

As with remote desktop software, remote PC software should have top-notch security. Secure services support password protection, encrypt data transfers and can block IP addresses from remote access. The software should also have an automatic time-out so no one can access the remote PC at a later time if the user forgets to log out.

With so many different choices, it can be tough to determine which software best suits the user's needs. BusinessNewsDaily's sister site, TopTenReviews, has done extensive research on both remote desktop and remote PC software.

For remote desktop software, the site ranks Netviewer Support as the top option for its ease of use and extensive feature set, which includes the ability to manage multiple clients at one time and have other IT support personnel join in to help solve certain problems.

Other top-rated remote desktop software options include GoToAssist, which has an easy-to-use interface and navigation tools; WebEx Remote Support, for its excellent customer service; and LogMeIn Rescue, which offers easy access to mobile devices.

For remote PC software, TopTenReviews has GoToMyPC at the top of its rankings. GoToMyPC ranks highly for the speed at which it can transfer files – nearly twice as fast as other options – and its ability to remotely power on and off the computer being accessed.

Other highly rated software options include LogMeIn, which offers fast and clear image rendering; WebEx PC Now, for its ability to access PCs from any device, including Mac computers and iPhones; and Goverlan Remote Control, which can interact with a variety of operating systems, including Mac OSX, Unix, Ubuntu and Linux.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.