There are plenty of remote access services and apps to let employees reach their desktops and applications from mobile devices, but deciding on one can be a daunting task.
Some of the most popular remote access services
GoToMyPC from Citrix uses Software as a Service (SaaS) to allow for remote access from mobile devices. It protects data with end-to-end 128-bit encryption and supports dual-password authentication; each device is assigned its own passcode. Users can also grant temporary guest permissions to their desktops for sharing information or providing access to administrators. Just be aware that GoToMyPC cannot wake sleeping desktops, and users cannot copy or move files between their mobile devices and desktops.
The GoToMyPC mobile app is free, but Citrix charges a fee to use the service. There are three plans -- Individual, Pro and Corporate -- with prices starting at $9.95 per month for a single computer, or $99 per year.
All three plans include screen blanking, keyboard locking and remote printing, but only the Pro and Corporate plans provide centralized billing and management for multiple users. You can add, remove, suspend and switch users, monitor employee usage in real time, and generate daily, weekly or monthly reports. The Corporate plan includes advanced controls, such as the ability to manage groups, configure security settings and determine which features employees can use.
LogMeIn has support for multiple monitors, the ability to wake a sleeping or powered-down computer, and lets users copy or move files from a desktop to a mobile device.
LogMeIn has two service plans: LogMeIn Free and LogMeIn Pro. The free version provides basic remote access for up to 10 computers, and supports keyboard mapping, clipboard syncing, multiple monitors and Wake-on-LAN (which allows a network message to turn on or wake up a computer). In addition to those features, the Pro service includes file and desktop sharing, HD video and audio streaming, cloud services integration, and remote-to-local printing.
When it comes to pricing, things get a little confusing. LogMeIn prices the Pro service at $14.99 per month per computer, or $69.96 per year. If you view the app description in Apple's App Store, however, you might find an odd mix of conflicting prices depending on promotions. If you decide to upgrade to Pro, shop around first to see where you'll get the best rate.
To get started, employees need to download the LogMeIn app to their devices. For Android devices, they should download the LogMeIn Ignition app, which costs $29.99 in the Google Play Store. The app automatically uses the LogMeIn Free service, but your company can upgrade to the Pro service. Apple iOS users can download the basic LogMeIn app, which is free and works with both the Free and the Pro services, or they can get LogMeIn Ignition, which has a one-time fee of $129.99 and includes many Pro features without the monthly fees.
PocketCloud Remote Desktop from Wyse Technology has a much simpler pricing and service structure. For both iOS and Android devices, the app is free, and there is a Pro version that costs $14.99. The free app lets workers connect to a single desktop, but PocketCloud also offers three connection options: Virtual Network Computing (VNC), Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Auto Discovery. The VNC technology takes snapshots of the desktop and sends those to the user for interaction. The RDP connection is data-based and more streamlined, but is not as universal as a VNC connection. Auto Discovery is linked with the user's Google account and uses Google services to locate computers available to that user.
PocketCloud Pro lets users connect to multiple computers. In addition, the Pro app supports 256-bit encryption for RDP connections, as opposed to the 128-bit encryption on the free app. It also supports third-party app integration, RDP custom display resolution, auto-bandwidth sound for RDP connections, and VMware Horizon View virtual desktops. The Pro version can interact with Microsoft RD Gateway, a service that enables authorized users to connect to remote computers via an Internet connection.
PocketCloud also offers an optional Premium service for iOS devices. The service costs $5 per month and lets users upload pictures and videos to their desktops, plus it lets users download, print or email files, and supports video streaming, even over 3G.
Splashtop lets users view and edit files, access desktop applications, play graphic-intensive games, and stream HD videos in three levels of service: Personal, Business and Enterprise. In addition to the basic features, the Personal and Business versions support two optional feature packs. The Anywhere Access Pack lets users access their desktops from anywhere using 256-bit encryption, and the Productivity Pack supports configurable on-screen shortcuts as well as the Whiteboard service for annotating a live remote desktop screen. Each feature pack costs $1.99 per month or $16.99 per year.
The Business edition is SaaS-based and costs $60 per user per year. It provides centralized administration, group management and purchasing, and the ability to maintain an audit trail. The Enterprise service offers Splashtop as an on-premises product that supports hosted apps, virtual desktop access, Active Directory integration, and integration with third-party mobile device management tools.
There is a variety of Splashtop mobile device apps. Android users can download Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop for the Personal service, Splashtop Business for the Business service or Splashtop Enterprise for the Enterprise service. Each app is available for free. Users with iOS devices can also download Splashtop Business or Splashtop Enterprise for free. For the Personal service, however, Splashtop offers the Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop app for iPads for $2.99 and the Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop app for iPhone and iPod Touch for $1.99.
TeamViewer is an on-premises software package that supports desktop sharing and remote access. You install the software on the desktop from which you want to facilitate online meetings or provide support for other computers. TeamViewer also allows mobile devices to remotely control the desktop on which it's installed; the user need only download the free TeamViewer for Remote Control app and establish a connection with the desktop. TeamViewer uses 256-bit encryption and a proprietary protocol to ensure a secure connection.
TeamViewer features are on par with the other remote access services, but the software doesn't come cheap. A license starts at $719 and goes up from there. You can use TeamViewer for free if you're a non-commercial user, but that leaves out most IT departments. Still, TeamViewer is a sophisticated package that's geared toward remote tech support and online teamwork.
If you simply want to allow your mobile device users to access their desktops, you can download TeamViewer QuickStart, a free desktop application designed to work with the full version of TeamViewer to support multiple client computers. But you don't need the full version to use QuickStart. It is a single executable file that runs on the desktop without having to install or register any software, and it can run without administrative rights. You simply start the program on the desktop, retrieve the user ID and passcode that QuickStart generates, and provide that information to the mobile device user.
This was first published in December 2013