Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to view a remote desktop for free

There are basically two reasons for viewing a remote desktop: attending online meetings and running applications on (and/or administering) a remote machine. There's a little crossover since some meeting-type software will allow remote control of the presenting machine.

As part of my daily grind, I frequently either host or attend online meetings, and assist end users. My employer, Sisyphean Corp, uses Webex for external meetings (with vendors, consultants or other folks not on our network, and - of late - Microsoft Lynx for internal meetings. There's always Windows Remote Desktop, but it's not well-suited to connecting to machines behind firewalls across the internet, and while it's fine at controlling, it's not designed for presentations.

So, what do you do if you are not part of a huge, monolithic corporation? I was curious and found the following free alternatives in no particular order (you can thank me later). 

  • Webex - I was slightly surprised to discover Webex actually has a free plan as long as you only need to meet with 2 other people. Any more than 3 and things get start getting a little pricey. Still, Webex is sort of the leader of the pack, and as such has things like IOS and Android clients.
  • Screenleap - this looks dead easy: java-based, so it will run on Windows and Linux with no install. Free account has a 2 hour daily limit, with up to 8 meeting attendees, paid for accounts get more options, including more attendees, SSL encryption. There are also APIs to enable sharing on your website. I've not tried this but it looks interesting.
  • Vyew - more than just a screen-sharing service, Vyew is a fairly full-blown collaboration space. Meetings are set up as always on "rooms" which allow for document sharing, and other team-based activities.  Ad-supported (ugh) but up to 10 real-time participants (20 person limit per room). I've used this - it's a little clunky but not a bad tool.
  • Teamviewer - control Macs and PC over the internet or do online meetings. Mobile versions of the client available for IOS, Android and Windows Phone. "Free for private use" - whatever the hell that means; don't blame me if it suddenly stops working. It says it's free for all non-commercial users. Once I give it a shot I'll let you know.
Some interesting, but more limited alternatives, more focused on remote admin/control:
  • Remobo - intended for remote control across a firewall using a VPN, but not presentations. I've not used, but I think I may look into it. Clients for Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • Gbridge - built on top of Google's GTalk service; lets you control, sync, share desktops and chat between computers. Both have to have the software installed! Interesting but limited to Windows machines
  • Crossloop - Free screensharing and unlimited remote access for Windows and Mac for one computer. Requires a download and install. If you are just looking to control your home PC while away, this could be an okay option. Paid access gets you access to more computers and remote access via Android app. If you were formerly using Logmein (which did away with their free account without warning) this might be an option.

2 comments:

jadee24 said...

Have you considered GoToMyPc or GoToAssist? They are offering to all LMI Free users loosing service, 6 months free of remote access @GoToMyPC or remote support @gotoassist http://bit.ly/1aHTOTu

John Carter said...

Thanks a lot...
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