Friday, July 08, 2005

GoToMyPC Internet Remote Access

Have you ever been frustrated that you were in one place and everything you needed was on your computer somewhere else? The solution is something called remote access. Remote access gives you control of your home or office computer from another computer hundreds or thousands of miles away. At its best, you'll feel like you're connected by a long, long wire from a keyboard and monitor to your main computer.

There are various implementations of remote access including KVM or keyboard, video and mouse over IP. These easiest to implement, though, is a program called Go To My PC. Like the name says, you use the Internet to go to your far away PC. Sounds like a simple enough concept, but how does it work?

GoToMyPC, a product of Citrix Systems, Inc., is more of a Web-based service than a software solution. You download a 1.4 MB "installer" on your host computer. The host is the computer that you are going to be accessing from afar. You'll need to leave it powered and connected to an always-on Internet connection, such as your company's LAN or a DSL or cable modem broadband ISP. As long as the machine can talk to the Internet, you can gain access from a Java-enabled Web browser on just about any other computer.

The way you connect to your computer is not obvious. You might think it is a simple peer to peer connection over the Internet. Not so. Instead, you log into a GoToMyPC server. Your host computer is always pinging the GoToMyPC server to see if you want service. When you want to connect, your interface is through Go To My PC which does the conversions necessary to transmit keyboard commands and screen updates.

Why such a complex transaction? It's complicated technically to make it simple and easy for you. For instance, because your host computer effectively initiates all communications sessions with its pinging, you can work through corporate firewalls without any fancy configurations. Also, because you are communicating through a proxy, GoToMyPC, you can log in using just about any computer that you can connect to the Internet. That includes most flavors of Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Unix or Solaris. Even a Pocket PC will work. There is no software to preinstall on your remote client computer. That means you can even gain access to your host computer at Internet cafes, libraries and Kiosks.

Now don't get nervous about the security concerns of using the Internet and public computers to access your corporate computer. Your connection is encrypted using 128 bit AES encryption. You log-in with your email address and password. Plus you need the access code for your host computer. You also have the option to use one-time passwords for additional security. With all the security encryption, you are actually creating a special purpose VPN or virtual private network. At the host end, you can configure your desktop computer to lock the keyboard and blank the screen to prevent snoops from hanging around your machine in hopes of seeing something interesting.

What can you do with GoToMyPC? You can easily transfer files between computers and print documents to any printer, even if you don't have the right application loaded on your client computer. You can cut, copy and paste text between computers. You also have the option of inviting a guest to join you to temporarily view or share access to your host PC. That can be useful for collaboration, working on projects with clients, or getting technical support for computer problems.

You can actually gain remote access to your computer using a dial-up connection, although you really want a broadband connection to get the experience of transparency in your connection.

If this sounds like something that would be helpful in your business, you can get a free trial of GoToMyPC here. If you like it, there's a monthly or annual fee that includes all software upgrades and technical support. The basic service is for one host PC, but you can upgrade to enterprise level services to support additional machines.

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