Seeking A Good Remote Computing Software Package
April 14, 2009 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a commercial software package that allows me to perform REMOTE COMPUTING while on business trips. About every six months, I travel extensively and then there is a lull to my travels. I do not want to pay a monthly fee; yet I want a REMOTE SOFTWARE package that will perform seamlessly. I want, and I am willing to purchase, a good program that will allow me to connect to my home computer to perform various tasks. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Mckoan1 to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:26 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

What kind of COMPUTER do you have at home and on the road? What kind of TASKS are you interested in completing?
posted by grouse at 3:26 PM on April 14, 2009 [10 favorites]

i have found the remote desktop feature built into mesh has worked well for most of my needs.
posted by phil at 3:30 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

VNC is not a commercial package, but it's one of the standards for this kind of thing.
posted by box at 3:30 PM on April 14, 2009

Lifehacker just ran an article about a service called Tonido that looks promising. But yeah, need specifics to be more helpful.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 3:33 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

You said you didn't want to pay a monthly fee - I hope this is not a hyper-literal response, but GoToMyPC allows you to pay an annual fee (which gives you a discount) instead.
posted by DavidNYC at 3:37 PM on April 14, 2009

VNC or Windows Remote Desktop.
posted by orthogonality at 3:37 PM on April 14, 2009

Remote Desktop
posted by gregr at 3:37 PM on April 14, 2009

Why is the fact that it is commercial a requirement? I would recommend using VNC (as it will work across all platforms). There are commercial versions of VNC available, but that's silly - just use TightVNC.

If you're only on windows, why not just use built in Remote Desktop?
posted by phrakture at 3:38 PM on April 14, 2009

Uh, this is what Remote Desktop is for.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2009

There's all sorts of remote desktop programs for light computing. Microsoft Windows has an Remote Desktop tool, and VNC is also popular for this. Citrix is popular in large commercial enivornments, as I understand it.

The challenge here is firewalling and naming. Firewalls are built assuming that your computer is a client only. Ie it connects to remote computing resources, and prevents anyone from remotely accessing computing resources inside it.

But even with the firewall out of the way, you need some Internet wide name to describe your computer. I recommend dyndns, which lets your computer map it's current IP to a specific URL like Since your ISP changes the IP address, grab a free program to keep it in sync.

If you're willing to configure your firewall and dyndns for seamless access (or hire a tech to), you'll usually be fine. Otherwise, you'll need one of those website services like GoToMyPC, who are going to charge you a monthly fee, because they'll be operating services on their end to support things like circumventing firewalls and DNS.
posted by pwnguin at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites] is pretty good. I use the free version, but there's also a pro version that allows you to do remote printing, listen to remote audio, copy files, etc. It also has an iPhone client and a Java client that works in pretty much any browser. You can do the same thing with VNC and Hamachi, but it's more complex to run and administer.
posted by baggers at 3:45 PM on April 14, 2009

I would play with XP's native Remote Desktop capability:

Start --> All Programs --> Accessories [Remote Desktop should be at the bottom of the list]
posted by KokuRyu at 3:58 PM on April 14, 2009

use your COMPUTER's REMOTE desktop capability this works works seamlessly - for REMOTE COMPUTING. VNC is ok for emergencies.
posted by mattoxic at 4:07 PM on April 14, 2009

in response to the issues pwnguin raised. the main reason i recommended mesh is that it bypasses firewalls (at least all that i have encountered) and handles routing with zero configuration. after running the installer it simply works. to connect to a remote computer you mouse over the mesh task bar icon and click the "Connect to Device" link next to the computer you want to remote into.
posted by phil at 4:10 PM on April 14, 2009

What a weirdly phrased question. No need to shout.

If you're attempting to use a Windows workstation remotely, then Remote Desktop (or Terminal Services) is what you're looking for. Every Windows operating system after 98 has this capability.

Unfortunately, if you're using a home router then you'll have to open up port 389 (the default -- you can change the port it listens on) to the whole world if you're traveling.

You might want to invest in a router than supports VPN so that you can setup a secure tunnel to your home network. Then you can forward the necessary ports to the workstation and setup a secure remote connection.
posted by purephase at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mac OS X also allows remote login. You can open a window which is the desktop of your home computer.
posted by musofire at 4:59 PM on April 14, 2009

I have tried VNC for remote computing; at least in the situations where I have tried it (from hotels connecting back home, which is on a 1:3 Mbit cable connection), it was almost unusably slow. Acceptable in an emergency or for troubleshooting, but not everyday work.

This might be due to Mac OS X's built in VNC server being pretty slow (it doesn't let you decrease screen bit depth, apparently), but it just didn't do what I was hoping.

Citrix in contrast works pretty well, as does VMWare's VDI system (which I think may use Windows Terminal Server), but they both cost big money and only work on Windows.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:05 PM on April 14, 2009

port 389


For locally installed solutions like VNC and Remote Desktop you'll need to look into getting a static IP address or else some kind of name resolution a la dyndns.

I have a feeling that if you didn't really know the terms to google for to find these two very mainstream ways of doing what you wanted, that dealing with figuring out your IP address while on the road, or getting a static IP address, or using dyndns might be outside your tech comfort level. No offense if that's not the case.

If it is, you may be better off with something like GoToMyPC or another site based service, where you don't need to worry about the complicated stuff. However these are also the ones that will incur you a monthly/annual fee, though I must say (via bagger's comment) sounds promising

If you want free, there's some learning curve, but then VNC or Remote Desktop will work great.
posted by poppo at 5:17 PM on April 14, 2009

Seconding infinitywaltz and baggers on LogMeIn—I totally heart it. I use it on my work and home PCs, and also have it installed on PCs of various friends and family members for when they need my informal technical support (I set up separate accounts for their LogMeIn logins, because the free version is limited to two computers per account). That way, when friends or Mom wind up in a computer jam, I just sign on to, type in their name and password, select "Remote Control," and then chat with them on the phone as I help to resolve whatever pickle they find themselves in.
posted by kentk at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2009

Remote Desktop, and even VNC, is painfully slow for me to use. About all it's good for (for me anyway) is to restart the kitten-cam when I'm at work.

I know you said you didn't want a monthly fee, but just consider it paying for software in installments. We've just started using Cisco's WebEx at work, and it seems pretty cool.
posted by cgg at 6:41 PM on April 14, 2009

posted by elle.jeezy at 7:25 PM on April 14, 2009

My favorite is Teamviewer. Clean application, just works, connection configuration is done via remote server, free for non-commercial use. Once you start the program, it gives you some numbers you relay to the remote operator, who plugs them in and presto they are remote operating your computer.

I didn't like having LogMein putting a process on my machine that ran constantly. I thought it was running up the processor at times. Perhaps that was an earlier version and it's better behaved now. I don't also want to maintain a lot of accounts on a service. Teamviewer is basically click and do.

Trying to get people to configure their routers so I can use VNC or something similar is a nonstarter. Likewise working via a browser.

The OP didn't mention if they wanted to have their pc available 24/7 so they can login without needing another party to accept the connection. If so, that's something you'd want to test beforehand to make sure the system doesn't go to sleep for the entirety of the trip.
posted by diode at 7:55 PM on April 14, 2009

Why exactly do you need remote computing? Are you running complex calculations beyond your laptops abilities? Does some software not run on your laptop? Any remote desktop will suck horribly under bad network conditions.

You might look into dropbox, mesh, & similar if you only need data backup & availability. If you need more security, consider accessing a shared folder over a vpn or ssh tunnel. If your a developer, your laptop's gcc can farm jobs off to your desktop remotely. If you have a Mac, learn about terminal and ssh too.

p.s. You'll need some site like if your on a dynamic IP. Your home ISP may have a policy against running servers. Your router may require adjustments. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:18 PM on April 14, 2009

My understanding is that LogMeIn is much easier to configure and is able to get around corporate firewalls quite nicely.

Personally, I'd go with VNC if you have a slight bit of technical know-how ( RealVNC is a great choice ) like others suggested, assuming you have control over your firewall and can open the necessary ports (defaults are 5900 & 5800) to access it from the internets, you'll be good to go in no time.

Both have free versions that are fully functional, despite the unfree versions you'll see on their main webpages.
posted by eli_d at 10:47 PM on April 14, 2009

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