Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Geek Chic: Symantec PcAnywhere 12.0

A few years ago, administrators and tech support personnel had very few options for remotely accessing Windows computers, except for buying third-party solutions. When Microsoft bundled a free remote access solution, Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), into Windows XP, many wondered if remote access software had a future. Symantec believes it does, and it may be right--but maybe not at the price it's asking.

PcAnywhere 12.0 supports new features not found in RDC, such as connection proxy, firewall traversal and cross-platform support. RDC won't let you connect to Mac, Linux or Win2000/ME hosts (though RDC does have a Mac client), so score one for pcAnywhere, which offers these capabilities. Symantec support also extends to Pocket PCs. These features help justify pcAnywhere's relatively high price, but not entirely: Symantec quotes a list price starting at $199 per seat, including full host and remote capabilities. Host-only licenses are estimated to cost $99.95 retail, with bulk discounts available. That's more in line with competitors, but still about 20% too much--especially considering VNC, a free and open-source remote control software, offers even more platform support.

A smaller office environment, where a VPN may not be set up or a desktop management suite would be overkill, may find it easier to justify the purchase, but it's a harder sell at larger organizations where a robust VPN solution helps eliminate many connectivity issues that plague RDC and other remote control software.

During testing it was easy to access computers from a variety of operating systems. A Java-based program can be installed on Linux or Mac OS X systems as host or client, but unfortunately installing the client version requires root privileges. RDC for OS X doesn't. On the other hand, admins usually like locking down a desktop so that users can't install software on their own. A Web-based viewer enables host connection through a Java applet, though with fewer features than the full Windows client. It only allows remote control capabilities, so you can't perform file transfers, instant messaging or kill processes outside of a remote control session.

Also new in this version is a proxy server and host-initiated connections. This allows for a host sitting behind a restricted firewall or NAT device to have connectivity with remote systems. That's neat, as I've had problems connecting by RDC when inbound connections were blocked by a firewall. An "invite" file can be created as well. This small file contains IP/DNS information and settings for the remote client and can be sent to a host by e-mail, instant message or floppy disk. This allows a user to initiate a connection to IT staff tech support computers without needing to worry about inputting network settings.

  • 1