Remote desktop software is an IT solution that is quickly rising alongside trends like remote work and cloud computing. Whether you have a distributed workforce or want a way to access your own devices no matter where you’re located, remote desktop software will give you and your teams added flexibility to work remotely.
- What is remote desktop software?
- Remote desktop software benefits and drawbacks
- Top remote desktop software vendor comparison
- How to choose a remote desktop software vendor
What is remote desktop software?
Remote desktop software is an application that allows you to connect to a computer from a remote location as if the device were physically in front of you. This helps with managing a distributed workforce in a number of ways and can benefit your customer experience as well.
For example, remote desktop software can help you troubleshoot a device that’s causing problems for one of your employees, or you can use it to run a demonstration for a prospective customer. Some operating systems come with these features baked in, and many video conferencing systems offer remote desktop functionalities as well. However, a dedicated remote desktop software will take these capabilities one step further for a full remote management solution.
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Remote desktop software benefits and drawbacks
For small businesses, remote desktop software might seem like just another technology “solution” added to the list of things that require maintenance. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Remote access supports other processes so you can maintain productivity with minimal disruption. There are distinct advantages of using this type of software, as well as some disadvantages to consider before implementing it.
The benefits of remote desktop software include centralized management, collaboration, flexibility, and enhanced security for distributed workforces.
From the top-down perspective, remote desktop software centralizes management for all of your business devices, apps, and files. You (or your IT team) can deploy new applications, update existing ones, and help troubleshoot something that’s not working properly on any of your devices, regardless of where they’re located. You can manage your devices without physically touching them.
Remote desktop software also helps with collaboration across a distributed workforce. The very nature of remote access serves to create a way of interacting with other devices as if you were physically in the same place. This means multiple users can work from the same workstation despite being on opposite sides of the globe. For Apple or Linux users, Windows-based applications are instantly accessible with a few clicks and vice-versa. It also means one user can access their work desktop from their smartphones or tablets while on the go.
Remote desktop software is easy to scale up or down as the size of your team fluctuates, especially if you work with freelancers or other gig economy workers. Plus, when you have a way of managing devices remotely, you dramatically reduce the need to maintain any physical office space at all. This means you can save on operating costs and stay agile as your business needs change.
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From a business continuity perspective, remote desktop software means you can leverage a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy without creating security risks for your business systems. If one of your employees loses their computer or has it stolen, remote access software gives you the power to wipe that device of all sensitive data and applications. That employee can also then use the same platform to access all of the necessary tools to keep working from a different device with minimal disruption to their productivity.
As with any new software, there are some risks to consider before implementing a remote management platform.
This kind of technology requires a strong internet connection to operate smoothly. In rural areas or places where connectivity is spotty at best, remote desktop software loses most of its appeal. Plus, not all vendors are compatible with all types of devices, so you may have limited options depending on your needs.
Additionally, adopting remote desktop software means you’re dependent on a third-party vendor’s security protocols to protect your systems. If they have a vulnerability, you have a vulnerability. Most vendors understand this risk, though, and include their security measures in their list of features.
Ultimately, the biggest disadvantage of remote access software is that it takes some preparation to be useful. The software application usually needs to be installed and configured on the host device before it can support remote access. If you run into a sticky situation and realize you didn’t configure something appropriately to be able to access what you need, you may be out of luck until you can access the host device in person.
Top remote desktop software vendor comparison
The table below outlines some of the unique features for the top remote desktop software platforms.
Chrome Remote Desktop
|Built-in voice/video chat||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Wake on LAN||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
GoToMyPC: Best for smaller, Windows-based teams
GoToMyPC has a straightforward interface and relatively basic features, so it’s easy to get set up quickly. Among its biggest benefits is the real-time diagnostics feature, which provides details about your session and recommendations to fix any issues that may affect your connection.
GoToMyPC also enables you to invite guests to temporarily join your session, which is perfect for client demonstrations or remote troubleshooting needs. A smaller convenience GoToMyPC offers is the ability to create a desktop shortcut, which saves your login information and takes you directly to the main dashboard.
GoToMyPC is the only software vendor on this list that does not support Linux or other computer operating systems outside of macOS and Windows. While this is likely not an issue for most users, it’s something to consider if someone on your team is a Linux user or there’s a chance they may be in the future, especially if you frequently work with freelancers.
This software also does not offer some of the collaboration features offered by other vendors, like voice chatting, session recording, and whiteboarding. There are certainly workarounds with other platforms like Zoom that support these needs, but a remote desktop software with collaboration tools included will be more effective for larger teams. Plus, some features like sound integration are only available on Windows PCs, which could be frustrating for Mac users.
- Personal: starting at $35/computer/month
- Pro: starting at $66/2 computers/month
- Corporate: starting at $140/month
Zoho Assist: Best for tight budgets
Like other tools in the Zoho arsenal, Zoho Assist is optimized for small and midsize businesses. It offers a wide range of advanced features as part of its free plan, including 5 unattended computers (compared to two for the Pro version of GoToMyPC, for example), clipboard sharing, and tools for user management. If you’re a small operation with a limited budget, the free plan will give you the flexibility to get started and scale up as you grow.
Zoho Assist integrates with other Zoho platforms, like Zoho Desk and Zoho SalesIQ, but also integrates with third-party platforms like Zendesk and ServiceNow. If you’re looking for a versatile helpdesk solution, Zoho Assist will let you provide hands-on technical support both internally and externally.
One limitation Zoho Assist users may face is with file transferring. Unlike other providers, this platform limits you to 2GB of data per file transfer, which makes large files impossible to transfer between desktops without breaking them up into smaller chunks. Even at 2GB, though, the transfer can have some significant lagging.
Additionally, Zoho only offers unlimited technicians, remote troubleshooting, and computer grouping to a separate pricing tier for unattended access. With these plans, however, users won’t have as many options to integrate with other Zoho tools. If you have advanced needs for a remote desktop software, Zoho Assist may prove to be too limiting.
- Forever Free: $0
- Standard Remote Support: starting at $8/month
- Professional Remote Support: starting at $13/month
- Enterprise Remote Support: starting at $25/month
- Standard Unattended Access: starting at $8/month
- Professional Unattended Access: starting at $13/month
TeamViewer: Best for large teams
TeamViewer bridges the gap between collaboration, remote access, and security. It has widespread integrations for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems as well as iOS and Android mobile devices, so you can access your work desktop through a desktop app, web browser, or mobile app. It also supports text, video, and voice chat during remote sessions, so you can communicate with clients or other people on your team directly from the TeamViewer interface.
You can record sessions and use whiteboard features to annotate the screen for future reference. You can also rest assured that your TeamViewer connections will have excellent security, as it uses AES-256-bit encryption, two-factor authentication, and integration with powerful endpoint protection tools. TeamViewer is HIPAA compliant and certified with SOC 2 and ISO 27001 requirements, so it’s an ideal solution for businesses in the healthcare industry.
TeamViewer is one of the more expensive options on this list, so it would only be worth the investment if you have a large number of devices to manage. Some of the features — like support for mobile devices, third-party integrations, or web client access — are reserved for the most expensive pricing tier. Other advanced features are listed as separate add-ons for an extra fee, so another solution might be a better fit if you only need basic remote desktop management functionality.
- Business License (single user): $50.90/month
- Premium License (multi-user): $102.90/month
- Corporate License (for teams): $206.90/month
RemotePC: Best for scalability
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using RemotePC is how easy it is to scale up or down. If you only need remote desktop support for a few devices (up to 10), the SOHO edition will be perfectly suitable. However, for more advanced features like Active Directory integration, computer grouping, and access management, you’ll need to sign up for one of the upper level tiers (Team or Enterprise). With these packages, you can also add more remote devices incrementally as your company grows. Other vendors are more limiting in this area, as package upgrades for more devices may come with extraneous features you might not need.
Also unlike most remote desktop software vendors, RemotePC offers unlimited concurrent connections. This is ideal for group sessions like demos or training situations. Plus, you can enable an always-on feature and designate trusted devices to simplify the connection process, so you can access what you need more quickly.
One notable area for improvement is the RemotePC mobile app. Depending on the device you want to use, you may have a somewhat frustrating user experience navigating the various features and views. File transferring can also be a bit of a productivity blocker, as anything larger than 1.5GB will be slow to transfer from one desktop to another.
- Consumer: starting at $29.62/year
- SOHO: starting at $52.12/year
- Team: starting at $187.12/year
- Enterprise: starting at $347.62/year
- HelpDesk: starting at $49.95/year
Chrome Remote Desktop: Best for basic needs
Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop feature is as straightforward as it gets. It doesn’t offer advanced features, but if you only need a way to access your files across various devices, this tool is perfect. It’s completely free to use — all you need is a Google account to get started. It uses Google Chrome, so you can use it on any device that supports the Chrome browser. You can also configure individual devices to have permanent access, so you’ll always have access to the files and programs you need to keep things running smoothly.
This tool, which is effectively a browser extension, doesn’t offer any of the advanced features of alternative remote desktop software. You won’t be able to use it for video conferencing or remote troubleshooting, because Google offers other tools for that. There are also no features for remote troubleshooting or multi-monitor support, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for a true help desk solution.
How to choose a remote desktop software provider
Remote desktop software gives you the power to teleport to any of your business devices in an instant. To figure out which vendor has the best solution for you, start by outlining your requirements:
- What types of devices do you and your teams use?
- What operating systems do these devices have?
- How many users and devices will need to have remote access capabilities?
Then, compare the feature offerings of various platforms and their respective costs with your list of unique needs. Read customer testimonials to narrow down your search until you have a few options to test drive.