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Best Remote Access Software and Solutions 2017

Best Remote Access Software and Solutions 2017
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Remote access software gives you access to other PCs or endpoints, making customer support or performing IT tasks from an off-site location so much easier. Windows and MacOS admin tools provide fundamental access abilities, but most IT teams will quickly outgrow what they offer and need to look for an advanced remote support solution. We reviewed current performance test results for 10 remote access products and narrowed the list down to three top picks.

TeamViewer has been the go-to access product for years, but there are other options. In fact, Citrix's GoTo product family will be merging with LogMeIn in 2017, so it will be interesting to see what their new product offerings will be and how well they will compete against TeamViewer. Stay tuned for our evaluations after the merger.

How We Selected These Remote Access Products

We considered well-known products that provide advanced remote desktop connection features for IT teams or those who need to provide customer or technical support.

Features often provided by these products that you may not see in free or OS versions include:

  • Multi-connection and multi-platform support
  • Session tracking, recording and notes
  • Two-way file sharing
  • Zero install and unattended access
  • Mass deployments and policy support
  • Wake ups, restarts and CTRL+ALT+DEL connected computers
  • Alerts, reporting and monitoring
  • Chat, white board, audio, and video and VoIP
  • Meetings and presentations
  • One-time or guest-access connection options
  • Compatibility with security solutions

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Performance Testing Information

We partnered with our sister site, Top Ten Reviews (TTR), to evaluate the performance of popular remote access solutions. While there are many variables that influence connection and file-transfer speeds, solutions still required testing, which TTR did in their lab.

To minimize common variables, TTR reviewers tested these services in a controlled environment and ran tests multiple times to determine performance averages. Since one or two seconds doesn't make that much difference in the long term, we tested and then rated products as slower or faster compared against the tested average to give you an idea of what you can expect from these products in terms of performance. Ten products in total were tested and compared.

One issue we uncovered during testing is that some tasks performed on a tablet—navigation, chat and file sharing—were subpar compared to PCs and Macs. If you plan to use tablets often, you'll benefit from taking advantage of the free test versions these applications offer to see if it performs to your satisfaction. 

Best Picks

GoToAssist

Pros: Supports up to eight sessions per license; Multi-platform compatible; Supports unattended device access; Two-way screen sharing; Support multiple monitors; Remote diagnosis tools; Session recording

Limitations: Nonperpetual licenses

GoToAssist is part of the Citrix GoTo product family alongside GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC. In 2017, the GoTo family of products will merge with LogMeIn. GoToMyPC is a popular product for connecting computers for personal use. We reviewed GoToAssist, which is designed to provide remote support and access to unattended computers.

This Citrix product is available for as low as $55 per technical per month, if you pay a year in advance ($660). If you need access for more than 40 technician seats, you'll have to request a customized quote. Each license supports unlimited end users, including unattended machines.

Each technician can support up to eight sessions simultaneously. Since the introductory versions support more than one session at once, the first-year cost for this remote-access application lower than TeamViewer. However, it does not provide a perpetual license, so second-year costs would be more than TeamViewer. You'll have to configure what the best deal is for you based on your particular scenario.

To help you support your customers, GoToAssist provides remote access and session support. Using this remote PC access tool, you can perform remote diagnosis, view multiple monitors, add annotations and connect to unattended computers. It also supports two-way file transfers and screen sharing.

Session support features include session transferring, invites, shared access, reporting and recording. It can also perform commands such as LAN wakeups, CTRL-ALT-DEL, profile switching and remote rebooting. You can also connect using iOS or Android devices.

This service employs technologies to provide secure sessions. It begins by requiring permission-based connections so your customer understands what is being shared. Unattended access has to be set up ahead of time during a live session or by someone who has admin rights.

Communications occur via an overly multicast networking stack utilizing a TCP/IP stack. IETF-standard Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols are used as well as SSL cipher suites, encrypted data transfers and authenticated session keys. It can work around firewalls and proxies. If security is critical for your business, Citrix has a white paper on its website that outlines GoToAssist's security protocols.

Lab Test Results

Connection time from PC:Slower than average
Connection time from iPad:Slower than average
File-transfer speed:Faster than average
Lag time:Negligible (less than 0.5 seconds)

Bottom Line: Each license supports eight simultaneous sessions, making GoToAssist a good value for businesses needing to support numerous external or internal customers.

LogMeIn

Pros: Unlimited concurrent sessions; Session recording; Multi-platform support; Host-client chat support; Laser pointer tool; Two-way file transfers; Toggle using tabs for up to 10 sessions; Unattended access

Limitations: Finite collaboration features, especially with VoIP, audio and video support, two-way screen sharing

LogMeIn has been used to connect more than 300 million devices worldwide. It enables remote access, internal support, external customer support and endpoint security. We evaluated the Rescue version, which is intended for help desk, technicians and IT professionals. It consists of four parts: administration center, technician console, customer applet and Click2Fix mobile support. Note: LogMeIn is expected to merge with Citrix's GoTo product family in 2017.

LogMeIn is the costliest of our top three picks, at $1,299 per year per seat, or $149 per month. If you want mobile-device support, the price is $1,749 per year. However, concurrent private sessions are not limited. It can handle up to 10,000 concurrent sessions per queue. So the number of sessions in your queue is only limited by what your technicians can manage. Other versions include LogMeIn Pro for external support and Central for the addition of Kaspersky endpoint security.

The Rescue administration center can be used to form groups and assign permission levels. It can also run reports and view activities. The program can create branded, customized "calling cards," which are the screens customers see. Technicians can use LogMeIn to connect to customer's devices via a code or an emailed link. After connecting, with permission, techs can view and control the desktop, chat with customers, transfer files, push URLs, reboot and more. All sessions are logged and can include notes.

Its Click2Fix technology can remotely control mobile devices. The mobile version can push URLs, monitor battery life, see radio toggles and more.

Numerous control and security technologies are employed to keep LogMeIn sessions secure. First, before any session begins,  customers must allow the technician to access their system and customers can terminate the session at any time. The customer applet disappears once the session ends so permission cannot be reused. Sessions are recorded and logged for auditing. All data transfers are secured using AES-256-bit encryption. LogMeIn publishes an architecture whitepaper online if you need more information.

Lab Test Results

Connection time from PC:Average   
Connection time from iPad:Average
File-transfer speed:Faster than average
Lag time:Negligible (less than 0.5 seconds)

Bottom Line: LogMeIn Rescue may provide the type of technician support you've been looking for, especially if you need to manage numerous sessions at once.

TeamViewer

Pros: Perpetual licensing with support; Supports 30 languages; Free test versions; Pro-rated upgrades; Policy support; Groups and group channels; Host-to-client chat; Collaboration features

Limitations: Poor Mac and tablet capabilities

TeamViewer supports 20 million devices at any given time via its perpetual licenses. When a new version comes out, you have the option of upgrading your license to the new version for a portion of the purchase price. (Often, the license upgrade costs about a third of the full price of a new license.) This license agreement is advantageous in the long run compared to providers that charge a monthly or yearly fee.

It offers remote support, remote access and meeting versions. Remote access licenses start at $809. This introductory license supports one user using up to three devices. It allows users to access unlimited endpoints and manage 200 unattended devices, but it only supports one session at a time.

Other versions support more access, unattended devices and sessions. You also have the option of adding more channels if needed. All versions include the management console, but you'll need an upgraded version for mobile device support.

TeamViewer is used by 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies. It creates 750,000 new IDs daily and is available in more than 30 languages. Full Disclosure: Our parent company, Purch, uses TeamViewer to support up to 500 endpoints across the U.S. We asked our IT team, why TeamViewer? And why a paid product over what Windows does? Answers included:

  • The ability to remotely reboot and CTRL-ALT-DELETE
  • Multiple monitor support
  • Remote login to connected devices
  • Multiple sessions and session recording
  • Simple management of numerous endpoints
  • Remote updates and deployment
  • Chat function, helpful for interacting with end user during session

TeamViewer performs all of the access functions you'd expect. It can access unattended endpoints, transfer files both ways, connect from mobile devices, deploy via group policies, support remote workers, connect to Linux systems, plus it has browser access, black screening, session queue management and much more. It also uses 256-bit encryption end-to-end and includes collaboration tools such as shared clipboards, chat, white boards, audio and video support, screen sharing, VoIP and remote printing. To add additional features, you can use its APIs to create custom integrations.

Lab Test Results

Connection time from PC:Faster than average
Connection time from iPad:Average
File-transfer speed:Faster than average
Lag time:Negligible (less than 0.25 seconds)

Bottom Line: If you have the upfront capital available, TeamViewer may prove to be a smart, long-term investment.

Buying Considerations

Deployment & Pricing
In terms of deployment, most remote access software solutions are a combination of on-premises, browser-based and cloud-based technologies. In most versions, a small client install is required, but they can be remotely deployed and often do not require attended configuration.

If you only need to manage on-premises systems, you'll use your network (and/or Wi-Fi) and install admin or host version(s) that are used to manage onsite endpoints. If you need to manage remote endpoints, additional securities are used to secure data transfers via the internet. Most do not require that you use a VPN connection, and most can work around client firewalls. Some offer a browser-based tool that allows you to connect to remote systems via a supported browser. For mobility, most will allow you to connect to devices via a handheld tablet or mobile phone.

Pricing is typically subscription-based and often requires that you pay a year in advance. Licenses vary in what they include and by type of service. Most companies offer remote access, remote support and meeting versions. You may also be charged by user role. Other providers charge based on how many PCs or devices need to be managed.

Advanced versions usually offer the ability to run simultaneous sessions. Support versions may offer one-time or guest client licenses with varying rates. Unless you only need to access a few endpoints and single sessions, you'll likely need to request a customized quote. Some also limit online storage allotments.

Information Needed to Obtain a Quote
To get an accurate quote, you'll need a list of all the devices you want to access, including remote PCs, Macs, Linux environments and unattended devices. You'll also need to know the technologies employed, such as operating systems, since some services do not support older OSs. Your network map may help you easily compile this information.

If you plan to use the remote access service for external support, you'll need to know what kind of technologies your customers usually use and how many sessions you may need to run simultaneously. You'll also want to know how many admin and technician licenses you may require.

About Client Installs
Traditionally, the client-side software is installed using an .exe file or by physically installing the software via a USB device. You can still install the software this way. But if you do not have physical access to the PC, installation would require the end user to perform the install, putting an unnecessary burden on the client. These remote access services can help you remotely deploy, and in many cases, to an unattended endpoint. This is ideal for off-premises installs.

If you need to provide support to external customers, most applications offer a zero-install solution, which allows you to access your customer's system without requiring them to perform the install. Often these are one-time installs that disappear once the session ends, and it will allow you to work around firewalls without the customer having to configure anything. This option is ideal for customer tech support.

Other Remote Access Products

We didn't review these products at this time, but other available remote PC access software includes:

Bomgar

FixMe.IT

Mac Remote Access

RemotePC

ScreenConnect

Solarwinds

Splashtop

Windows Remote Access

ZOHO Assist