PC in a Browser

Illustration: Marc Rosenthal
Far from the office you discover that the important presentation you need is languishing on the PC back in your cube. Or on a visit to relatives you realize that you forgot to bring the family photos you scanned last year. There's simply no way to take it all with you anymore. There's also no way to anticipate every file you'll need on your travels. But you're in luck: There's no reason to. Numerous Web-based services let you "phone home" to the files and apps on your computer.

Traditional remote-control programs like PCAnywhere and Timbuktu rely on dedicated software installed on both the host (the computer holding your files and applications) and the client (the machine you're using to access the host's files and programs from afar).

By contrast, browser-based remote-access services install in just minutes, and they require no special software on the client machine--you can log in from a standard Web browser on most any Windows computer. Some even allow you to connect from your smart phone or your PDA, as well as from a BlackBerry or Symbian phone. (The Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP Professional provides remote access for free, but with some limitations.)

Citrix's GoToMyPC pioneered remote PC control via a browser, but the service now has lots of competitors (including traditional products such as Laplink that are evolving into services). The wide availability of fast Internet access makes these services more useful. (They're dog-slow over dial-up, but at their best over broadband they're almost like being there.)

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