Mikogo's Free Remote Access Works Well for Home and Business

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If you're reading this, you may well be the go-to "tech guru" for your friends and family. Think back to the last time you tried to help someone with a computer problem over the phone without seeing their screen; was it fun? I didn't think so. Mikogo (free) is a powerful presentation and remote-control solution you could use in those cases.

One of Mikogo's key advantages is that it is free. Free as in beer, and not just for non-commercial use. The better-known remote-control program TeamViewer is free for personal use, but it employs a propriety algorithm to detect commercial use, and if it feels your usage pattern isn't "personal" enough, it may just shut down on you. That's something Mikogo would never do.

To test Mikogo, I used a long-distance link (Canada to Israel). Performance was excellent. I started by sharing my own desktop, and my fellow tester was able to see everything I was doing clearly and with a low lag. She also had a large red pointer to show things around the screen. With a few clicks, we switched things around, and suddenly I was viewing their desktop and pointing things out.

Mikogo is designed primarily for presentations, and so has a slightly different feature set than TeamViewer or GoToMyPC, another well-known remote control product. For example, you cannot set up unattended access and have your computer just wait for a connection. Mikogo requires someone to be present on both sides of the link to establish a session.

Mikogo's enrollment procedure is not as slick as it could be. With TeamViewer, you instantly get an ID and a password on installing the application. This is great, because it makes it easy for novice users to invite someone for a remote support session. Skype screen-sharing makes this even easier, as it is just one click away when you’re already talking to someone. With Mikogo, you must create an account online and wait for a confirmation email containing your password before you can host a session. Walking someone through this complex process over the phone might not be an enjoyable experience.

One area where TeamViewer surpasses Mikogo is file transfer: Mikogo lets you send files to the other side, but does not offer an easy way to specify where you want to put them. TeamViewer lets you set an explicit location and just "plant" the files exactly where you want them on the other computer--a very useful feature.

Last but not least, there's the matter of session indication: While you're hosting a session, Mikogo gives very little indication that you’re sharing your screen with the world. The system tray icon indicates a session is in progress, but Windows may hide this icon. If that happens, you could be left unaware that a session is still in progress and that you're sharing your screen with one or more participants. This could potentially lead to some awkward moments.

At the end of the day, Mikogo does work, and works well. It may not have all the perks and extras TeamViewer or GoToMyPC offer, but it’s free, and its basic functionality is robust and impressive. It is one of the best free screen-sharing tools available today.

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