No list of free remote connection tools would be complete
without Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection. Built into every
version of Windows starting with Windows XP, Remote Desktop
provides excellent remote access benefits, including remote printer
support. Its one downside is that it requires an open port on the
firewall in order to access the remote host.
Microsoft has also made available a downloadable version of
Remote Desktop for versions of Windows all the way back to Windows
95 and NT 4.0. Host PCs must be Windows 2000 (via Terminal
Services), Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, or the
Professional or Enterprise versions of Windows XP, Vista, and
Windows 7. There is no host version available for Windows Home
editions or early Windows operating systems.
Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2 lets Mac users
connect to Windows-based PCs so that they can get to files,
applications, and other network resources. This too is a free
download, and like its Windows cousin, it allows users to print
from the remote host back to the client’s printers.
Remote Desktop is one of the best remote access utilities
available, not because it is built into Windows, but because of all
the extras it includes. First and foremost is its ability to print
remotely. Other than Gbridge (when
using the Remote Desktop client), no other free remote access tool
allows printing from the host to the remote client.
Other features include the ability to pass audio from host to
remote, redirect USB/serial ports, connect to smart cards on the
client, map drives between host and remote, and share a clipboard.
This list covers just about everything a remote worker could
Like other remote access tools that require port forwarding,
Remote Desktop is difficult to scale to multiple hosts. In small
offices running Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 or 2008,
remote users have more flexibility. For example, via the Remote Web
Workplace portal, users can log into Small Business Server via
Internet Explorer, choose their PC from a list of computers on the
network, and take it over using Remote Desktop’s ActiveX control.
This negates the per-PC/per-port requirement normally required for
Remote Desktop Connection.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site,
where you can download the latest version of the software.
–Keith Schultz, Infoworld