A hosted service that delivers more than just remote control
The market for hosted remote access services is pretty crowded, but I’m InTouch from Canadian developer 01 Communique has a number of features designed to make it stand out.
Such features include the ability to connect to a remote Outlook mailbox rather than display the whole desktop and, in the latest 7.1 release, work with 64-bit Windows and power up a switched off remote PC when access is needed.
Support for mobile devices is another key feature along with support for two-factor authentication using SecurePC and SecureKEY tokens.
As with other remote access services you need to start by installing an I’m InTouch client onto each PC you want to connect to. This advertises their presence to a special location server, then to connect, you simply logon to the I’m InTouch portal and select the PC required.
Security, of course, is a big concern, but the location server only brokers the connection before getting out of the way, leaving the remote user to communicate directly with the host PC with all communications protected using 128-bit SSL encryption. Moreover, user names and passwords are stored on the host PCs, not the server.
Because the client tells the location server where it is, firewalls and proxy servers shouldn’t cause any problems. However, it can take a while to get I’m InTouch working. The client software can be installed on any PC running Windows 98 or later, and it’s not difficult, but it is a fairly big download that takes a while to complete. Moreover there’s a lot to install, including an Apache Web server, so it’s not the kind of product you’d want to use for ad-hoc remote troubleshooting.
In order to get full remote desktop access a Java applet also needs to be installed on the operator’s PC. However, if Java isn’t available or downloads are blocked you can opt instead to connect to Outlook on the remote PC instead – a useful option, too, if connecting via a mobile device where full remote control isn’t practical.
Because it’s Outlook at the other end you get fast access to your emails and you’re not just limited to messages, with access also to contacts and calendars. Additionally it can be used with Outlook Express and Vista’s Windows Mail. You can even configure the I’m InTouch host to email your mobile device when messages from specific senders or via specific accounts are received.
Once configured, we found I’m InTouch reasonably easy to use and were impressed with how well it performed both over fixed broadband links and using a 3G mobile. The remote desktop viewer was responsive and we were able to access both displays on a dual monitor PC, transfer files and re-direct print jobs to a local device without having to install any extra drivers. You can also access a remote webcam and covertly monitor activity on the client PC.
The remote wake-up option also worked as expected, enabling us to remotely power up an otherwise switched off PC for access and then turn it off again. Note, though, that an always-on wake-up proxy PC is needed to support this option.
You have to pay for I’m InTouch in Canadian dollars, individual accounts starting at $9.95 per month. However, to get the more advanced features, such as remote wake-up, you’ll need a Premium account and there are cheaper alternatives, some even free.
PROS 64-bit Windows support; remote wake-up of powered down PCs; two-factor authentication; direct Outlook access CONS Large download and lengthy setup OVERALL A functional remote access service for users wanting to connect to their desktops when out and about
From $12.95/month (Canadian)
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