Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 may be the grande dame of remote control software (see "Symantec's pcANYWHERE32,"), but it's not the only choice for Windows NT. Avalan's Remotely Possible/32 is, in many ways, a leaner and meaner alternative to pcANYWHERE32.
Like pcANYWHERE32, Remotely Possible/32 lets a client system connect with a host system and communicate with that user, transfer files, or assume control of all its operations. But, the implementation of Remotely Possible/32 differs from pcANYWHERE32 in several areas. We brought Remotely Possible/32 into the lab to quickly look at these products' similarities and differences.
Like pcANYWHERE32, Remotely Possible/32 can work in a LAN environment or over a RAS link. Unlike pcANYWHERE32, Remotely Possible/32 supports only the TCP/IP protocol suite, although Avalan plans to support NetBIOS/NetBEUI and IPX/SPX in forthcoming releases (support for IPX/SPX should be available when you read this). Also unlike pcANYWHERE32, Remotely Possible/32 does not have a RAS alternative for direct dialing in the NT environment (the DOS and 16-bit Windows versions of Remotely Possible do have direct-dial modules).
Remotely Possible/32's support for only TCP/IP and its need for RAS to facilitate dialing are not bad limitations. In fact, the Remotely Possible/32 implementation over TCP/IP is versatile. For example, using Remotely Possible/32, a client can browse the network to discover Remotely Possible/32 host systems, as screen A illustrates. In contrast, pcANY-WHERE32 supports browsing only over NetBIOS/NetBEUI and IPX/SPX links. Similarly, using RAS as the dialing mechanism greatly simplifies the complexity of managing remote connections--you don't have to worry about which dialing interface to use on either the client or the host. Of course, in addition to direct dialing, pcANYWHERE32 supports RAS connections, so you can achieve the same degree of integration with this product.
Networking aside, the biggest differences between these remote control products are size and speed. In both cases, Remotely Possible/32 is the clear winner--Remotely Possible/32 comes on one diskette (compared to four disks for pcANYWHERE32), and Remotely Possible/32 loads and runs faster than pcANYWHERE32. In fact, our lab tests show that Remotely Possible/32 loads and performs screen updates twice as fast as pcANYWHERE32.
The question of which user interface is better is a toss-up. Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 features runtime wizards and drop-down menus, whereas Remotely Possible/32 provides a simple tool bar and drop-down menus, as you see in screen B. Some users will prefer one interface, but this choice is subjective. Both interfaces are easy to understand and use. Similarly, the configuration interfaces for both products are fairly evenly matched.
From a broader perspective, both products offer similar features. Both products run the host-connection module as a service under NT. Both can accommodate host connections before the NT logon process occurs. Both support fast file transfer and client-host chat sessions (where the client user and host user can exchange messages). Both products provide an extra layer of security for remote control connections. And both products support data compres-sion and data encryption.
The Uneven Ground
Once you get beyond the initial feature set and start working with the products' details, you find that Remotely Possible/32 has some unique advantages over pcANYWHERE32.
- Cursor mirroring: With Remotely Possible/32, the cursor appearance on the client system mirrors the cursor appearance on the host system. For example, if the host cursor is the hourglass icon, so is the client cursor.
- Full-screen mode reminder: When the client has the host connection opened as a full-screen window, a blinking block appears in the screen's upper left corner. This indicator serves two functions. First, it reminds you that you are working in remote control mode (you'd be surprised how easily you can forget which system you're working with). Second, you can move your cursor to that position and click the right mouse button to leave full-screen mode.
- Multiple connections and baton passing: Remotely Possible/32 lets multiple clients connect to a single host, although these connections function in "view only" mode. This is a good mechanism for training: Students can watch the host operator perform on-screen functions. The host operator can pass control of the host to a connected client--a feature called baton-passing--so each client can try various host operations while the other clients and the host operator watch. When one client is finished, the current controlling client or the host operator can pass control to a different client. Also note that one client can concurrently connect to and control multiple host systems.
- Role reversal: During a client-host connection, the systems can exchange roles: The client can become the host and vice versa.
On the flip side, pcANYWHERE32 has certain advantages over Remotely Possible/32.
- Direct-dial support: You can use pcANYWHERE32 with RAS, or you can choose the pcANYWHERE32 direct-dial support. Using pcANYWHERE32 direct dial adds a layer of security that operates independently from RAS.
- Support for a wide variety of networks: In addition to supporting TCP/IP, NetBIOS/NetBEUI, and IPX/SPX, pcANYWHERE32 supports Banyan VINES. At present, Remotely Possible/32 supports only TCP/IP.
- Broad client support: Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 can run on Windows 95 or Windows NT Intel platforms and can interoperate with Symantec's pcANYWHERE for Windows and DOS. In contrast, Remotely Possible/32 supports full interoperability on only Windows 95 and Windows NT Intel platforms (although NT systems can connect to and control 16-bit Windows 3.X hosts).
- Price: Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 sells for $149 for a client-host package, and that package includes a parallel port cable for fast file transfer between local systems. A Remotely Possible/32 client-host package costs $399 if you need support for a Windows NT Server system, or $199 with no NT Server support. Remotely Possible/32 also supports parallel port connections but does not include a cable.
Remotely Possible/32 fared well in the Windows NT Magazine Lab environment. Installation and operation are simple and straightforward, and the superior speed is definitely noticeable. We had some difficulty running Remotely Possible/32 as a host on our NT Server, but after talking with Avalan's technical support people, we are convinced that the problem was related to our S3-compatible video adapter (a VESA-based Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM adapter). The product operated fine in host mode on an NT Workstation running a Cirrus-compatible adapter and on a Windows 95 system running a Western Digital adapter. We had no problems running Remotely Possible/32 as a client on any of our systems.
If you are looking for a remote control solution for a Windows NT or Windows 95 environment, look at Remotely Possible/32. Its speed and size advantages--and its unique features--offset its slightly higher price.
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Price: $399 (one NT Server and one NT Workstation/Windows 95 license), $199 (two NT Workstation/Windows 95 licenses), $169 (two Windows 95 licenses), Free (Windows 95 restricted-use licenses--remote control only)