You can be at two computers at once

At this moment, a sales representative has just realized the files he needs to give to an important client are on his computer back at the home office, 3000 miles away. At the same time, an IS manager has just calculated that she spends 39 percent of her annual budget sending technicians to remote sites to repair systems. Elsewhere, a mobile user wants to put the final touches on an accounting file, but doesn't want to drive 30 minutes to work to use the program on his desktop system. Finally, an intern sits idle trying to remember how to accomplish a task on her computer.

To collectively solve these users' problems, you can use remote control software. Remote control software lets users access another PC via dial-up networking (DUN), direct dial, or network connections (including the Internet). After remote users connect, they can perform file transfers, troubleshoot systems, run remote applications, and train another user sitting in front of the remote computer.

This month, I have evaluated and tested seven remote control products for Windows NT: Compaq's Carbon Copy 32 5.0, Artisoft's CoSession Remote 32 V8, Traveling Software's LapLink Tech, Danware's NetOp for Windows, Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 8.0, Funk Software's Proxy 2.20, and Stac's ReachOut Enterprise. (The Windows NT Magazine Lab also requested review copies of Computer Associates' ControlIT 4.0 and TSP Companies' PCDuo, but both companies declined to participate.) You can install each product onto two or more NT workstations or servers, with at least one computer serving as the remote control host and the other computer serving as the remote system that will take control of the host.

The Test Configuration
My test environment consisted of two computers. The host server had a 166MHz Pentium processor, 64MB of RAM, a 3.1GB local IDE hard disk, and an Intel EtherExpress Pro 10/100 NIC. The remote laptop had a 150MHz Pentium processor, 48MB of RAM, a 2GB hard disk, a 3Com PC Card NIC, a MegaHertz 56Kbps PC Card modem, and a Cirrus Logic CL-GD754x video adapter running 256 colors.

I connected the two 10Base-T systems to an Intel Express 10/100 Stackable Hub for the file-transfer and network remote control tests. I also created a dial-up connection to the Windows NT Magazine Lab Remote Access Service (RAS) server and used a Best Data 336FLX modem to simulate a mobile user experience for each product.

The Tests
To test the seven remote control programs, I simulated the tasks a remote user or Help desk technician might attempt. Rather than relying on a script to perform the tests, I ran the tests sitting in front of both the remote laptop and the host server. Scripting the process wouldn't let me consider the screen redraws and other experiences that a user might face. I ran the tests twice: once using DUN and once across the standalone network.

My testing consisted of several steps. First, I connected to the host server, opened Microsoft Word 97 on the remote laptop, typed a short document, and saved the file. Next, I opened a Microsoft Excel 97 spreadsheet, added cell items, deleted cell items, and printed the document to a printer attached to the host server. I then opened User Manager for Domains from the host server Start menu, added a new user account and password, and included the user in the Backup Operators and Print Operators groups. Finally, I opened each remote control program's file-transfer utility and copied four files from the host server to my remote laptop. I timed a complete file transfer and a delta file transfer (i.e., sending only the changes rather than the entire file), as Table 1 shows.

Between each series of tests, I removed the files I transferred from the remote laptop's hard disk and rebooted the host server and remote laptop to clear the system cache. I also restored each system's configuration files to a common point (i.e., a point before the installation of each remote control product) with Artisoft's ConfigSafe for NT to ensure the same starting configuration for each product.

I reviewed additional remote control features, such as support for remote printer redirection, multiple remote sessions, data encryption, color scaling to increase performance (i.e., scaling the host and guest to use the lowest common denominator for screen resolution), and screen blanking the host server for security reasons. I also evaluated whether you can lock the host keyboard and mouse during a remote session so a user can't tamper with the host files and desktop.

Additionally, I evaluated each product's file-transfer features. Specifically, I looked at support for file synchronization; file compression; rebooting if the session dropped during a file transfer; and drive, directory, and file restrictions on the host server. I also looked for virus scanning during file and folder transfer, delta file transfers, and the ability to restart file transfers after an error or system reboot. Other features I reviewed included voice chat, text chat, whether each product included a scripting tool, support for native NT security, and disk cloning. The benefit of this last feature is that it saves you from having to set up user accounts twice. I considered each product's installation and user interface based on how easily I could move through the options screens and establish connections. Finally, I evaluated the documentation, technical support, and price of each product. Table 2, page 68, shows the results.

Carbon Copy 32 5.0
Carbon Copy 32 comes on a CD-ROM that includes the remote and host software, online Help, and Pocket Carbon Copy so you can run the software on a Windows Consumer Electronics (CE) device. A quick-start manual, user manual, and online Help provide the documentation, and Compaq includes a microphone for voice chat.

After I inserted the CD-ROM into the host server and the installation splash screen appeared, I clicked Install Software to start the installation wizard. By default, the wizard installs two programs: Carbon Copy 32 and Carbon Copy Terminal, a 16-bit program that offers an alternative to Carbon Copy 32 for connecting to a remote computer or online service. I left the default settings and clicked OK to start the installation. After the installation process completed, I clicked Yes at the prompt to reboot the host server.

I followed the same procedure on the remote laptop, but I also wanted to configure this machine to serve as a host, if required. After I installed the software and rebooted both systems, I was ready to initiate my first connection.

I opened Carbon Copy 32 from the Start menu on the host server and clicked Wait for call from the main Carbon Copy 32 window. The program then prompted me to set up the types of connections the host server uses to wait for calls. Carbon Copy 32 supports IPX, TCP/IP, and DUN connections, but it doesn't support NetBIOS or NetBEUI connections. I selected the IPX and TCP/IP check boxes as the connection types I wanted to use and left Local Computer Broadcasts checked, which lets the remote systems browse the network for host systems with Wait for call enabled.

Next, I selected Carbon Copy 32 from the Start menu on the remote laptop and double-clicked Create New Connection in the main window. I clicked Connect using Carbon Copy so I could remotely control other computers (you can also select Connect using Dial-up Networking, which lets you establish remote network nodes to connect to hosts). I clicked Next, typed an identifying name for the system I was calling, clicked TCP/IP Network in the Connect using box, and clicked Next. I entered the IP address of the host server (you can also enter a workstation name in this box). Finally, I entered a domain username and password in the logon box, selected the items I wanted to start on the host server after I established the remote connection, clicked Next, and clicked Finish. The software created a new-connection icon on my remote laptop desktop that I double-clicked to initiate a new session.

After I double-clicked the new-connection icon, I accepted the logon information and clicked Connect. Within 5 seconds, I connected to the host server. The Remote Control window appeared with a toolbar for resizing the window, changing some session options, and exiting the remote window, as Screen 1 shows. Moving around the window was easy. Opening various programs was fast, and the screen refreshed each time without flaw.

I was disappointed that the options in the Remote Control window didn't let me lock the keyboard and mouse or quickly blank the screen on the host server. Instead, I had to return to the main Carbon Copy 32 window, click Security, then Session to make these selections. I prefer to have these options available on a floating toolbar that I can access from all the remote control software's features. I encountered a problem when running Carbon Copy 32 under NT that let me lock the host server's mouse, but not the keyboard. Compaq documents this bug in the program's readme file, but the company needs to fix this problem.

The screen-blanking feature worked fine, until I stopped blanking the host server screen. When I refreshed this screen to return to the desktop background, the screen didn't return to its default color. Instead, it remained a disconcerting white. This problem occurred every time I used the screen-blanking feature. Of the products in this remote control roundup that support screen blanking, Carbon Copy 32 was the only software that struggled with this feature. Compaq needs to correct this bug.

The remote control features were fast, and the screen redraws were swift and effective. Opening, making changes to, and saving a Word document with Carbon Copy 32 was as fast as with any of the other products except pcANYWHERE32. When I closed the Remote Control window, the software left the connection intact and let me select the File Transfer icon from the main window.

The file-transfer features work in an NT Explorer-like interface with directory tree and content windows. You can tile the remote and host systems horizontally or vertically for easier drag-and-drop transfers. You can also synchronize folders using the file-transfer feature by selecting the Remote Control folder from the host directory and selecting Synchronize from the File menu. When I synchronized the files on my remote laptop with the host server, the Confirm Folder Copy window appeared, and I clicked Yes to All. The Copy dialog box then opened to let me review the files I wanted to copy, see the to and from paths, and monitor the status of the file copying. You can click Copy to copy files in the foreground or you can click Background so you can perform other tasks while Carbon Copy 32 copies the files. When I clicked Background, the transfer began and a minimized button on the Windows taskbar displayed the status as percentage completed.

Carbon Copy 32 includes voice and text chat utilities, as well as printer redirect. Each of these features worked well during my tests with no noticeable problems. Users can also connect to the Internet and use the Carbon Copy 32 or Microsoft Internet Locator Service (ILS) to browse for their host systems, which saves long-distance dial-up charges.

Carbon Copy 32 has a powerful feature set and extensive option menus, but my experience was spoiled by some problems. Compaq needs to fix the keyboard lock problem. Carbon Copy 32 should also reset the host display after a user utilizes the screen-blanking feature; rebooting the system to correct this problem is unacceptable. Finally, I wanted a floating taskbar with options such as mouse lock and screen blanking that I could quickly access from any window, rather than having to return to the program's main window each time.

Carbon Copy 32 5.0
Contact: Compaq * 281-370-0670 or 800-882-8224
Price: $139
System Requirements: x86 or better, Windows NT Server 3.1 or later, 20MB of hard disk space, 8MB of RAM

CoSession Remote 32 V8
CoSession Remote comes on one CD-ROM that includes both host and guest files. I installed the software quickly by inserting the CD-ROM into my remote laptop and following the easy-to-understand wizard. The system prompted me to specify whether I planned to use the machine where I was installing the software as a remote machine. I clicked Yes, and the software installed only those files necessary. I performed a typical installation, which included file-transfer, remote control, text chat, and voice chat capabilities. After a few moments, the installation completed and I followed the prompt to restart my system.

Next, I followed the same installation on my host server, except I installed both the host and guest files. After completing the rest of the installation as I had on the remote laptop, I was ready to initiate my first connection. I double-clicked the shortcuts on each system's desktop that CoSession Remote 32 had created during installation. The main CoSession Remote 32 window is the first item you see on the host and guest systems and includes multiple frames that let you access the various connection types.

The main window contains all the connection types and utilities, which I found distracting. First, I checked the security settings a systems administrator uses to set up security groups and assign users. The default security setting is off, so you must first enable it. Next, you click New, enter the name of a security group, click New for users, and enter the names of the users you want to include in the security group. This task is tedious if you want to include several users, but I entered only one security group with three users, which took just a few minutes. I was disappointed that you can't set up security settings on a per-user basis (you can make security settings only on a per-computer basis). This limitation prevents you from setting custom access permissions for specific users.

I made my first connection by double-clicking the Internet-Intranet (IP) Access item in the left frame of the main CoSession Remote 32 window. After about 5 seconds, CoSession Remote 32 presented me with a list of system names and IP addresses that had the host software installed. About 3 seconds after I doubled-clicked the host server, the Remote Control Viewer window appeared, as Screen 2 shows.

I was able to easily open various programs on the host server. However, I had to manually refresh the system using the Refresh button on the toolbar, which quickly became tiresome. CoSession Remote 32 lets you print any files on the host system to any printer you connect to the host system. Unfortunately, the software doesn't let you redirect printing, so you can't print files from the host system to printers you set up on the remote system.

I was pleased to discover that CoSession Remote 32 lets you disable the host system's keyboard and mouse by clicking View, Properties; selecting the Remote Control Viewer tab; selecting the Disable Mouse and Disable Keyboard check boxes; and clicking Apply. This functionality prevents users from accessing the host system for that particular remote session until you either remove the settings or end the remote session. You can automatically disable the host system's keyboard and mouse for all remote sessions from the Remote Control Host tab.

A potential security weakness is the lack of a screen-blanking option. Without this feature, anyone standing in front of the host system can view its contents. This problem can be serious if you are displaying sensitive files that you don't want others to see.

CoSession Remote 32 provides a unique role-reversal feature that lets the host and remote systems exchange places without ending the current session and reconnecting. To reverse roles, you click the connection item that is running in the left frame on either the host system or remote system. Next, you click the red stop icon on the toolbar to stop the existing connection. You can now choose keyboard chat, voice chat, or file transfer from the left frame, which automatically places the other system in opposite mode.

Next, I accessed the file-transfer utility from the left frame of the main window. This utility lets you transfer, synchronize, and clone files and folders between the host and remote systems. You can also set up delta transfers using the connection properties. The Transfer Files screen contains various status indicators and graphical arrows that display the direction you're transferring the files.

CoSession Remote 32 offers many of the same features the other remote control products in this roundup offer, but Artisoft needs to fix numerous problems. The multiple connection types in the main window give the user interface a crowded appearance. The software also lacks the ability to redirect printer output, which prevents you from printing host files directly to a remote system. Also, without a screen-blanking feature, you risk the chance that unauthorized users might view data on the host system. Finally, you can only set up security on a per-computer basis, rather than a per-user basis, which limits CoSession Remote 32's flexibility.

CoSession Remote 32 V8
Contact: Artisoft * 520-670-7100 or 800-846-9726
Price: $69
System Requirements: Pentium 100MHz or better, 9MB of hard disk space, 16MB of RAM, VGA or better

LapLink Tech
I was intrigued when I picked up LapLink Tech, given the success of Traveling Software's file-transfer utilities LapLink for Windows 95 and LapLink Enterprise Network Accelerator. I wondered how the company extended LapLink's functionality in the remote control arena. LapLink Tech ships on one CD-ROM and includes a quick-start manual, a serial cable, and a parallel cable. I set the parallel cable aside because NT doesn't currently support parallel transfers. The quick-start guide was easy to understand and detailed enough to get me up and running quickly.

I put the CD-ROM into the host server and clicked Install Software when the installation screen appeared. The installation wizard then led me through the installation process. The software installed easily and prompted me to reboot the system when the installation was complete. I followed the same installation procedures for the remote laptop and rebooted the system.

I accessed LapLink Tech from the Start menu on the host server to display the main window. A drop-down Connect over button on the toolbar in the main LapLink Tech window lists all the connection types the software sets up during the installation. Other buttons on this toolbar control the remote control, printing, and file-transfer settings.

LapLink Tech doesn't let users connect to the host system using a DUN, network, or other device until you set the security options. The three access options are Nobody, Log-in List Only (Protected System), and Anybody (Public System), which you select by clicking Security Options from the Options menu. I selected Log-in List Only, clicked the Log-in List tab, and clicked Add. You must enter login names and passwords for each user who will access the host system remotely. You must also deselect any services--including remote control, file transfer, text chat, voice chat, and printer redirection--that you don't want users to access. The default setting enables user access to all these services. Also, you can let a user disable the host's keyboard or mouse, and blank the screen during each session. I accepted the default enabled settings for all the services, but disabled the host's keyboard and mouse and blanked the host screen.

Next, I opened LapLink Tech on the remote system, clicked Connect over, and selected Network from the dropdown menu. A list of available LapLink Tech hosts appeared. I selected my host server, clicked Remote Control under Services to tell the software to open that service when I connected, and clicked OK. I entered the username and password I set up on the host server and clicked OK. After a few seconds, the host server's screen appeared on my remote laptop's monitor.

Moving around LapLink Tech's main screen is easy, but I quickly found that closing the last program item (e.g., remote control, file transfer) breaks the connection between the remote and host systems. For example, I was running the remote control item, but when I closed that window, the software broke the connection from my remote laptop to the host server. I was disappointed that I had to always keep an item running before I could select another one and only then close the first item. However, the software does provide you with a prompt to stay connected.

After I lost the connection with the host server, I reinitiated the connection and clicked the flying-folder button on the main window toolbar to access LapLink Tech's file-transfer utility. The file-transfer utility displays two NT Explorer-like windows: one for the host system and one for the remote system, as Screen 3 shows. I was glad to see the systems' names on the windows to assist me in identifying each system. To transfer files and folders, you simply drag the files and folders you want to transfer from one window to the other. To test this functionality, I selected the file-transfer test folder on the host server and dragged it onto the hard disk of my remote laptop.

You can synchronize files and folders using LapLink Tech's Xchange Agent. Setting up the synchronization is easy, thanks to a wizard that I opened from the SynchTools menu in LapLink Tech's main window. I selected a folder from the remote and host systems that I wanted to synchronize and clicked Next twice. The wizard let me decide whether I wanted to add other folders to this Xchange Agent. I elected not to, clicked Next, gave the agent a name, and clicked Finish. LapLink Tech lets you preview your choices in a window complete with direction arrows to symbolize the transfer direction and paths for each file and folder and even includes a wizard to resolve any file-transfer conflicts that the software displays. Of the remote control products I evaluated for this roundup, LapLink Tech had one of the most efficient file-transfer schemes.

Enabling the various program items worked without any problems, but creating user lists was redundant, and in my opinion the software could easily have used NT's native security. Finally, I would have preferred that the connections remain open even after I closed the last open program item.

LapLink Tech
Contact: Traveling Software * 425-483-8088 or 800-343-8080
Price: $199.99
System Requirements: x86 or better, Windows NT Server 4.0 or higher, 9MB of hard disk space, 16MB of RAM, VGA-compatible monitor

NetOp for Windows
NetOp for Windows comes on four 3.5" disks with a sizable manual. Two of these disks are for the guest system, and two are for the host system (i.e., you can't install the guest and host software simultaneously on a system). This method of software distribution was disappointing because it can create problems for already overworked IS administrators who must track all the disks.

I inserted the first disk in my host server, clicked Run from the Start menu, and entered a:\setup to begin the installation wizard. After the wizard prompted me to provide the installation path and registration information, it asked me to reboot the system. The installation procedure was identical on my remote laptop, except I used the guest disks.

I opened the host program from the Start menu on my host server, clicked the Communication profile drop-down list, and selected TCP/IP. I then clicked Wait for Call on the toolbar to make the host server available for incoming calls. I switched to my remote laptop and opened the guest program from the Start menu to display the Remote Control window. I selected Call Host PC from the Connection menu and selected TCP/IP from the Communication profile drop-down list. You can select a specific host name or IP address, or enter a host name or IP address manually in the Name drop-down list. I entered the IP address for my host server and clicked Call. In less than 2 seconds, the screen for the host server appeared.

I was able to open various programs on the host server quickly and easily from my remote laptop. The toolbar on my remote laptop provided several buttons for the most common tasks (e.g., file transfer, text chat), and the software makes these buttons available even during full-screen mode. This feature is a convenience that all remote control products should offer. However, I was disappointed to find that the Remote Control window remained open, even when I opened other items such as the text chat or file-transfer features. This requirement creates unnecessary demand on the guest and host systems' resources.

When I wanted to test the file-transfer features, I minimized the Remote Control screen and selected File Transfer from the Remote Control menu to display the dialog box you see in Screen 4. You can send files to the host or receive files from the host by selecting the appropriate button, entering a From path and To path, and clicking OK. Note that NetOp for Windows defaults to turning the Overwrite if file exists option on and turning the Include subdirectories option off. I cleared the Overwrite if file exists check box, selected the Include subdirectories check box, and clicked OK to complete my file transfer.

NetOp for Windows is missing a few file-transfer features that the other remote control products I tested provide. Without features such as delta transfers, auto transfers, the option to save transfer locations, and the option to create a new folder on the guest or host system from within the File Transfer dialog box, NetOp for Windows' file-transfer utility reveals a sizable hole that Danware needs to patch.

NetOp for Windows does include a full set of remote control and general options, such as screen blanking, text chat, screen scaling (i.e., reducing the host screen to fit in the remote system's window), and color scaling. In addition, the default settings include always optimizing screen-transfer settings and disabling the host's wallpaper, screen saver, Active Desktop, and animation gimmicks.

NetOp for Windows has automatic, low, high, and no file-transfer compression settings. Of these settings, automatic compression is the default. You can choose to transfer the host screen as commands or as a bitmap (the software defaults to transferring this information as commands). In most situations, the default settings are best, but the Help file thoroughly explains when to use the various options.

You can secure the remote connection from the host system. NetOp for Windows' security features let you set default access privileges so all users have the same level of security, or you can set access privileges individually for each guest. You can enable additional security using security groups, user logons, and passwords, and authorize access to only specific media access control (MAC) addresses and IP addresses. This last feature limits access to the host system according to the individual MAC address hard-coded into each remote system NIC. As a result, this feature helps ensure a secure connection, but it can create additional configuration problems if a particular NIC fails. Finally, you can start NetOp for Windows as an NT service in the Host Options dialog box, but the software doesn't activate this feature by default.

NetOp for Windows is strong in remote control and includes a full feature set, but its file-transfer shortcomings are substantial. As a result, this product is better suited for Help desks than road warriors.

NetOp for Windows
Contact: Danware * +45 44 53 25 25
In the US, contact CrossTec * 561-391-6560 or 800-675-0729
In the U.S., contact CrossTec * 561-391-6560 or 800-675-0729
Price: $149
System Requirements: x386 or better, Windows NT 3.1 or later, 9MB of hard disk space, 1.5MB of RAM

pcANYWHERE32 8.0
pcANYWHERE32 includes a CD-ROM with program and documentation files. I placed the pcANYWHERE32 CD-ROM in my host server, and within a few seconds the installation menu appeared. From the menu, you can choose to install the software, generate installation disks, or view online manuals. The generate-installation-disks option lets you create disks for version 8.0, version 2.0 for Windows 3.x and Windows 95, or version 5.0 for DOS. I clicked Install Software, and the setup wizard led me through five steps to install the host and remote software and prompted me to reboot my host server. I followed the same installation process on my remote laptop. In less than 10 minutes, I was ready to make my first remote connection.

I opened the pcANYWHERE32 program from the Start menu on my remote laptop and host server systems. Next, I clicked Be a Host PC and double-clicked Network on my host server. The pcANYWHERE32 main screen minimized, and the host was in wait-for-call mode.

Next, I switched to my remote laptop, clicked Remote Control on the pcANYWHERE32 toolbar, and double-clicked the Network connection item. The remote system scanned the network for all pcANYWHERE32 hosts. Within 5 seconds, the software returned a list that included my host server's name, the host's IP address, and an indicator (i.e., a green dot next to the host name) symbolizing that the host was available. I double-clicked the host's name, and within 3 seconds the remote control program took over and displayed the host's screen. My first connection took less than 3 minutes to initiate, thanks in part to pcANYWHERE32's intuitive interface.

Symantec included file-transfer and autotransfer features in pcANYWHERE32, and both features were intuitive and efficient across the network and 28.8Kbps telephone line. You can click the red direction arrow at the top of the file-transfer screen, as Screen 5 shows, to toggle the direction of the file transfer. Dragging files from the host system to a folder on the remote system is easy.

pcANYWHERE32 includes three transfer protocols: ASCII, ZMODEM, and pcANYWHERE. I chose the pcANYWHERE protocol because it offers compression, crash recovery, and Speed Send. Crash recovery lets you automatically resume a file transfer at the point that the transfer failed, and Speed Send lets you update only the changes to a file already on the host system (i.e., delta file transfer). The ASCII and ZMODEM protocols do not offer the speed and protection of the pcANYWHERE protocol, but Symantec includes them for compatibility with legacy communication programs.

Users can enable security for connection items that contain connection device information and security settings to use during a remote session. You set the properties for the preset Direct, Modem, or Network items or you can create and set security for individual items by selecting New Connection.

You can increase security with pcANYWHERE32 by setting connection passwords. I enabled security for my network host connection item by clicking Remote Control from the toolbar in the main pcANYWHERE32 window, right-clicking the Network connection item, clicking Properties, and selecting the Protect Item tab. I entered a password and reentered it in the Confirm password box. Next, I selected the Required to view properties check box and selected the Required to execute check box. By selecting the first check box, you require a user to enter a password before viewing any property sheets for the item. The second check box requires a user to enter a password before using the actual connection item or becoming a host.

pcANYWHERE32 provides several options that you can configure to be default settings for all remote sessions or for individual sessions. Some of these options include screen scaling, screen blanking, locking the host keyboard, and synchronizing mouse buttons between the client and host systems.

To enable remote printing, you have to add an already installed printer or install a new printer in the Remote Printing tab in the Applications Options under the File menu. I had no problems printing to a remote printer or from my host server to my local printer.

Setting up the dial-up connection was similar to the network-connection setup, except I double-clicked the Modem connection icon after clicking the Remote Control button from the toolbar in the main window. I had no trouble setting up and using the dial-up connection.

The only complaint I have about pcANYWHERE32 is that whenever I enabled full-screen mode, I couldn't remember the keystrokes to return to normal screen size, and I had to search the online Help to return the screen to normal size. Symantec could easily address this concern by adding a small button to the toolbar to let users toggle between full and normal screen mode.

pcANYWHERE32 8.0
Contact: Symantec * 541-334-6054 or 800-441-7234
Price: $169.95
System Requirements: x86 or better, Windows NT Server 3.1 or later, 20MB of hard disk space, 8MB of RAM

Proxy 2.20
Proxy comes on two 3.5" disks for NT: one host and one master file. You install the host disk on the host system and install the master disk on any system that you want to take control of the host. In addition, Funk Software provides 3.5" disks for Win3.x and Win95 and Novell NetWare remote control. The user manual does a good job of documenting the software's NT remote control capabilities.

I inserted the host disk into my host server, clicked Run from the Start menu, entered a:\setup, and clicked OK. The installation wizard appeared and prompted me to enter a name for the host and an optional password for remote systems to access the host. After I provided this information and clicked Next, the software began installing. When the wizard prompted me, I rebooted the system.

The process of installing the master software on my remote laptop was similar to the host installation, except I didn't have to provide a system name or password. After I installed the software, I was able to launch Proxy from the Start menu without having to reboot my laptop.

Proxy automatically starts as an NT service and will display available host systems from the logon screen. When I opened the Proxy Master from the Start menu on my remote laptop, the Connect window appeared. This window contains tabs to poll IPX and IP host systems. I clicked the IP tab and selected the Poll option. The program scans for all Proxy host systems on the local subnet using a standard IP broadcast to address However, this feature might work only on a local segment. You can also specify an IP address or scan a range of addresses to reduce scan time. When my host system appeared in the list, I clicked it and clicked Connect. Finally, I entered the password I set during installation. In less than 3 seconds, the Proxy remote control window opened on my remote laptop displaying my host server's screen, as Screen 6 shows.

Proxy requires that you use a combination of the Ctrl+Alt+Backspace keys in place of the typical Ctrl+Alt+Del combination. You must perform this sequence to access the Windows NT Security dialog box or to access the Task Manager on the host system. You can't reconfigure this key combination using Proxy's settings or preferences. I used the keystrokes to access the logon box on my remote laptop and logged on to the host server.

Proxy lets you disable the host's keyboard and mouse by selecting Settings from the Edit menu. I would prefer more flexibility to disable the mouse, keyboard, or both, but Proxy forced me to disable both or neither. Although Proxy includes a screen-blanking option, the documentation states this feature doesn't work under NT, which can leave your host system open to unauthorized viewing.

You can set connection security on the host system using the Proxy Host Control panel, which you access from the Start menu. I selected the Access tab, which offers three choices for connections: permit all connections, restrict all connections, or permit connections based on the host system's time zone. The default setting permits all connections. Likewise, you can configure the host so that it asks a remote user for permission before that user takes control of the host. The three choices for requesting permission are no permission required, permission must be granted by host; host's user must respond with <specifiable #> seconds, and permission requested from host; connection continues after <specifiable #> seconds. The default setting is no permission required, which lets any remote system access the host (assuming the person connecting knows the host's password).

Proxy handled the remote control tasks with flying colors and had crisp screen refresh without any intervention on my part. However, Proxy is strictly a remote control product without many of the features the other products in this roundup include. Proxy doesn't support file transfer, voice chat, text chat, color scaling, screen blanking (under NT), data encryption, or printer redirection. You can take control of hosts via dial-up connections from your remote system, but the lack of file-transfer and printer redirect features limits Proxy's use for mobile users.

Proxy 2.20
Contact: Funk Software * 617-497-6339 or 800-828-4146
Price: $195
System Requirements: x386 or better, Windows NT 4.0, 2MB of hard disk space, 4MB of RAM

ReachOut Enterprise ReachOut Enterprise is a more robust offering of Stac's ReachOut, which lets users remotely control systems across the network or through DUN. The product comes on a CD-ROM and includes quick-start guides. I inserted the CD-ROM into my host server and waited for a few seconds for the installation wizard to appear.

You can install ReachOut for Windows NT, which is the main remote control program, and the optional ReachOut Passport, which lets users connect to the host via the Internet. I chose both programs and clicked Next. The wizard installs ReachOut Passport first, and you can choose the Passport ActiveX Control Viewer, the Passport Plug-in Viewer, or both. The viewer you select will depend on the Internet browser you install on the remote system. However, you can easily install both viewers because combined they use only 762KB of disk space. After you complete this phase of the installation, the wizard continues the overall installation process. I selected Full Installation and clicked Next twice to install the host and viewer software on my host server. Optionally, you can select Custom to install specific software components. After the software installed, the wizard prompted me to reboot my system. I followed the same procedures to install the software on my remote laptop, and within 10 minutes I was ready to initiate my first connection.

I had a problem with my laptop's video adapter and had to boot NT in VGA mode, rather than use the configured adapter. This configuration is not acceptable, because it forces the user to work at a low resolution rather than lets the user take advantage of the video adapter's optimum resolution.

I double-clicked the ReachOut Enterprise icon on the desktop of my remote laptop. Because I had already installed the ReachOut Viewer, a wizard opened to help me create a new connection to my host server. Next, I created a Network connection item and clicked my way through the wizard until a new icon appeared in the ReachOut Enterprise main window. I tried unsuccessfully to connect to my host server system. I worked through the available troubleshooting wizards but was unable to find the answer to my problem. Finally, I clicked Options from the Configure menu and noticed that the software doesn't enable the Internet connection protocol (i.e., TCP/IP) to wait for calls by default. I was surprised the software didn't enable TCP/IP by default, expecting TCP/IP to be the primary protocol. Nonetheless, I selected the check box next to TCP/IP and clicked OK. When I double-clicked the connection shortcut again, I was able to successfully connect to my host server.

I logged on using my domain username and password. Within 4 seconds, the connection completed, and the software displayed the connection window. The current connection displays with a running timer of the connection time, and a toolbar provides the most popular remote control tools. I was disappointed with the small buttons and their unintuitive nature. I would prefer having the option to label the buttons and make them larger.

I selected Remote Control from the Actions menu, and the ReachOut Viewer appeared with the host's desktop, as Screen 7 shows. I opened Word on the host system and typed in a few lines of text. ReachOut Enterprise responded quickly to each action I performed and every character I typed. One quirk I noticed was that all programs I opened on the host server remained opened, even when I closed the ReachOut Viewer and when I disconnected. When I opened Word on the host system, typed a few lines of text, and closed the ReachOut Viewer window, the software didn't prompt me to save the file or close the program. This response leaves the host system open for unauthorized viewing unless you close every program and log off the remote system.

ReachOut Enterprise included an NT Explorer-like file-transfer utility, ReachOut Explorer, that you open from the toolbar or Actions menu after making a connection. After opening ReachOut Explorer, I noticed that the software labels the host and guest systems as Local and Remote, rather than using the actual system names. I would prefer seeing the system names to alleviate confusion.

To test the software's file synchronization feature, I created a new folder on my host server with the same name as a folder on my remote laptop. Next, I selected the new folder and then selected Synchronize Folders from the File menu. I entered the path on my host system to the folder on my remote laptop that I wanted to synchronize with and selected the Include subfolders check box. When I clicked OK, the synchronization started. Within 15 seconds, the files on both systems were in sync. By default, every user has full access rights to the files and folders on the host system until you limit this access using NT's file and folder permissions. The manual provides an overview for setting these permissions.

ReachOut Enterprise includes text chat and remote printer redirect capabilities, but the version I tested didn't include voice chat. The software also includes screen blanking, which you can set directly from the host or from the remote system. I would prefer to have a toolbar available when the ReachOut Viewer is open to let me change session properties without toggling back to the main ReachOut menu.

While using Word on my host server, I discovered that ReachOut Enterprise had mismapped the question mark/slash key to the greater than/period key. I couldn't find a way to remap this key, and my call to Stac's technical support provided no answer.

The ReachOut Enterprise user interface isn't intuitive, and feeling comfortable accomplishing most tasks takes a while. A toolbar would be nice to aid session changes during remote control (i.e., while using the ReachOut Viewer window). Stac needs to prompt the user when closing programs during a remote control session and provide broad support for video adapters.

ReachOut Enterprise
Contact: Stac * 619-794-3741 or 800-522-7822
Price: $219 for 2 licenses
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, 8MB of hard disk space, 16MB of RAM, VGA or better, CD-ROM drive for installation (3.5" disks available)

And in This Corner ...
When I analyzed my test results and reviewed all seven remote control products' features, I gave the Editor's Choice award to Symantec's pcANYWHERE32. Remote control features that stand out include great data compression, screen blanking, and screen and color scaling for increased performance. Equal to the task, pcANYWHERE32's file-transfer features let users copy, synchronize, and clone folders and files between the host and remote system. Data encryption; virus scanning; and directory, drive, and file restricting options round out pcANYWHERE32's robust security options.

pcANYWHERE32 was also the most intuitive program to install, configure, and use. The number of screens I had to click through were minimal, and the interface let me quickly connect, accomplish my work, and disconnect. For those times when you can't physically be in front of a computer, pcANYWHERE32 can provide the virtual travel experience. You will be glad you took this trip, and you won't have to worry about jet lag.