pcAnywhere from Symantec

Symantec's pcAnywhere started this market and remains the leader in both market and mind share.

All the basic features are included, but the interface is a bit cluttered, newer features could be called bells and whistles rather than valuable tools, and some parts of the product seem tacked on rather than organic.

Installation files for Windows, Linux and Macintosh OS X systems are on one CD. Control consoles must run on Windows, except for the interesting Web-control options using Java. In the CD box is an actual paper manual (remember those?) with 313 pages. The one large pcAnywhere application runs on both the controller and client computers (there's a Start Host item in the left menu).

Installation of the files isn't a problem, and you can install the full package or just the controller or controlled station applications. (Symantec calls the controlling station the remote, and the station being controlled is called the host -- another example of confusing nomenclature shared by other products.)

Linux client support includes Red Hat and SUSE/Novell Linux (we used Novell's SUSE Linux 10.2). Arranging connection details and optional special accounts for remote-only connections offers flexibility but takes time. The push-software method worked fine for Windows 2000 systems, but not XP SP2, as is the case with other products.

Symantec offers a WebRemote option for the controlling computer. After loading a Java application from Symantec into a browser, Macs and Linux systems can control any client running the Symantec host software.

The standard Symantec administration feature set offers more options (such as taking snapshots of the remote screen and recording actions for later replay) than the Web version, but the use of Java for WebRemote is a nice touch.

Clients running the host software can "call out" to control stations, sending connection details. The information won't provide remote firewall details, so it's not as foolproof as hosted services such as LogMeIn, or when running your own remote-control host, like that offered from Kaseya.

Symantec offers a gateway option that handles this situation, but it wasn't included in this test package.

The administration consoles use tabs to show connected controlled systems. Not as flashy as the thumbnails from NetSupport, but they work.


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