A new peer-to-peer network option

* MioNet combines file sharing and remote desktop control

Does the world need another remote control desktop program, so you can reach out and click someone else's icons? Perhaps we do. A new product called MioNet offers an inexpensive way to share files, access remote desktops and even manage locally networked Windows computers that don't need a keyboard or monitor.

MioNet, a product from Senvid, is aimed at the 28 million small businesses with 10 or fewer people. MioNet works only with Microsoft Windows, and the need for the product, Senvid says, stems from the fact Microsoft hasn't made remote desktop and remote file sharing easy enough for small businesses, 80% of which need mobile connections now and then.

After playing with MioNet for a couple of weeks I found it has more features than Microsoft offers by default in Windows and for less money than Microsoft’s Remote Terminal Services and tools from companies such as WebEx.com and GoToMyPC.com.  It is also simpler than tools that make it possible to synchronize folders across the WAN - such as the FolderShare program now owned by Microsoft and BeInSync.com - because MioNet doesn't constantly synchronize directory contents when you’re home and just trying to get a file from work.

MioNet is covered by two patents and 29 more are pending, all of which involve the company’s effort to simplify small company networking by treating network shares between systems just like local drives.

When you start the MioNet program (which loads three processes and doesn't seem overly piggish when it comes to computer resources and memory), your username and password logs in to the MioNet server, hosted by MioNet. Unlike some peer-to-peer systems that rely on a server to relay desktop images and files back and forth, MioNet's central site authenticates and connects, then gets out of the way. None of your files or remote desktop control images go through MioNet servers.

Using 256-bit encryption (the strongest the U.S. government allows for export), MioNet's software integrates into Microsoft Windows and shows remote shared resources as just another drive. So your Windows Explorer display at work, for example, may show Local Disk C:, CD-ROM D:, HomePC K:. At home, the K: drive letter may be assigned to your WorkPC at the office (you name them, not MioNet). Grabbing files from a remote PC appears exactly like grabbing files from your hard disk.

Speed now becomes an issue, because if you must wait 12 minutes for a file to load, you'll curse and close the connection. MioNet's performance matches that of other remote options such as GoToMyPC on the first file fetch, and improves it considerably on subsequent fetches. By caching files locally and checking to see if the remote file has changed, MioNet can make the remote file seem to respond just like a local file. Applications can open, modify, save and close remote files just like local files, since MioNet worms deep into the Windows file management operations.

Remote desktop viewing with MioNet includes several handy features. Mismatched screen resolutions (particularly a problem when a PC at 1024x768 opens the remote desktop of a PC with a video resolution of 1600x1200) are handled easily by automatically panning the larger screen when the cursor moves so the smaller screen can see the entire larger screen. If you prefer, you can set the scaling for the remote screen to display from 50% to 200% normal size. Leaving the setting on Auto engages the panning feature. You can even cut from the remote screen and paste on your local screen, a handy feature.

MioNet offers four levels of color quality transmitted from the remote desktop. Lower color resolutions provide snappier response. You can even take a snapshot of the remote desktop or send a Control-Alt-Delete keystroke combination to reboot the remote PC.

This version doesn't include any file back-up software, but any Windows back-up utility works on the mapped drives to remote systems. Future versions will include backups and logging and other features appreciated by larger companies.

MioNet is currently offering a discount on the $6.95 monthly fee for the service - if you purchase a one-year license the price drops to $3 per month for up to five computers.

Other options exist for easy access to shared documents. I'm now testing HyperOffice.com, a hosted e-mail, calendar and file storage service. Both HyperOffice and MioNet have many competitors.

That said, MioNet offers a fresh take on peer-to-peer networking. Easy to install, easy to use and acceptably speedy, MioNet enters as a strong player in this market. Try the free trial download and tell me what you think.

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