• United States

Who needs a laptop?

Jun 14, 20043 mins
Remote AccessTechnology IndustryVoIP

I’m InTouch lets you check in from the road without lugging around a PC.

For frequent business travel, a slick laptop is a must. But because I spend 95% of my time in the home office, I don’t really need one. So instead, I’m exploring tools that’ll let me remotely access my desktop the 5% of the time I am on the road. Recently, I tried out I’m InTouch from 01 Communique.

Like competitors GoToMyPC (from Citrix Systems) and pcAnywhere (from Symantec Software), I’m InTouch lets you remotely control your desktop PC from any device with a Web browser. You can check e-mail – most important for me – use all your applications, and open and modify files.

Downloading, installing and configuring the I’m InTouch client on my desktop PC was easy as pie. To use the application, visit the 01 Communique site and key in the name of the host (desktop) PC you want to access, your username and a password.

Many elements of I’m InTouch are transparent. Connecting over broadband, I experienced a slight, but not unreasonable lag time when opening files. But once I began working in my everyday apps, that lag diminished.

The desktop-within-a-desktop nature is counterintuitive at first; I found myself clicking on a menu bar at the bottom of the screen, only to realize that it belonged to the PC I was sitting at rather than my own system back home. Also, since the X box in the upper right corner of Windows applications gets covered up by the I’m InTouch window, I had to use the File menu to close documents and apps.

But once I grew accustomed to scrolling and clicking around to access the applications on the remote PC, I grew spoiled. How nice to open a browser far from home and find my own list of bookmarks, for instance.

For these types of products to work, however, they rely on the host PC being turned on and available to the Internet, which also renders them open to intruders. 

To ensure the desktop PC isn’t accessed while you’re away, 01 Communique advises you create a password-protected screen-saver. The company also emphasizes that all I’m InTouch data is protected by 128-bit Secure Socket Layer encryption, and that the product works behind firewalls.

But that’s not enough for me. Turning off your PC when it’s not in use, especially if you’ve got broadband, is bedrock home-security advice, even if it’s firewall protected. Hackers spend mucho time seeking open IP ports so they can turn PCs into zombies for use as spam servers or distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Also of concern: I’m InTouch passwords can be as short as six characters in length and may contain letters or numbers only. By comparison, GoToMyPC requires an eight-character password including both. The longer password is far more difficult to crack.

Also realize, activities you perform on the remote PC actually do occur on your home computer. If you open a spreadsheet while on the road in Indianapolis, anybody watching your home monitor in Chicago can see the spreadsheet, too. There are data-privacy implications to consider, as well as the potential embarrassment. If you use these products, remember to password-protect your screen-saver or at least turn off your home monitor!

I’m InTouch 3.5 costs $99.95 per year, per host PC, which gets you product updates and technical support.