By Chris David
Over the past ten years, more and more companies have started offering their employees the option to work from home. Some offer the benefit just one day a week. Other companies allow, or even encourage, their staff to work off-site nearly all the time. This way, companies can cut back on office expenses, and employees enjoy having a little less stress in their lives, by not having to commute to the office each and every day. And now in 2020, the ability to work off-site, from home, has become a necessity.
Now more than ever, people need options for getting work done off-site and from home. Let’s go through three of the best programs for accessing your work computer from home.
How It Works
All remote desktop programs work essentially the same way. Since most computers are “hidden” behind firewalls and routers, services on the internet cannot initiate connections directly. You must install a program on your computer that starts and maintains a connection to a server. After you install the remote access program on your work computer, you can then access the computer through the corresponding service.
All three options listed here support both Windows and Mac operating systems.
Chrome Remote Desktop
Released almost ten years ago, Chrome Remote Desktop is a browser extension you install from the Chrome Web Store. Once you get the browser extension set up, you will have the option to install a helper program that (on Windows) installs as a background service. The background service lets you access the computer remotely, by assigning the computer to your Google account and then providing a PIN.
Pros: The extension and service are free. The desktop streaming is fast and responsive in most network conditions. File transfer is easy, moving files directly between the desktop on both computers.
Cons: The initial set up is complicated and non-intuitive. You have to navigate your way through a lot of prompts and windows. File transfer can only send or download a single file at a time.
Best for: Individual users or small business
RemotePC allows you to access your desktop and work files from anywhere with an internet connection. Up until Q1 2020, the company offered a free tier that allowed you to access a single computer (perfect for getting access to your work PC, or providing tech support for mom). They now offer service tiers from a single computer / single user up to hundreds of computers and connections. The program is straightforward and will get you online in no time.
Pros: Program installation is simple. Assigning your computer to the service is easy, with few additional steps. File transfer allows sending and receiving of multiple files at once.
Cons: The remote desktop stream can stutter and lose quality. The app UI could use a redesign. No more free tier as of Q1 2020.
Best for: Small to medium business
TeamViewer originally came to prominence by offering an incredible free option for all users, allowing you to access computers and provide easy support. In fact, there was a time when TeamViewer was synonymous with remote desktop. Since that time, the company has cracked down on free users and focused more on enterprise and business. For larger companies and IT teams that need remote desktop connectivity, TeamViewer is still hard to beat.
Pros: Desktop streaming remains one of the fastest and best in the industry. The program includes many other features, such as web conferencing and online meetings.
Cons: Licensing cost is high compared to competitors. Set up is unnecessarily complicated, with multiple options to link computers to the service (including ad-hoc connections, account assignment, ID/password, etc). A possible security breach of the service occurred in 2016.
Best for: Enterprise and large companies
On another note, all of these companies also offer apps for your phones and tablets. So you can even access your work PC on the go! What tools are you using in 2020 (and beyond) to get your work done remotely?