The Best Remote Access Software 2020 - Get Access From Anywhere

Daniel Rosehill

Remote access software is an important tool for those that want to access their computer remotely and conveniently. Unlike virtual private networks (VPNs) for securing remote access to a company’s server, remote desktop tools work by simply allowing users to access a copy of the display server on their computer remotely. 

This means that users can “log in” to their computer remotely and use it just as if they were sitting in front of it in their home/office. However, using a remote desktop, the physical computer to which the user is connecting to is in use. That means that it typically needs to be powered on—although many remote access tools are able to remotely activate or launch the computer (we’ll look at wake on LAN and WAN later in this article). 

While users are using the computer, the device remains connected to its local network. This allows users to manipulate files on a company network, for example, without having to secure the connection with something like a VPN. It also means that the user will be able to access other devices on the computer’s network—such as, say, an office printer. By being able to access one device on the local network, this saves the user from having to set up remote connectivity with every other device on the network.

For users that want to remotely connect to a personal or work device, but without the hassle of setting up a VPN connection, remote access is a great option. They don’t typically require the assistance of an IT team and are usually quick and easy to setup. Enterprise tools can even typically be remotely installed on endpoints over the network.

Users that need AES 256-bit encryption
Enterprise organizations with lots of connecting users
Personal use, small businesses, helpdesk
MSPs and support teams
IT support teams
Companies with remote workforces
Remote access for helpdesks
Enterprises, IT helpdesk
Personal use and by IT support teams and MSPs
IT technicians and IT departments
$35/computer/month
From $8/month plus a per-gateway fee
Starting from $22.12 per year
From $79 per technician per month
$145 for 500 minutes $990 for lifetime license.
$420 per month (Pro, up to 100 users)
From $15/agent/month
Access from $30 per month Support from $19 per month
Free version. Paid plans from $49/month up.
Contact vendor
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Y
No
Yes
Y
Yes
Y
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Y
No
Yes
Requires paid add-on
Yes
Y
256-bit AES encryption
AES 256-bit
AES 256-bit encryption
UDP port 443
RSA 2048/4096-bit
HTTPS
AES 256 bit
256-bit AES encryption
RSA public/private key exchange. AES 256 bit encryption.
TLS

The Best Remote Access Software - An In-Depth Look

  • 1

    GoToMyPC

    Secure remote file and application access
    GoToMyPC
    • Price$35/computer/month
    • Best forUsers that need AES 256-bit encryption
    • Security256-bit AES encryption

    GoToMyPC is a remote access tool intended for users that need to access files, and view their screen remotely. It can run on a variety of mobile devices including iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and the Kindle Fire.

    The company also recently upgraded its encryption strength to 256-bit AES which puts it on par with other tools in the industry.


    Pros
    • Now supporting 256-bit AES
    • Kindle Fire friendly
    • Full PC transfer
    Cons
    • No Wake on LAN with single user license
    • Expensive for personal use
  • 2

    Perimeter 81

    Software defined perimeter (SDP) application-...
    Perimeter 81
    • PriceFrom $8/month plus a per-gateway fee
    • Best forEnterprise organizations with lots of connecting users
    • SecurityAES 256-bit

    Perimeter 81 is a security and remote access tool designed for use in large organizations. By securing application access through gateways and a software defined perimeter (SDP) approach, the tool makes it possible for large distributed workforces to securely access systems irrespective of what operating system they are running. 

    It’s an ideal remote access tool for enterprises running software on cloud-centric, on-premises, or hybrid architectures.

    Pros
    • Suitable for large organizations
    • OS agnostic
    • Software defined perimeter
    Cons
    • Per gateway and per user pricing
    • Essentials plan doesn’t have an always-on VPN
  • 3

    RemotePC

    RemotePC is packed with remote access features
    RemotePC
    • PriceStarting from $22.12 per year
    • Best forPersonal use, small businesses, helpdesk
    • SecurityAES 256-bit encryption

    RemotePC is a feature-packed remote desktop software for individuals and businesses. You can access any computer from another desktop or mobile device, plus set up an unlimited number of concurrent sessions. Even better, RemotePC offers personal, team, and helpdesk plans.

    This software is easy to set up and even easier to use. Businesses can have an unlimited number of users and manage remote access seamlessly. Plus, RemotePC comes with built-in video conferencing, whiteboard tools, and one-time access codes.

    Pros
    • Flexible, inexpensive plans
    • Collaboration features for teams
    • Supports wake-on-LAN
    Cons
    • No audio chat
    • Time consuming for business setup
  • 4

    Atera

    Managed device dashboard with wake on LAN
    Atera
    • PriceFrom $79 per technician per month
    • Best forMSPs and support teams
    • SecurityUDP port 443

    Atera includes a remote access functionality as part of its device monitoring and support plans, which can be used by MSPs and support staff in order to provide remote support.

    The tool requires the installation of a connection agent on supported endpoints and a connection tool to supplement the web UI. Connections are fast and secure. 

    Pros
    • Real time connectivity
    • Secured encrypted connection
    • Windows and Mac connection agents
    Cons
    • No Linux connection agent
    • Relatively expensive subscription
  • 5

    ISL Online

    Cross platform connection and support clients
    ISL Online
    • Price$145 for 500 minutes $990 for lifetime license.
    • Best forIT support teams
    • SecurityRSA 2048/4096-bit

    ISL Online is a great tool for busy support teams with a lot of remote endpoints to support. Whether they’re running Windows, Mac, or Linux, ISL Online has clients to get the job done.

    The tool also supports automatic session recording, on-screen annotations, and live chat and file sharing. 

    Pros
    • Live chat and file sharing
    • Linux, Windows, Mac clients
    • On screen annotations
    Cons
    • One simultaneous connection per license
    • Not the cheapest remote tool on the market
  • 6

    DeskTime

    Automatic screenshot capture
    DeskTime
    • Price$420 per month (Pro, up to 100 users)
    • Best forCompanies with remote workforces
    • SecurityHTTPS

    Desktime is a remote monitoring tool that can help companies keep a close digital eye on the online activity of their remote workers. It can also be used on the free tier for individual freelancers that want to monitor their own internet usage and productivity.

    The tool features support for automatic screenshotting, document tracking, and a productivity estimator. It’s a well-rounded tool suitable for the needs of both small and large companies.  

    Pros
    • Tracking apps for every platform
    • Automatic screenshot capability
    • Productivity estimator
    Cons
    • Quickly becomes relatively expensive
    • Only one user supported on free tier
  • 7

    FreshDesk

    Full remote access to helpdesk integration
    FreshDesk
    • PriceFrom $15/agent/month
    • Best forRemote access for helpdesks
    • SecurityAES 256 bit

    Freshdesk provides a comprehensive helpdesk experience which also supports an integration with the Splashtop remote access tool.

    Users can leverage the power of both these tools to support intelligent inbound ticket routing, collision avoidance, and more. 

    Pros
    • Full native integration with Splashtop
    • Templates before and after sessions
    • Intelligent AI-assisted routing
    Cons
    • Add-on functionality
    • Free tier doesn’t have collision detection
  • 8

    ConnectWise

    Remote access for business IT teams
    ConnectWise
    • PriceAccess from $30 per month Support from $19 per month
    • Best forEnterprises, IT helpdesk
    • Security256-bit AES encryption

    ConnectWise Control is a capable remote access solution for businesses. Access plans offer unlimited remote connections for 25 to 2,500 users, while Support plans offer remote access for individual IT technicians and administrative teams. 

    The benefit to ConnectWise Control is that you have tight control over system access. Administrators can assign roles and install updates in the background without disturbing employees. For remote workers, Control offers remote desktop access, file sharing, and remote printing.

    Pros
    • Background access for IT technicians
    • Define user access roles
    • 24/7 customer support
    Cons
    • Not suitable for individual remote workers
    • Setup can be complex
  • 9

    TeamViewer

    Unattended access for remote connectivity
    TeamViewer
    • PriceFree version. Paid plans from $49/month up.
    • Best forPersonal use and by IT support teams and MSPs
    • SecurityRSA public/private key exchange. AES 256 bit encryption.

    Teamviewer is a powerful remote access tool that has clients for everything from Linux to the Raspberry Pi.

    Its product family includes a popular client connectivity tool as well as an AR-enriched support tool and a service desk ticketing system. 

    Pros
    • Tools for Linux and Raspberry Pi
    • Supports unattended access
    • Versatile product family
    Cons
    • Not the cheapest paid remote access tool
    • Free version is for non-commercial use
  • 10

    Kaseya

    A full-featured IT management environment
    Kaseya
    • PriceContact vendor
    • Best forIT technicians and IT departments
    • SecurityTLS

    Kaseya Remote Control offers stable and smooth connections to endpoints for multiple technicians, and is just one part of the Kaseya IT management environment. Along with patching, automation, and auditing modules, the remote access features enable technicians to control a business’s devices and assets on scales ranging from company- or department-wide to a single device.

    Automation sits at the heart of Kaseya software, making it easy to apply patches, execute scripts, send files, distribute software, and more. What were once tedious and time-consuming tasks can now be accomplished in the background, freeing up IT departments to focus on bugs, technical errors, and vulnerabilities. 

    Pros
    • Library of pre-set automations
    • Automatic endpoint patching
    • Background endpoint control
    Cons
    • Mac management less robust
    • Limited mobile apps

What You Need to Know About Remote Access Software

What Is Remote Access Software?

Remote access software is designed to help PC users to securely access their computers, or other devices, from a remote location. It is often also used to allow managed service providers (MSPs) or IT support teams to remotely diagnose problems with computers and apply troubleshooting steps without having to guide users through complicated steps—or lengthy diagnostic processes.

Remote access tools commonly connect with computers by using a protocol called Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). This is optimized to display the computer’s desktop remotely although it can also be used for file transfer between the remote client and the computer.

Remote access tools are more flexible than VPNs because they allow users to mirror both the display and the filesystem. However, VPNs are still often the preferred tool used by enterprises and large organizations for having remote users connect to on-premises resources over a secure connection.

Who Needs Remote Access Software?

Remote access software is useful for just about any individual that might need to access their computer, or smartphone, remotely. This could be an office worker who wants to sync a resource from a filesharing resource on the local area network (LAN), such as a  Network Attached Storage (NAS), with their remote computer. Rather than connecting to their machine through a VPN, the user can actually directly interface with their computer from a remote location. This typically means that whenever the user types on their keyboard or moves their mouse at home, these actions are mimicked on their computer in the office. 

Additionally remember that remote access allows users to directly access a physical computer sitting in a remote location and to compute upon the hardware it contains. Take the case of a freelance video editor that has to work from home for a day. In the office he or she might have a high powered video editing workstation with high-end hardware required for fast rendering. At home he might only have a laptop. The video editor could simply edit the video remotely while connected to his workstation through a remote access tool and then render the project in the usual time.  

Regular home users can benefit from remote connectivity too. Have you ever had to keep your computer turned on just to monitor the progress of a lengthy software update process? This is a perfect use-case for a remote access app. Install the remote access app on the computer you need to monitor (say your laptop). You can leave the house while the update process is ongoing and continue to monitor it remotely from your smartphone. When the job is complete you can even remotely turn the PC off, thereby saving on unnecessary power use.

Finally remote access software is widely used by IT companies and managed service providers (MSPs). MSPs typically assume responsibility for the successful use of technology in a company that doesn’t have an in-house IT department to maintain systems. Using remote access technology, IT support professionals can avoid having to relay troubleshooting and diagnostic steps through end-users, leading to quicker and more successful issue resolution—while minimizing onsite visits.

How Do I Choose the Best Remote Access Software?

As with all technology verticals, not all remote access software is created equal. To choose the best remote access software users should check the feature list for the following functionalities:

  • Wake on WAN: Most users turn on their computers by pressing a power button. However, many computers are also configured to support Wake on LAN (or WAN). This means that they will listen for data packets sent over the local or wide area network and automatically boot as soon as the turn on signal is detected. Remote access tools that support Wake on WAN allow users to turn their computers off, or put them into hibernation, while still being able to turn them on remotely. Compared to leaving them running 24/7 while not physically present in the office this clearly results in electricity savings.
  • Annotations: Some remote support tools allow support agents to draw annotations on users’ screens. In order to do this the tools run a 2-way screen sharing sync and allow the IT professional to draw arrow, pencil markings, and other annotations to instruct the user how to resolve their difficulty. 
  • File transfer: The connection protocol which most remote access tools work off, RDP, enables users to share files between the server (usually the computer they are connecting to) and the client (usually the computer or device they are connecting from). If the remote desktop tool supports file sharing then users can forget about having to use a VPN, or another technology, to move files into and out of their place of work. 
  • Multimonitor support: Many modern computer users will be using multiple monitors to enhance their productivity throughout the workday. If that’s you, and you plan on connecting to your computer through a remote viewing client, then you should make sure that the remote support client has multimonitor support. This will allow you to access all your display interfaces as one unified device. 
  • Augmented reality (AR): Some remote access tools have come to market that can intelligently detect information being presented from the PC running the remote server and annotate it automatically on the end of the connecting user, typically an IT support professional. By intelligently highlighting salient facts about the configuration the user is running, this use of automation can cut down on the time it takes to resolve a typical user issue. 
  • Multisession handling: When IT support and MSP staff are the end users, multisession handling is often a key requirement. With this functionality, support staff are able to support multiple devices simultaneously.
  • Unattended access: Unattended access is designed to facilitate logins to computers where there is nobody physically sitting at the target machine. In order to achieve this, it bypasses the usual authentication steps so that, after setting up the connection once, users can log in any time they feel like. If the software combines both Wake on WAN and unattended access they can turn on the computer remotely and log into it without anything other than a power connection being available to the target device.

How Can I Remotely Access Another Computer for Free?

Accessing your computer for free can be achieved with any remote support app that has a free tier. Teamviewer is a popular choice for this use. In order to get set up on a platform like this, users simply need to install the client on their target device. After enabling unattended access they should be able to remotely take over control of the computer whenever they feel like it. Bear in mind that in many cases users will still receive prompts that their system is being accessed remotely. Therefore users should ideally alert anybody else using the computer that at any moment they could take the digital reigns and start manipulating the controls. 

Conclusion

 Remote access software is the perfect technology for users that want to be able to access their devices remotely and use them as if they were in their office or at home. It offers users more flexibility than a VPN because they can manipulate both the filesystem and the computer directly. Although some employers still exist on using VPN technology, advances in encryption mean that many are now satisfied with allowing employees to use RDP technology for all their offsite connectivity needs. Wake on LAN and unattended access mean that many tools allow users to do everything with their work-based hardware no matter where they are located.

Daniel Rosehill
Daniel Rosehill is a technology writer and reviewer whose experience includes leading marketing communications strategies at 2 SaaS companies. His interests include backups and disaster recovery, Linux and open source, and cloud computing.