Despite positioning itself as a close competitor to GoToMyPC, LapLink Everywhere 1.5 is not at all the same type of software. While GoToMyPC lets you operate a computer from a distance, the low-cost LapLink Web service lets you only transfer files and read e-mail between a Windows host and another Web-enabled device, be it a computer, a PDA, or a cell phone. If that's all you need to stay productive on the road, then LapLink Everywhere is a great deal at $10 per month (or $90 per year) for up to three host PCs, as opposed to $20 per month for one PC running GoToMyPC. But if you need true remote-control capabilities to run, say, Microsoft Word from a computer that doesn't have Word installed or collect e-mail using a client other than Outlook/Outlook Express, then opt for the pricier GoToMyPC or a more traditional remote-access package.
Installing LapLink Everywhere on your host machine or machines is such a snap that even the technically clumsy can't miss. A wizard walks you through the configuration process--the only decision you'll have to make is whether you want to access Outlook or Outlook Express accounts on the host PC. Like GoToMyPC, LapLink requires that the host have an always-on connection to the Net. As with GoToMyPC, a dial-up link just won't cut it; the connection will make the transfer process unbearably slow. Finally, the host must be running Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP. If your host machine is a Mac, you're out of luck.
The left navigation bar shows your linked hosts, with handy icons identifying e-mail, files, and calendars available on each host.
Once you've set up your host machine, connect to your host computer remotely using a computer, a mobile phone, or a Web-enabled PDA. A username and password that you set provide secure access to the host computer via the Web. Within the remote browser, the LapLink Everywhere interface appears. Navigation buttons along the left side access your e-mail, contacts, and files. When you click the e-mail icon, the largest area of the browser page displays the contents where you can view, modify, or create new e-mail.
Although LapLink Everywhere doesn't provide total remote PC control, as does GoToMyPC, LapLink Everywhere does allow some limited remote control for Outlook-based e-mail tasks. This software will appeal to those who rely on Outlook (97/98/2000/2002) and Outlook Express 5.0 or later for much of their productivity work. Through LapLink Everywhere's interface, you can read Outlook and Outlook Express messages, send and retrieve mail, view contacts and the Outlook calendar, create new contacts and appointments, and view and create notes and to-dos inside Outlook. The remote computer, thankfully, doesn't need to have Outlook or Outlook Express installed for you to perform these tasks.
However, you won't see the familiar Outlook/Outlook Express interface on the remote computer. Instead, LapLink Everywhere opens the e-mailer on the host, then renders the data--whether a message or the calendar--in HTML, so that it shows up on the remote computer's browser. Among other caveats: You can't view e-mail attachments without first downloading them onto the remote computer.
When you read e-mail off your host machine, you won't see the familiar Outlook interface. Instead, LapLink Everywhere turns messages into HTML for your remote browser.
LapLink Everywhere offers some additional tools, too, but most of them, including the ability for users to fill out templates stored on the host, will appeal to business folks only. LapLink provides three templates for updating boilerplate information in presentations, and with some effort, you can make more of your own. LapLink Everywhere also offers a way for the host computer to connect to SQL databases.
What's missing, of course, is any actual remote control of the host. LapLink Everywhere will let you download and upload files to and from your host machine and check your e-mail, but that's about it. You'll need doubles of all your software on the remote computer or you won't be able to print remote files locally.
In our performance tests, LapLink Everywhere's file-transfer speed proved impressive; we credit the SpeedSync technology that LapLink borrows from its own LapLink Gold file-transfer app. Though it usually worked as advertised, there were moments when we were unable to access our host, and any troubleshooting we did was in vain. We regained the link by rebooting our remote computer and, at other times, simply by clicking the Everywhere interface link again. LapLink tech support attributed this condition to our host's relatively slow (50Kbps) Net connection.
If the remote computer is running Internet Explorer and Windows, an ActiveX applet transfer files. A LapLink-like window displays the files of both systems, and just as with GoToMyPC, you can drag and drop files between machines to initiate a transfer.
Multiple-file transfers use this LapLink-like Local-Remote view--just drag icons from one to the other to start transfers.
We had no trouble accessing LapLink Everywhere from a remote computer that was seated behind a firewall or running it on a host that was similarly defended. To keep traffic private between remote and host, LapLink uses industry-standard 128-bit SSL encryption. But while you can allow remote users other than yourself to access your host computer, the privileges that you'll have to set up aren't granular enough. File-access privileges, for example, stop at the folder level, so you can't, for example, selectively offer or block access to just one file in a folder--it's all or nothing.
One of the best things about LapLink Everywhere is that a single subscription--$10 per month, $90 for one year--lets you install the program on as many as three different hosts. That way, you can slap the software on your desktop at home and at work, then put it on a laptop, too, and access all three whenever you need. And you can't beat the price when comparing LapLink to GoToMyPC.
Unfortunately, there's no phone support for LapLink Everywhere--a major drawback. Instead, you must submit a help-desk report from the LapLink support Web site. However, for minor problems such as error messages, the online chat should do the trick. When we used chat, we got solid answers, and we got them fast.
Need help with LapLink Everywhere? Your best bet is the company's real-time technical support chat. Too bad this online service is available only weekdays during Pacific daylight time business hours.
LapLink Everywhere doesn't include a built-in help file, either, nor does the online FAQ offer a search tool. You have to scroll through the Q&A, hoping to find something that meets your needs. We wish that, with its more than 20 years of business experience, LapLink had chosen to provide its customers with better service.