PCAnyWhere 10.0 Host review:

PCAnyWhere 10.0 Host

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Enhanced security keeps hackers and unauthorized users out; simple interface; tons of new options, including session time limits and file synchronization.

The Bad Lacks easy host/remote setup wizards; doesn't provide support for its over-the-Internet connection technique; can't restrict access to specific folders or files.

The Bottom Line Businesses should turn to pcAnywhere for its security-conscious attitude. Home users, rely instead on GoToMyPC.com for easier Internet-enabled remote control.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

Turns out, you can work in two places at once. pcAnywhere 10, Symantec's remote control utility, lets you operate your PC from afar when you need to, for example, access office e-mail or run company apps from home or while you're on the road. Version 10 substantially beefs up security to insure that only authorized users can connect to a host computer, so it's perfect for businesses that support scads of remote users. As home software, however, pcAnywhere falls flat. It lacks wizards to get you started and doesn't offer access via a Web browser. For sole proprietors, GoToMyPC is a much better choice. Turns out, you can work in two places at once. pcAnywhere 10, Symantec's remote control utility, lets you operate your PC from afar when you need to, for example, access office e-mail or run company apps from home or while you're on the road. Version 10 substantially beefs up security to insure that only authorized users can connect to a host computer, so it's perfect for businesses that support scads of remote users. As home software, however, pcAnywhere falls flat. It lacks wizards to get you started and doesn't offer access via a Web browser. For sole proprietors, GoToMyPC is a much better choice.

Where are the wizards?
pcAnywhere's interface is crisp and free of clutter. Its four large toolbar icons let you designate your office PC as the host, so you can connect to it remotely or connect with and control another computer. These icons also let you set access options and (for Windows NT/2000 users only) build installation packages that add pcAnywhere to other systems.

Unfortunately, pcAnywhere lacks wizards to walk you through the host/remote setup process--a departure from the last version of this utility. Instead, you must click through tabs in a complex dialog--definitely a step backward that makes version 10 harder to use than its predecessor. You can connect modem to modem (perfect when the host doesn't have an always-on connection such as DSL or cable), using TCP/IP over the Internet (as long as you know the IP address of the host), and on a network using SPX and NetBIOS protocols. We spent a couple of hours configuring connections for pcAnywhere; only WinVNC was tougher to set up.

Once you set up pcAnywhere, it's easy going. Connect to a remote host PC (for instance, your office machine), and its desktop appears in a window on your remote PC. (You can switch to full screen if you want to.) From there, you can launch apps and open files on the host PC just as if you were sitting in front of the computer itself.

You can connect to a pcAnywhere-equipped host machine by browser, rather than using pcAnywhere software on the remote PC, but Symantec doesn't document or support the technique, called pcAnywhere Express. We used the online service to run a host without trouble, but unless Symantec changes its tune and backs Express, we can't recommend it.

Speaking of support, pcAnywhere's is first-rate, although expensive. Dial the help desk, which is open 11 hours a day, weekdays only, and you can pick between a $30-per-call charge or a $3-per-minute fee. Because of the price, you're better off using the superb online support database, which is thorough and very easy to use. Plus, you can post messages on a public discussion area accessible through Symantec's site; a tech rep gave us a workable solution within 20 hours.

Superb security
The last version of pcAnywhere suffered from slipshod security that didn't go far enough to keep hackers out. Thankfully, pcAnywhere 10 makes protection a priority: it offers seven new authentication options--used to verify the identity of the remote caller--via Windows 2000's Active Directory, HTTPS, and Novell Directory Services. This lets companies pick the pcAnywhere authentication method best suited to their networks.

More important, pcAnywhere goes further than either Timbuktu or LapLink in guarding against outside attacks. You can link host and remote PCs within your organization over whatever connection you wish, including LAN, VPN, and dial-up, through a special code that prevents hackers from using other copies of pcAnywhere to gain access. And a new integrity check makes it much harder for hackers to modify code, such as a revised DLL, that would help bypass security. pcAnywhere now recognizes even the slightest change to its DLLs, Registry entries, and executables, and it won't work if it discovers modifications.

You decide who gets access to which PCs or drives and what they can do. You can upload files and blank the screen on the host, restart the host, and even limit the connection time. pcAnywhere's greatest downfall is that it still doesn't let you password-protect individual folders or files as LapLink does. You can limit access only by drive; it's an all-or-nothing deal.

When we put pcAnywhere to the test using port scanners such as Port Detective and Port Checker, they showed that ports 5631 and 5632 were open, and, thus, a potential backdoor for hackers. When we engaged our Internet Security 2001 firewall, however, it "stealthed" those ports so that they became invisible--and more secure. As with other remote control programs, pcAnywhere should be used only when you're protecting the PC with a firewall. Like all our reviewed apps except LapLink, pcAnywhere let us connect and control a firewall-guarded host.

Best for business
This version of pcAnywhere has a few other undesirable changes. It's dropped integrated virus checking, for instance, as well as support for DOS and Windows 3.1. You'll have to stick with version 9.2 if you run those operating systems.

But file transfer is fast, thanks to pcAnywhere's SpeedSend, a utility that detects only the changed data. SpeedSend reduces transfer time by sending only changed data, such as an icon in a different spot on the desktop. A nifty synchronization feature in the main toolbar lets you match a file in a folder on your remote machine with the same file on the host machine--handy for keeping work current from the road. It's equally easy to send a file from a remote to a host PC: simply drag and drop the desired files from your directory into pcAnywhere's file-transfer pane.

Of course, pcAnywhere can transfer data only so quickly. Its screen redraws build only as fast as the connection between the host and remote machines. Over a lethargic 28.8Kbps dial-up link, for example, the program is almost unusable for total remote control but suitable for transferring files with few graphics. However, at 56Kbps, you'll be able to perform any task in short order.

pcAnywhere 10's security boost and emphasis on corporate scenarios makes it the best remote control choice for businesses that want to keep out unauthorized users. Individual users, however, will want to take GoToMyPC for a spin.


 

You can set numerous caller privileges in pcAnywhere, including limiting the amount of time any remote user can be connected to a host. You can set numerous caller privileges in pcAnywhere, including limiting the amount of time any remote user can be connected to a host.

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