Remote access is…..a pain to say the least. There are tons of options, everyone has an opinion, and all IT departments at venues/offices have tons of rules about what apps are able to be run on their networks. In short, there’s no easy answer. I’ll break down the 3 most used remote access apps and which I use in different situations.
Tried and true
You might laugh or cringe at this recommendation. It’s by no means my favourite, or the best, or the most cost effective. In fact it’s actually the most annoying app I have to use on a regular basis and often doesn’t really perform well. The one thing it has going for it is name brand. That app is TeamViewer. I know. TeamViewer. The app we all love to hate. The app with the most annoying pop ups ever. You literally can’t touch any element of the application without it trying to sell you some more junk you don’t want.
With all that said, it is easily the most straight forward way to get remote access on corporate networks where the IT security team rule with an iron fist. Now, if you’re not in a corporate environment, you can skip to the next recommendation, but if you are then I can’t stress enough how much the brand name helps IT security whitelist your remote access. Try to convince IT security that Anydesk or Parsec are way better or try to give them specific ports you need open? Good luck waiting weeks to hear back and most likely they’ll say no. TeamViewer on the other hand is like the Microsoft Word of remote access. It’s overall good enough, well known enough, big enough of a company, and generally accepted as a thing people need to use. It’s hard to really convey how much less struggle I’ve gotten from IT security when I say TeamViewer instead of anything else. That’s the ONLY reason I even have TeamViewer on this list.
Quick and Easy
The quick and easy recommendation was also my previous favourite: Anydesk. Anydesk has a TON of great features that I love and are why it was previously my go-to. Here’s a few of the great features:
- Installer is only a few MB and easy to download anywhere
- The installer is portable by default, so when you run it the first time, it asks if you actually want to install it to the system or just use it for that sessions, so it doesn’t actually install anything on the system and keeps your system clean if you only need a single remote session
- The ID system of 9 digits they use are EXTREMELY easy to send around. It’s similar to the TeamViewer IDs in the sense that they are short, easy, and you can read it out over the phone or send it in an SMS or similar
- Performs pretty well in terms of latency and framerates
- Easy to use, manage multiple displays, receive sound from the remote session, send small files back and forth, etc
- It’s affordable to pay for and has easy options for whitelabeling and adding your brand to the remote experience
Honestly, I’ve been very happy with Anydesk for the last few years. Especially for impromptu remote access sessions where you don’t want to install software or someone has to quickly read out remote access credentials on the phone, Anydesk can’t be beat. It’s not perfect by any stretch but it definitely has been reliably working for years.
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The newest app on the block and probably the highest performing remote access app I’ve ever used: Parsec. Parsec has a lot of really good things going for it that truly set it apart. The only real issues it has are because the app is so relatively new, so I’m hopeful that they will be updated and improved over time.
The main feature it has over everything else is the extremely low latency and high framerates. I’m not exaggerating when I say sometimes I forget which of my displays is a native connection or a remote connection that I’m looking at. This is because Parsec was made for/is focused on live streaming gaming, which requires low latency, high framerates, and excellent quality picture being sent over the wire. Whenever I do head-to-head tests against TeamViewer and Anydesk, it’s a night and day difference how much smoother and faster Parsec feels. When you’re trying to program quickly or fix bugs on site while the client is waiting, there’s nothing worse than twiddling your thumbs and waiting for the screen to load.
Aside from the high performance, it has generally a lot of the same features as Anydesk, except some of them aren’t as fleshed out as Anydesk. Here are a few things that I’m hoping will get improved soon:
- So far it seems like you must have an account with Parsec to use Parsec. This can be annoying for quick situations where you need remote access to a machine
- The links you have to send around to people so they can join your session are quite long and not easy to just say over the phone, as they’re full links with hashes in them
- The control panel leaves a little bit to be desired, the settings are a bit tricky to find and the settings live during
- Doesn’t have an easy way to send small files back and forth
So there’s a quite a few things on the list that aren’t perfect, but it feels like they got the important part (seeing and controlling the remote computer) heading in an amazing direction. This makes me hopeful that all these other elements can be improved in time.
In full disclosure I still haven’t put this under a stress test with very low bandwidth, so I’m hopeful it’ll hold up and perform well at lower internet speeds, but it’s definitely worth trying in your own setups.
In my dreams, there’s a world where all of the above apps merge together and combine their best features. In reality though, it’s good to know you have different tools for different jobs. When it comes to remote access, having the ability to choose between well known, quick/easy, and high performing gives you a lot of options to get the best out of each situation.