Originally published April 28, 2003

PCAnywhere: Access work computer from home

Symantec has long been a trusted name in security and utility tools. Among its premier products are Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities, Symantec Security Manager and PCAnywhere. I'm a devoted fan of Norton AntiVirus and have been grateful for the Utilities program during trying times when only Norton could diagnose the trouble.

PCAnywhere is considered to be the industry standard in remote-access solutions, enabling distance computing via phone lines or network connection. Network administrators have long relied on PCAnywhere to manage servers and provide technical support.

For the average user, however, I didn't find PCAnywhere very convenient when I first used this product many years ago. At that time, a 28.8-baud modem represented the industry standard for telephone connection, making remote screen refreshes and keystroke commands painful and unbearably slow.

Today, with the prevalence of high-speed Internet connections both at home and in the office, PCAnywhere is an indispensable tool for anyone who's computing from multiple locations. The substantial speed that DSL or cable delivers now makes remote computing almost as fast and seamless as being there.

For that extra job you were going to take home, it's not necessary to copy files to a floppy or burn a CD. Simply log into your office computer from your remote location, home for example, and continue working as if you were at the office. Or use the file-transfer utility to upload or download files between home and work.

PCAnywhere also makes good sense when using proprietary programs that may only be available in the workplace. It's not necessary to have this software installed on the home computer, because no processing actually takes place on the remote system. The computer at home becomes a dumb terminal during PCAnywhere sessions and acts like a remote-control device. The monitor displays the host computer while remote mouse clicks and keyboard strokes are transmitted to the host.

I enjoy the convenience of assisting business clients with quick problem solving and troubleshooting without the downtime of driving. Recently, I was able to conduct a training class in San Jose from the comfort of my home office thanks to the wonders of PCAnywhere and high-speed Internet access.

To ensure the highest speed during remote sessions, PCAnywhere offers an Optimization Wizard that analyzes such factors as monitor display and Active Desktop settings that can affect performance.

Since graphics transmit much more slowly than simple text, it's the job of the wizard to temporarily modify settings that reduce the graphics load and ultimately speed up the session.

Security is at the core of all Symantec products, and PCAnywhere is no exception. This product provides multiple layers of security to ensure that intruders cannot penetrate the company intranet. Powerful levels of encryption are sure to satisfy even the most paranoid network administrator.

Enabling the event-logging feature during remote sessions provides a trail of activities and documents such events as executing programs, file transfers and reboots. Additional security settings can be custom tailored to whatever security level is required.

PCAnywhere also offers a choice of installation options depending on your needs. You can choose the full installation or simply install the host or remote portions as appropriate.

PCAnywhere single-user license for one host and remote sells for $179. Comparable products are Carbon Copy by Altiris and Remote Desktop, available with Windows XP.


Cathi Schuler is an Assistant Professor for the School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of the Pacific. She also owns a business software training company, CeePrompt!  cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.  


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