I've written in the past about VNC, produced by RealVNC Ltd. It's a powerful cross-platform alternative to remote control products such as Microsoft's own Remote Desktop.
The core code of VNC (which stands for Virtual Network Computing) is completely open source, and both code and executables are available for free. It does not require a license to use, allows multiple concurrent users and there are no connection limits. It has client and server programs for just about every computing platform, making it extremely useful in heterogeneous environments where Windows desktops may be used to manage non-Windows servers or vice versa.
But one of VNC's drawbacks -- at least compared to Remote Desktop -- is that VNC doesn't have the level of built-in manageability via Group Policy controls that Remote Desktop has. Nor does it have the kind of management tools Remote Desktop has for dealing with multiple user connections or user accounts.
To close the gap with Microsoft's Remote Desktop, a company called SmartCode Solutions has put out a family of products called SmartCode VNC Manager. VNC Manager exists in two editions.
Standard Edition lets you administer VNC connections for one or more machines, including automated deployment of VNC, scriptable actions for how VNC servers behave before or after accepting a connection, remote control (start/stop/pause) of services and even the ability to see multiple VNC connections in a "thumbnail" view. Enterprise Edition includes features specifically for use in domains, such as scanning for all VNC connections in a particular domain, remote password resets and more sophisticated remote deployment.
SmartCode Solutions also puts out an ActiveX implementation of VNC that can be embedded in a Web browser or used wherever an ActiveX control version of VNC might be needed. You can arrange for 30-day trial versions for all of these products.
In addition to the code and executables, SmartCode offers another free download, a set of Windows 2000/XP/2003 Group Policy templates for configuring several of the most popular VNC implementations (RealVNC, TightVNC and UltraVNC). If you've been looking to use VNC in a managed environment, the templates are a good place to start.
Fast guide: Remote control software
- Tip 1: VNC variant provides remote control boost
- Tip 2: A Remote Desktop alternative sheds its drawbacks
- Tip 3: Remote control freeware boosts cross-platform system administration
- Tip 4: Securing Remote Desktop
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of The Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!