Most of these remote desktop management programs work by providing a localized version of the computer's display. All users have to do is connect to the PC as they would normally.
However, remote desktop managment programs have a downside: They require some kind of direct (or indirect) connection to the target computer. Creating such a connection can be done by poking holes in a firewall (as with Remote Desktop) or using a service that costs money. But what should admins do if either of these approaches becomes a problem?
I recently came across an extremely limited but promising remote-control solution called RemoteByMail. RemoteByMail's concept is elegant: You install a small server application on the computer to be controlled, which then periodically checks a POP3 email account for messages. Email sent to the account can contain commands to
- send a file back by email,
- ZIP and send back a file,
- return a list of files in a given directory, and
- execute an arbitrary command.
Because the program works via email, administrators don't have to worry about assigning an inbound port. All they have to do is ensure that RemoteByMail can receive and send email, and this can be done by assigning a firewall exception to the program.
How to set up RemoteByMail
To set up RemoteByMail, you'll probably have to create an email account specifically for it. (You can set the program to poll multiple email accounts if needed.) The clients you allow to access the system are defined by their email addresses, and you can allow clients via wildcards—for instance, *@company.com would allow anyone sending from the company.com domain to execute commands.
Options include functionality to split file sizes for a .ZIP archive (so you can send large files by splitting them across multiple email) and activity logging. You can use the macros option to batch together multiple commands and refer to them in shorthand, or use them to refer to executing external applications if needed.
To some degree, the macro function compensates for the lack of a broader native command set in the program. Sure, it would be nice for the author to have included a command that remotely reboots the machine and sends an email confirmation when it comes. But let's not forget that the program itself is free, and only in its 1.01 iteration.
About the author:
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.