Software tool helps millions remotely access their computers

At a time when it’s riskier to take your laptop with you on your travels, a tool that lets you remotely access and control your machine even when it’s thousands of miles may be just what the doctor ordered.

While there are several software products out there that enable you to do this, one that’s garnering a lot of interest lately is TeamViewer, a remote control and file transfer application that can be downloaded over the Web.

Developed by Uhingen, Germany-based TeamViewer GmbH, the tool functions on Mac as well as Windows operating systems.

According to the company, around 10 million people worldwide already use the application for tasks ranging from simple file transfers, to document sharing and collaboration, remote media presentation and even remote desktop support.

Ease of deployment is one key benefit of the product, according to a TeamViewer executive, and something that distinguishes the tool from other vendor offerings out there.

It operates behind any firewall, so there’s no need for users to make adjustments to their network to make the system work, said Tilo Rossmanith, founder and director of TeamViewer.

“Basically, TeamViewer appears before a firewall as just another legitimate Web browser, so it is not blocked by corporate filters,” he said.  “This means activation can be very simple as no special configurations are necessary.”  

He said the tool is also secure because it only enables encrypted outgoing traffic from the host machine and does not open any “gateway” for malicious programs to enter the computer.  

To access TeamViewer, users simply go to the company Web site to download the program and run it on their machine. The tool then generates a unique ID for that machine.

To control the first computer remotely, the user logs on to the TeamViewer site with machine number to obtain an ID for that machine. When the user enters the ID of the first computer, a secure connection between the two machines is immediately established.

The tool, Rossmanith said, is very popular with their traveling clients who want to obtain files from their computers that are in their homes or offices. It is also frequently used by companies providing help desk services to outside or in-house customers.

Impuls, a private health insurance broker based in Germany uses TeamViewer to support more than 500 sales agents that work remotely most of the time.

“Our support agents can jump on to any sales agent’s computer regardless of where that agent is working from,” said Gerhard Setzmuller, support specialist at Impuls.

He said sales agents only need to relay via telephone or e-mail, their machine’s unique ID and coded password to the support team to generate a connection between the ailing machine and support desk. From this connection, the support team is able to diagnose and troubleshoot any computer problem.

One blogger who tried the product recently also found TeamViewer a welcome addition to the many remote access software now in the market.

Steven Sande wrote in Tuaw.com (the unofficial Apple Weblog) that he was able to control his iMac back home from his Mac Air Book (MBA) while having dinner at a restaurant.

“While enjoying a few beers, I popped open the MBA and fired up TeamViewer. I told it to connect to my iMac, gave it the ID and password, and was rewarded with complete control of my machine at home.”

“If you’re a systems admin who needs to control both Macs and PCs remotely, TeamViewer may be the app for you,” he wrote.

Yet another blogger commented on the tool’s flexibility and security.

“In addition to controlling the other PC, I could transfer files and chat with the other user (myself, in this case). By enabling server mode, I was able to switch directions and share my desktop with the other PC – neat for showing presentations, demonstrations etc…” said Rick Broida of Lifehacker.

“TeamViewer works around firewalls and promises 1024-bit RSA private/public key exchange and 128-bit RC4 session encoding. In other words, it’s pretty secure,” he wrote.

The product is free to non-commercial users, but the company also paid options for business users.

For instance, a premium package for around $1,473 (US$1,399) comes with an unlimited term and can be installed on as many workstations as needed; a $735 (US$ 699) business license offers an unlimited license term for a limited number of machines; and a $262 (US$249) “business solution” package covers a single machine license and is valid for six months.

In today’s environment, where laptops are getting less weighty – but the perils of lugging one along on your travels aren’t – using a tool such a TeamViewer makes a lot of sense for many mobile professionals.

This is especially true as laptop theft continues to be a growing menace.  More than 40 per cent of data breaches – both in private and public sector organizations – can be traced to missing laptops, according to a recent study from Absolute Software Corp., a maker of laptop-tracking software.

This has led some security experts to dissuade business travelers from carrying machines loaded with sensitive data on their trips.

“It’s just not secure to be traveling with laptops containing their company’s sensitive data,” according to Kevin Coleman, senior fellow and chief strategist of the Technolytics Institute, an independent technology and security management consultancy group based in McMurray, Penn.

He says numerous business executives and government officials have had their laptops tampered with during their stay overseas.

As if the fear of having your laptop stolen or sensitive data filched by industrial spies isn’t enough, U.S. border guards were given fresh powers to confiscate mobile devices of people entering the country.

The prospect of their critical devices and data being confiscated is disconcerting to many business travelers to the U.S.

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  • Mike bravo

    Great article regarding TeamViewer Remote Access tool. TeamViewer is a quality remote support tool. No doubt about that. We use on premise RHUB remote support appliances in order to remotely access computers. We think it’s a better solution as compared to hosted services.