Remote-control software. (Column)
by Daniel Janal
If there's a remote chance you'll need to access your files, use a printer, or send a fax while you're away from the office, try a remote-control program.
There are several software programs on the market now that let you access office computers from your home. Among those are Commute from Central Point Software (15220 NW Greenbrier Parkway, Suite 200, Beaverton, Oregon 97006;503-690-8090; $129), CO/Session by Triton Technologies (200 Middlesex Turnpike, Iselin, New Jersey 08830; 800-322-9440; $195), and pcANYWHERE by DMA (1776 E. Jericho Turnpike, Huntington, New York 11743; 516-462-0440; $179).
In a nutshell, these programs let you run your office computer by remote control. You load the software into your home computer and your office computer. When you leave the office at night, you leave both the office computer and modem turned on. The software allows you to do more than just upload or download files. You're actually able to operate your office computer from home, run whatever applications you want, transfer files, and even print out files.
Some interesting uses for remote-control software have developed along the way. For example, one user starts the computer from home in the morning and tells it to update and print reports based on sales figures gathered the evening before. By the time he gets to work, the reports are ready. This can be really handy when you have large jobs like month-end financial statements. The report prints, and you don't have to babysit the computer in the meantime.
You can also send and receive faxes from your home. For laptops, the uses are far reaching--literally. Instead of manually transferring files to your laptop before a trip, just load in the remote-control software and access your office computer from a hotel room.
For something really cool, you and your associate can work on the same file at the same time, taking turns editing and revising a document. You make your comments; your associate responds. How's that for instant feedback?
As for computer trouble-shooters, can you imagine how much easier it would be to get support for your PC if someone looked at your AUTOEXEC.BAT file and CONFIG.SYS files remotely? My experience has been that a lot of users don't know what or where these files are, so the customer-support person has to spend a lot of phone time describing how to change directories and how to use the TYPE and EDLIN commands before finding the problem. Remote-control software could easily eliminate that problem.
So what's to prevent competitors or mischievous coworkers from peeking inside your computer? Plenty. Security is built into most systems through passwords. Busybodies have as much change of reading your spreadsheet as they do of seeing your bank account balance on an ATM machine.
Security doesn't end with passwords, however. You can determine how much access a person has to your system. For instance, someone might have access to the spreadsheet program but not the accounting program. Another person might have clearance to read files but not overwrite them, while a third person could have clearance to read and write files.
Here are a few tips: In a perfect world, modems should talk to each other, regardless of the manufacturer. However, for the best possible communication (the least amount of hassle and error), use modems made by the same manufacturer. Also, if you're using graphics files or a graphics-based program like Windows or AutoCad, a high-speed (9600-baud) modem will pay for itself many times over in the time you save. For text and spreadsheet applications, a 2400-baud modem is fine.
One other potential area of conflict is with TSR programs, those handy utilities that sit in the background just waiting to make your life easier. Since remote-control programs are also TSRs, the chance for memory conflict exists. Test your system before remotely transferring mission-critical files.
Also, because TSRs eatmemory like Jethro at Granny's picnic table, you might not have enough memory to run your main applications. If this happens, determine which other TSRs you can live without so you can accomplish your remote tasks hassle-free.