- Remote desktop software facilitates a connection to a remote computer, which is useful at the very least and critical at best as the corporate world becomes more multi-site and flexible with work from home opportunities.
- The software all has that standard functionality, but different options set themselves apart in the amount of features they have, how much they cost, and how reliable they are.
- Here, we discuss seven popular RDS options, ranging from free to $171.66 per month.
What Is Remote Desktop Software (RDS)?
Over the past two decades businesses have developed multi-site, multi-region methods of working that deviate from the traditional model of employees all sitting at their desk in a single office, to hybrid setups involving dispersed networks with ultra-fast broadband connections servicing multiple connection types across wide geographical areas.
Remote desktop software is at the heart of the global technological revolution, by allowing people to connect to servers and workstations from offsite locations and do their job from anywhere in the world, via the Internet.
Internal or outsourced IT departments rely on RDS to connect to users’ machines, diagnose problems, fix faults and install or maintain commercial software. Without RDS to rely on, technical support operations involve IT staff physically visiting a user’s workstation, wherever it may be.
Access to cloud-based resources
With the rise of virtualization platforms such as Azure Virtual Desktop comes the need for an increasing number of global users to access IT assets that exist in a remote datacentre, rather than a physical computer. RDS facilitates a connection to such platforms via the Internet.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, RDS has played a vital role in accommodating the global shift towards work from home arrangements for millions of people. In 2021, one in four Americans (39 million) are expected to work remotely. RDS allows users to do their job from their home or any other offsite location, while remaining productive.
Different Kinds of Remote Desktop Software
There are many different ways to access a workstation or server remotely via the Internet, involving multiple connection protocols and control methods. Each RDS application is different from the next. To help you make the decision on what works best for you, we’re going to list six major RDS providers, alongside a brief description of each service, how much it costs, and some pros and cons.
1. Microsoft Remote Desktop
Not to be confused with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app is among the most widely used RDS applications in the world. Users download a Remote Desktop assistant to their PC, which then becomes accessible from within the app.
Administrators can configure Microsoft Remote Desktop to work with any number of local and/or global security policies and is fully compatible with commercial setups involving Azure Active Directory, as a web client.
- Available for mobile devices
- Seamless compatibility
- Supports Linux, iOS, and Android
- Administration is sometimes unnecessarily complex
- Logs out local users while the application is being used
- Two separate applications to facilitate a single connection
2. Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop is Google’s cross-platform RDS tool that works as an extension to the hugely popular Google Chrome web browser. Aimed primarily at personal users and small organizations, the application supports a maximum of 100 registered devices. RDS services are delivered either via a pre-authorized concurrent connection or via one-off sessions controlled by a PIN.
- Cross-platform support (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux)
- Incredibly easy to use on both ends of the connection
- Works on Chromebooks without the need for HDD installs
- Lack of comprehensive administrative features
- No option to disable the end user’s screen
- As with Google Chrome itself, it has a tendency to be memory hungry
Since its release in 2005, TeamViewer is the go-to RDS application for more than 200 million users across the globe. It’s simplistic, intuitive interface provides a clear and concise user experience.
Connections are made through an easy-to-use authentication method. Each TeamViewer application has an associated ID and a password. Users enter the ID of the ‘partner’ device they wish to connect, along with that device’s password, and take control of the remote device.
- Personal use – Free
- Single user ‘Business’ – $45.22 per month
- ‘Multi-user’ (15 seats) – $85.08 per month
- ‘Corporate’ (30 users) – $171.66 per month
- Fast setup
- Simple file transfer functionality
- Enterprise/SME options for multi-workstation estates
- Allows for multiple concurrent connections to the same device (Corporate plan)
- Lack of proxy server functionality
- Difficulties sharing large amounts of data through average broadband connections
- Requires the same version of TeamViewer on each end of the connection
AnyDesk is a relative newcomer to the RDS market. Founded in Germany in 2014, its low cost and simplistic approach to RDS saw it become a popular alternative to TeamViewer and LogMeIn, in what was already a crowded marketplace.
Alongside its standard remote access offering, AnyDesk’s main features include file transfer, remote printing, automatic network discovery, two-factor authentication, and unattended access.
- Basic – $9.50 per user
- Corporate – $20.50 per user
- Enterprise – Custom pricing
- Surprisingly cheap for the features it offers
- Compatible with Linux and Android devices
- Very easy to install
- Experiences difficulties on Android devices
- File sharing is sometimes slow
- Lacks the option to override User Access Control (UAC on Windows devices)
5. ConnectWise Control
ConnectWise Control (formerly Screen Connect), is a self-hosted RDS application used in conjunction with the powerful business software platform, ConnectWise, that is targeted at IT support professionals.
ConnectWise bought Screen Connect in 2015 and set about improving the software. Control was initially used primarily by ConnectWise’s broader subscriber base, but the application has grown in stature as a standalone service since being incorporated into ConnectWise’s CRM functions.
- One – $24 per user, single connection
- Standard – $39 per user, three connections
- Premium – $49 per user, 10 connections
- Provides valuable oversight of multi-site and multi-user environments
- Cross-compatibility with ConnectWise’s other offerings
- Ultra-reliable connections and fast connection speeds
- Frequent and functional updates
- Lack of a recovery option for MFA authentication
- Some issues with displaying UAC controls
- Minimal branding options, when being used as a third party platform
- No support for Android, Apple, or Chromebook applications
6. LogMeIn Rescue
The Boston-based SaaS company’s Rescue RDS product is in a perpetual battle with TeamViewer for top spot among non-enterprise users.
LogMeIn has some work to do on the control experience, and it’s often prohibitively expensive – the LogMeIn website lists the service at $108 per month, with no explanation of connection or user quantities – but it’s nevertheless remained a popular RDS choice all over the world.
- Multiple ways to invite users to a remote session
- Fast, reliable auto-reconnects when a connection is lost
- Smooth file transfer functionality
- Provides unattended access, for user’s who are not at their desk
- The UX is notoriously crowded, both from an administrative and end-user perspective
- Rather pricy compared to similar RDS platforms
- Some reports of the app’s administrative mode not functioning as it should do
- Mobile support is an additional cost
7. RescueAssist by LogMeIn
Initially developed by the California-based Expertcity in 1997, RescueAssist began its life as the popular RDS application GoToAssist. LogMeIn acquired the company in 2007 and rebranded GoToAssist as RescueAssist, targeting IT support companies and the MSP marketplace as an RDS tool for IT administrators.
RescueAssist contains all the major features of a professional RDS application, including elevated admin controls, connection plug-ins and channel support for third party collaboration tools such as Slack.
- $69 per month, per technician
- Mobile add-ons are $20 per month
- Intuitive, simplistic front-end user/admin experience
- Low system resource requirements, including HDD space
- Provides the ability to record a support session
- Can prove costly for organizations with large support requirements
- Lack of built-in support for mobile devices
- Support keys expire quickly, and need to be renewed
As with many other forms of commercial software, RDS applications operate with the same underlying functionality – facilitating a connection to a remote computer – but set themselves apart in the amount of features they contain, how much they cost, and how reliable they are.
When you’re considering what RDS software to use, you’ll be faced with a multitude of potential applications and pricing options. Before deciding, it’s important to take into account the following:
- The size of your organization.
- The number of workstations and servers that require remote support.
- What your connection requirements are (frequency, file transfer functions, cross-platform support etc).
- Your budget.
- The RDS features your support staff need to carry out their job.
RDS makes IT easier to support, and more accessible for everyone involved. It can be invaluable to your company – you just need to choose which one is the right fit.