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The VNC family of Remote Control Applications

Developed originally by Olivetti & Oracle Research Labs in Cambridge, England, which was then acquired by AT&T and eventually closed down, VNC has evolved as the most widely used remote control software. This is due to the fact that it´s free, the availability for a huge number of different operating systems, it´s simplicity, robustness and very good backward compatibility. Multi-platform support is especially important for network administrators, because it allows to administer almost all systems with a single tool.

The original AT&T VNC version is not widely used any more, because there are different branches with significant improvements available, such as  RealVNC, VNC tight and UltraVNC, that are still full backwards compatible, at least as far as their basic remote control function is concerned. UltraVNC is the most active and powerful VNC flavor for mainstream use at the moment.

VNC is almost perfect for simple remote control but lacks important features that are required for a help desk application in larger organizations, mainly because the logging and security features are not sufficient for this purpose. VNC is also not yet ready for teleworkers or as a thin client, because there is not yet support for local printing of remote applications.

Since VNC was originally developed for use within a LAN, there are security issues when used over the internet. When you plan to access a remote PC at a remote location you should consider either a dedicated modem or isdn dialup connection, a VPN tunnel, or wrap all VNC traffic with SSL.

Here are the most popular VNC variants and some associated applications:


cotVNC

cotVNC (“Chicken of the VNC”) is another VNC client for Mac OS X.

EchoVNC

Based on UltraVNC, this VNC flavor allows tunneling NAT firewalls by using a public gateway server and providing encrypted data transfers. The gateway server software may be licensed at a very reasonable price, making this an interesting alternative for building a customer support infrastructure.

Mocha VNC

This is a VNC client für Windows Mobile (Pocket PC), Palm OS und Nokia 9300/9500 mobile phones. Mocha VNC is sold as shareware.

NET VNC Viewer

Free VNC viewer for PDAs and smartphones using Windows Mobile 2003 and..NET Compact Framework. .NET VNC Viewer is still in Beta..

RealVNC

This is a version developed by some spin-off developers from AT&T. The RealVNC team is also offering a commecial enterprise version and has developed a very interesting box called KVM-via-IP that promises to make any KVM switch remotely accessivle over TCP/IP.and accessible with any VNC viewer.

SmartCode VNC Manager

SmartCode VNC Manager is a powerful remote administration and monitoring software for business and home network environments. It can be used for remote network management, remote system administration and in helpdesk environments. It allows you to take remote control of any computer running VNC, Windows Terminal Servers or Microsoft Virtual Server 2005.

SupportAnyPC

Commercial tool based on UltraVNC SC featuring some added features compared to the free SC version. It is also able to traverse NAT firewalls at the customers site without the need for opening ports or any other modification. As with UltraVNC SC this is achieved through a reverse connection mechanism, where the host (customer) initiates a tcp connection to the viewer (support) instead of the normal connection that is opened by a VNC viewer.

TeamViewer

TeamViewer is a VNC based solution intended for making ad-hoc remote connections between PCs within a workgroup. They have concentrated on ease of use and it works even without local administrative rights, which makes it somewhat unique compared to the mainstream VNC flavors. There is also a companion product called DynGate which acts as a gateway between the internet and local TeamViewer / VNC clients and is also able to work over NAT firewalls.

UltraVNC tip

This enhanced VNC version is considered by many as the most advanced version for mainstream applications. UltraVNC offers a file transfer function, enhanced compression an video handling (video hook driver), and a chat function. Recently they even added seamless windows support, making it possible to remotly control a single remote program window instead of the whole desktop..

UltraVNC SC tip02

This is an UltraVNC variant with extremely small footprint (166k) intended for help desk and customer support via a single windows EXE-file that can be sent to customers via mail or offered for download from a web server. The UltraVNC SC program needs neither installation nor does it require local administration rights and it is able to tunnel most NAT firewalls / routers without any modification or configuration. Documentation has improved somewhat recently but is still somewhat lacking, as with most small open source projects.. Here.is a typical UltraVNC SC implementation used by an IT support company for online remote support over the internet.

Vine Server / Viewer

Full iMac VNC server and viewer implementations for OS X and OS 9, formerly called OS9vnc and OSXvnc.

VNC Admin Console tip

This VNC management program comes in handy when more as just a few VNC hosts are to be administered and there is no full fledged management suite available wher VNC host adresses can be intergrated. VNC Admin Console is a commercial product but very well designed and highly usable.

VNC for NetWare

VNC implementation for Novell Netware servers. Too bad that VNC for Netware does not support servers older than Netware 5.1 and that it also depends heavily on Java. Starting with Netware 6.5 it is possible to remote control the Java XConsole, which makes this software invaluable.

VNC tight

Another enhanced VNC version that is offered free with GPL licensing. VNC tight has significantly improved compression algorithms and added file transfer support. Since the release of UltraVNC the development activities of this version seem to have slowed down somewhat.

VNC

Legacy version, today only used for reference and compatibility testing.



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