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TECH REVIEW

By Ron Scopelliti

VNC Connect remote access software

Have you ever been out somewhere and wished you could access a document or web link on your home computer? Or maybe you’d like to help a friend deal with software issues by accessing his or her desktop remotely. While there are a number of options in remote access software, the one I chose to explore was VNC Connect, by RealVNC. One of my primary reasons for looking into VNC Connect is that I wanted to use it on a Raspberry Pi computer that I’ve been experimenting with, and VNC Connect software comes pre-installed with the standard Raspberry Pi setup package.

Getting the software up and running requires you to sign up for a RealVNC account, and in my case, I signed on for a free “Home” plan, which is for non-commercial use only. RealVNC also offers professional plans with more features and access options starting at $40 per year. The Home plan allows up to 3 users to connect to up to 5 computers.

While security was an initial concern, my research left me satisfied with RealVNC’s safety record. All remote control sessions are encrypted, and authenticated. Passwords are required for signing into your account and your remote control sessions, and multi-factor authentication is available.

As for privacy, RealVNC is very clear about what information they collect, and what they do to protect users’ privacy. While many privacy policies are presented as a long, hard-to-read PDF, RealVNC presents theirs as a very readable and comprehensive web page.

Getting started with VNC Connect requires a few steps. Once you have an account set up, there are two components: VNC Server has to be installed on the computer you’d like to control, while VNC Viewer has to be installed on the device you’d like to run it from.

In my case, after enabling the pre-installed VNC Server software on my Raspberry Pi, I installed VNC Viewer on a Linux-based laptop PC. I then decided to download the VNC Viewer app to my iPhone. I also installed VNC Server on a Windows 10 desktop PC.

So far all of the Viewer/Server combos have functioned acceptably, but where VNC Connect has really shined is with my Raspberry Pi. Because the single-card computers are often used for Internet of Things and physical computing projects, it can be inconvenient to keep them connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VNC Connect frees you from that, and lets you run the Raspberry Pi from a remote computer, just as if you were running it directly.

The version of VNC Server that comes with the Raspberry Pi also has some features that are unavailable to Home account users on other platforms. It allows file transfer, chat, and printing from the Raspberry Pi – features that are usually available only to Professional or Enterprise accounts. While there are other ways to transfer files and chat between computers once they’re connected, the built-in features of VNC Connect are particularly handy, especially if your Raspberry Pi isn’t hooked to peripherals like a printer or scanner.

So far I’ve found the software easy to use and effective, whether using it via Wi-Fi in my house, or over 4G on my iPhone. While playing Windows Solitaire over a remote connection was a little choppy, I’ve been more than happy with the more typical tasks I’ve performed with the software.