Enterprise Software

Review: RealVNC for remote control software

Jack Wallen evaluates RealVNC for remote administration of desktops and servers. See if it's the best option for you or your organization.

Being able to gain remote access to a machine is often crucial to an administrators' job. Whether it is remotely administering a machine or taking control of an end-user's machine to resolve various issues with their machines. This is actually not a challenging step with so many tools like LogMeIn and TeamViewer. But if you are one of those that doesn't like to use third-party tools, or want to have more control over how this connection is made, you might want to venture into the realm of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual Network Computing (VNC).

One such tool for this task is RealVNC. RealVNC was created by the original develpers of VNC, so you know you can trust the tool to work -- and work well. This tool will allow you to easily take control of your remote desktops. But is it the tool that will perfectly suit your needs? Let's take a look and find out.

Requirements

RealVNC supports Windows, Linux, Mac, UNIX

NOTE: Linux version requires libstdc++-libc6.

Who's it for?

RealVNC is not for everyone. RealVNC requires a much deeper understanding of both networking and computers, in general. RealVNC is perfect for administrators needing to gain access to machines from any type of operating system. With RealVNC you are not locked into using only one tool. You can connect to a Windows-installed RealVNC server from any VNC client on any supported operating system.

What problem does it solve?

RealVNC allows administrators to gain remote access to their (or end users') machines from anywhere and from any supported operating system. And unlike some other VNC tools, RealVNC comes complete with both server and client, so you can install everything you need in one package. With this tool you can handle remote administration without having to worry about third-party tools. And with the enterprise-level application, you can also chat with your end user so you don't have to tie up the phone while trying to administer support to a client.

Key features

NOTE: Not all features are in all versions.

  • Multiple OS support
  • 2048 RSA Server Authentication
  • 128-bit AES session encryption
  • Printing
  • One-port HTTP and VNC
  • HTTP proxy support
  • Dedicated help and support channel
  • File transfer
  • Address book
  • Built-in chat
  • Desktop scaling
  • Platform-native authentication
  • Deployment tools (Windows only)

Configuration window

From the configuration window you set up the type of authentication you need. It is best to ensure authentication is used, otherwise anyone will have access to a VNC connection on your machine.

What's wrong?

The biggest issue with RealVNC is the learning curve. You are not dealing with the standard remote access tools. With RealVNC you have a server and a client component. In order to connect to the machine you will have to have the server running and properly configured. This is not something just any user can do. So if you are an administrator hoping to use RealVNC for remote support, you better have initial access to that machine to get the server up and running or you will have to deal with helping an end user to get a server started and correctly configured.

Bottom line for business

With RealVNC it boils down to this - if you need a powerful means to remotely administer servers (or desktop machines) you can't go wrong with this tool. If, on the other hand, you need a very user-friendly tool that any user can start and give you access to their machines, you should look for another solution. RealVNC is not new-user friendly by any stretch of the imagination. Does that mean it's difficult to use? Not if you are an administrator.

Competitive products

User rating

Have you deployed RealVNC? If so, how well would you recommend this tool to another user or administrator? Share your thoughts with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

56 comments
JAverett100
JAverett100

For commercial use we use ScreenConnect. The software is rather new to the scene- but we made the switch about a year ago. We were previously using Bomgar because like SC, it is self-hosted. We prefer a self-hosted solution for security and speed. http://www.screenconnect.com

MariaJones
MariaJones

RHUB (http://www.rhubcom.com/) is as excellent as any other contemporary remote support tool. It provides unattended remote support and comfortable with Windows (Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, 7) and Mac as well.

Nunob
Nunob

http://www.realvnc.com/products/viewerplus/index.html Have used Real VNC for years now and I have had great success with it. I like the ability to connect with Java from a web browser so I don't have to load the client on a system if say I am onsite for a client and need to assist another client. Recently I purchased a new Intel i7 vPro that has http://www.realvnc.com/products/viewerplus/index.html builtin. I can reboot the computer remotely and watch the whole reboot process even modufy BIOS settings. I do agree that it takes more than the average person to set it up particularly if the port needs opened on a firewall but all in all this product is nice and has most of the features I need.

ZiurJam
ZiurJam

I've been using teamviewer for awhile without any problem whatsoever! The refresh speed is amazing in comparison with other remote control software. Even when I use the teamviewer iphone version, under 3G of course.

skipcgb@frontier.com
skipcgb@frontier.com

As a Technology Consultant to small businesses, I have use RealVNC for five or six years and found it very reliable and easy to use. As noted by others here ? it does take networking skills to configure the installation, but is very user friendly after that. Before using RealVNC, I used PcAnywhere for several years. Compared to PcAnywhere, RealVNC ran faster and used less CPU and Ram resources. It is not quite as good at connecting to a remote computer engaged in running other resource intensive processes - such as installing major updates from Microsoft, but usually reconnects when the remote machine has completed such activities. RealVNC also generally drops a connection when logging out of a remote Windows desktop, or switching users on the remote machine, which PcAnywhere did not do, but in just a few seconds RealVNC easily reconnects with just a mouse click. RealVNC has also worked quite well on several occasions when two to four remote PCs have connected to the same host for desktop conferencing or collaboration. The one issue I would advise users to be aware of is to change the default port numbers of 5900 and 5901 used by RealVNC, since hackers are aware of those ports and scan for them. Use instead unassigned port ranges from the IANA list at http://www.iana.org/assignments/port-numbers. I haven?t tried TightVNC or UltraVNC for a long time, so I would not make a recommendation on which is better, but the latest version of RealVNC has performed quite well on more than forty systems I have installed it on. Another recommendation I would give is for the CrossLoop remote connection system. The free version provides a VNC like desktop connection with very little installation and a simple secure desktop link that does not require setting up TCP addresses and port numbers for either the remote or the host, since both log into the CrossLoop server and use a password to connect the two machines, at which time either cmputer can become the host or the client.

Derteufel
Derteufel

somehwat user unfriendly, just slighly in that you must configure it when you set it up so you can connect at a later date, OR use the deployment tool! You can deploy VNC to computers on the subnet and configure all the password and connection parameters from a console.

LCH-IT
LCH-IT

I use the paid RealVNC version, after having tried UltraVNC as well. The biggest benefit for me is that does not start a new desktop session on the remote computer. Our HIM software runs on the Server Consonle Desktop and starting a new connection with MS Remote Desktop hijacks some of the services from the console, and causes them to fail to work properly (printing especially) Our HIM vendor specifically prohibits RDP connections to servers running their software because of this. I use it only internally on our network, not for an outside connection through the firewall.

tinyang
tinyang

I use the free version of RealVNC for my XP clients, but it does not support or work on my Vista or w7 clients. I have to use UltraVNC on those. I prefer any flavor of VNC over any other remote control software because it is a simple, fast, no frills tool. It never seemed to me as if it required more knowledge of networking and such as you claim Jack. One catch is that using RealVNC to connect to an UltraVNC client does not work. For my mobile clients which I may need to access anywhere, I use the free version of logmein, and it does the job, but it is so slow and clunky compared to any flavor of VNC.

cliff
cliff

I use UltraVNC and have been very happy with it. One of the nice features of this package is the "Single Click" version of the server side software. The user has nothing to configure. They download and start it. Done. And it leaves no mess behind because it doesn't install anything or touch the registry. Great for those one-off tech support sessions.

nguyenvinh.thuong
nguyenvinh.thuong

It is very good tool for remoting control computer. Is it free software ?

TBBrick
TBBrick

Have used Real, Tight, and Ultra VNC, in the past. All have their strengths, but being I'm in a fully M$ environment, I do prefer Dameware. http://www.dameware.com/ Once in a blue moon I'll have a VPN user that DW can't connect to, so I crank up a Bomgar session. http://www.bomgar.com/

robkraft
robkraft

My only concern with the VNC products is their security when used over the Internet. If I put a good password on them and open the port to the VNC server in the router, is it difficult to hack? Or should I require a VPN connection first then the use of VNC? Obviously adding the VPN is more secure, but is VNC alone secure enough?

chris240ph
chris240ph

RealVNC is better than TightVNC but UltraVNC is the best! That's what I'm using on all workstations & Servers

kschmechel
kschmechel

We use TeamViewer here. It's free and the learning curve is very low.

kalumbwa
kalumbwa

I use RealVNC Enterprise and it has proved to be reliable. It works well for me.

adekunlejob
adekunlejob

I am comfortable with Teamviewer, although I have not try REalVNC before.

peter
peter

I use it for many years now and it works fine. i want to know about the new product that Vnc has anounced (with Intel)

chris.lambert
chris.lambert

I tried RealVNC sometime back as an option to manage my clients servers and desktops. I found it to be to much hassle and connecting to be up and down. I was then recommended LogMeIn.com and have been using it ever since. Works much better first time and I've never had a problem connecting to a desktop.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

RealVNC has been the remote solution I've been using for years. Some firewalls may give a security warning, and some malware products will report it, but I've never had a problem. It's an AWESOME product.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Some examples like it hates wireless. If the target is on wireless, its a battle to connect. The initial setup has some oddities. You have to go to the connections tab, delete the entries, click add, leave the boxes blank and choose OK. This will add an all 0's entry that will allow computers to connect to it. It's also very laggy, even over a LAN or WAN. Compared to Windows native RDP, screen refresh can take twice as long, pointer delay is a very big issue. I have also noticed if you leave a viewer running and connected without using it for a bit, the viewer will mysteriously disappear, but the connection will stay open (evident by router traffic over the network and network adapter usage). The viewer cannot be closed or reopenend, the only solution is to restart the the computer that was running the viewer. With these issues aside, the tool works pretty good and I find it handy at home and office.

lfloyd
lfloyd

We been using RealVNC for a while now. Love it. Cannot live with out it. When our machines are setup, we install this automatically. Recently starting using TinyVNC because I could not deploy RealVNC on a Windows2008 server. The one thing I like better is that TinyVNC has a toolbar that allows me one click access to things like Ctrl+Alt+Del. We administer around 350 desktops at 10 locations. I looked at using other products, but have not found one that works as well or is as responsive as RealVNC.

HomePageOnline
HomePageOnline

Has anybody ever tried running Hamachi VPN to setup a VPN between the client and the remote machine and then running the remote access software? (Real, Ultra, Tight, VNC or even RDC) 1 No router/firewall configuration needed but I wonder if anybody would know if it would be more secure? You could run the Hamachi VPN on road warrior laptops to access them where ever they may be without worrying about firewalls. Any thoughts to this? FYI: Hamachi VPN has a free version.

lwalden@ebmud.com
lwalden@ebmud.com

I use Real VNC all the time to manage a number of Cisco servers as it is one of the only "authorized" methods for remote server management that Cisco recognizes. Not sure why the author finds it hard to configure the server. Install the software. Assign a password and you're good to go in most cases. I also use crossloop on the in-laws PC as Quest blocks normal VNC operations. For my Linux platforms I use NoMachine NX.

rader
rader

I've been using Bomgar for my support for over a year now and have retired most of my other remote access tools now. Customer training is as simple as "go to my site, click live help, click my name, run package, now you see me!" I still use Radmin, PC Anywhere or UltraVNC where needed and based on the client's network. Price into Bomgar is a little steep, but cost savings over time is the best. Sure beats the Citrix products that I've tested in the past.

rgodbey
rgodbey

I've begun using VNC in the LAN because I set it up on our images. Prior to that, we were using the original Network Associates RDP, which is laughable, and non-existent. I also use Teamviewer for ad-hoc remote sessions and Logmein.com for various remote support. I like them all, but for the LAN, RealVNC is pretty good, and quite fast.

mousejn
mousejn

Google "hacking realvnc". Any remote access has security risks. I block them at the firewall unless it's by VPN Access. The free version will get you dinged in a security audit because it stores passwords in plain text.

Harry44Callahan
Harry44Callahan

UltraVNC is the best free-bee of the VNCs, if you need the remote user to see what you're doing. If you want simplicity use Crossloop, and the server user can watch plus set it up. If you want speed use Windows RD but remote server user can not see what's happening. I haven't tried TeamViewer but reviews and comments look good. Is the free one as fast as the purchased one? http://www.dbuggr.com/milly/vnc-viewer-comparison-tightvnc-ultravnc-realvnc/

rickscr
rickscr

I was using ultra vnc for a while but found that when we upgraded to Office 2007 the Office Button was not viewable remotely. So we installed RealVNC, problem solved.

xmlmagician
xmlmagician

Teamviewer has been exceptional for our organisation...350 pcs over 20 sites with various connection types(wireless, leased lines, wireless)

Flx
Flx

I use this kind of software mainly to support customers. I use VNC, most because it's free, it works great but has a problem in the sense that many customers don't know the system and installing it you've to deal with router and firewall (it's The choice if you're in a LAN). I also use Logmein but found to have some problem sometime with screen refresh and with client on some system (it loads the html one). Up to now best experience is with Teamviewer, really easy for the customer to install (well nothing to install if you don't need to control machines alone), fast and solved all times the screen refresh problems I had with Logmein.

ireaneus
ireaneus

I checked this website out, it looks free to use. Is the free version limited? Also does it provide Remote Assistance / File sharing on linux and windows versions?

wookieshaver
wookieshaver

I have to say I have never seen the lag issue when using it across my lan whether the target was wireless or wired. Then again, I use the enterprise version of the product with timeouts on connections turned off and have been ever since I started using the product. Perhaps the enterprise products don't have as much issues or I'm spoiled in that regard.

Leonardo_C
Leonardo_C

I agree with the lag issue. Compared to RDP, it sucks. I use RDP for support to places where I have a PPTP connection already setup, logmein for helping out friends and VNC-based showmypc for cases where logmein fails.

narayana_murthy
narayana_murthy

No doubt about it; its a tool which any administrator can not live with it.

rbees
rbees

On the windows boxes I support remotely I use ultraVNC. It has all the features as RealVNC as I remember it. I have not tried RealVNC so I can't to lag time. On the linux boxes I support I us X11vnc because it will export the currently running desktop session. Something I have never succeeded it getting any other vncserver to do. It does not help the other user to log into their box to help them with a problem if you log into a different desktop session.

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

I use TightVNC on my MSWindows machines. Found it to be better than RealVNC. I use TightVNC to connect to my Linux (Ubuntu/Fedora) machines. All of my Linux machines are headless. This way I can lower the runlevel down to "3=multi-User, no GUI", ssh into box I need, start vncserver, then TightVNC. This means that my Linux box is running lean and my connection is secure. The only time I use RealVNC is on Lab Equipment (Oscilloscope, etc.). Both Agilent and Tektronix load RealVNC on their lab equipment for remote access. Works much better than Remote-Desktop, in fact RDP will not work correctly on Lab-Equipment-running-WinXP.

pgit
pgit

The only reason for VNC is when the remote user needs to see what you are doing and vice versa, eg showing them how to manipulate a cell in a spread sheet, where to find a particular tool etc. There is no reason to hog that much bandwidth and introduce the potential security breach to do remote admin which doesn't require an end user to be interacting with the session.

binarynomad
binarynomad

TeamViewer has been the best cross platform, low impact, firewall free, remote support tool I've ever used, and I can even manage clients from my iPhone. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone.

ireaneus
ireaneus

Yea, I am using that now for work and for personal home use, it is nice but doesn't have File sharing unless you pay for it. I am looking at testing TeamViewer because of its file sharing and built in chat, though logmein has that too.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

The free version will allow you to connect to 2 or 3 PCs without a problem. Try more than that and it will tell you that you're not playing fairly. I don't think there is a version for Linux per se, but they do have both a version for Windows and Mac.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Everyone connects to our main office (via VPN) so I just use Netmeeting. The user can see what I'm doing, chat, transfer files, etc all for free. Can't be any easier. I tell them: click on Start, Run, and type conf and click on Ok. When not on the VPN, I use CrossLoop.

scottvc
scottvc

I had this problem. Initially I thought is was the connection, but then I resolved it by ticking the 3 boxes under the Desktop tab in VNC Server Properties on the machine I want to connect to. Connections are much smoother and way less laggy.

dschlabach
dschlabach

If you are at all serious about security DO NOT use the free version... it is fully hackable (I've experienced it). Use the purchased version..

smack
smack

I've standardized on TightVNC, since there is a port of the client that runs on android ( http://code.google.com/p/android-vnc-viewer/ ). This means when ever I get a call where ever I am, I can jump onto machines right from my phone. This has impressed people every time! One day was at the beach and instead of saying will look into when I get home or to the office, I just popped on the server, fixed the problem and called them back 5 minutes later that the issue had been resolved.

Timian
Timian

I have used VNC for years and have found that it works in most cases but found that DameWare Mini Remote control wins hands down. With DameWare I never get the dropped connections and better connection performance.

derek
derek

Yes, as long as you have their logon id, you can logon to their machine as long as the client is loaded and they are connected to the internet. Ver 5 (latest) offers feature to allow 'partner' lists where I store all my clients for 1-click access, and it is also handy in that it tells me if their machine is online or offline.

Kevin@Quealy.net
Kevin@Quealy.net

We currently use Logmein and it's been great. What I really love is that I can log onto a remote computer without requiring the remote user to do anything. I can also log off a computer and log on as the local administrator without losing my remote connection. Does Teamviewer allow for this?

jamesTT
jamesTT

My opinion is that any version can be hacked, no matter if it is free or purchased. My suggestion is to have a registry cleaner application on your computer because most viruses and trojans hit there.

andz
andz

I haven't heard about it being hack-able before, would you mind telling us more, please? Thanks :-)

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

... and I would have simply agreed with you instead of writing my own post about it. :)

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

... but the most secure tool I've used for remote administration is Teamviewer. Yes, it costs more, but it is a LOT more secure than either VNC or Dameware. The reason I say that is that both of those products can be easily abused, but with Teamviewer, you know if someone has connected to your PC. If you try to disable the notifications, you essentially disable the client....

mloucel
mloucel

TEAMVIEWER that has solved 100% of ALL of my headaches and it works like a charm, sorry VNC but TeamViewer Kick ass.

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