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.


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.