Most Important Remote Desktop Features
There are many different remote desktop tools out there, each with a different set of features and options, so you may find it confusing and difficult to select the right choice. In this piece, we review some of the most important remote desktop features out there, to help you decide what you need to look for when trying to find the best remote desktop software to fulfill your needs.
Remote desktop software is a tool that allows end-users remotely connect to distant systems, through the Internet or a local network, and take over the remote computer like they are sitting at it. There is a wide range of remote desktop tools, but the most famous one is probably Windows’ built-in remote desktop protocol, called RDP. TeamViewer, AnyDesk, LogMeIn, Splashtop, and Chrome Remote Desktop are some of the other well-known remote desktop solutions.
File transfer is one of the most basic features you need in many common remote desktop uses. As a remote technical assistant, you often would need to copy files (apps, updates, etc.) from your computer to your client’s. If you work remotely, you may want to copy files from different work or personal systems to others. If you are part of a team, you probably need to exchange files with your teammates. In these scenarios and many others, file transfer is a necessity.
There are various ways to transfer files, in remote desktop apps. Some remote desktop software, such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection, AnyDesk, and TeamViewer allow file sharing through Copy and Paste synced clipboard. TeamViewer also lets Windows users transfer files via Drag and Drop. Another common way for transferring files in remote desktop tools is through a dedicated file manager.
Some remote access apps also offer a handy option that allows users to disable or limit file sharing, in one direction or both. For example, AnyDesk allows disabling clipboard transmission via its security settings. This option can be very important, for security reasons.
Note that if your remote desktop app does not have any built-in file sharing tool, you can still transfer files through some third-party software, but the transfer process may be slower and less efficient.
The ability to video record your remote sessions can be very important, especially in business and educational cases.
For example, for legal purposes, you may need to keep an official record of what you have done on your client’s system or your work computer, during a remote session. If you use a remote desktop to teach an employee or student how to use a certain program on their computer, they may want to record the session to be able to review it, later.
Some remote access apps, which offer this option may give you additional settings for your video session recording. For instance, AnyDesk and TeamViewer both let you either manually turn on recording whenever you decide to record a session or set the settings to automatically record all sessions. TeamViewer also lets you convert your recorded session into an AVI file with just a click.
Unattended access which lets the user access a host computer without requiring anyone present at it, is a must-have, especially for remote monitoring and telework. AnyDesk, Remote Desktop Connection, TeamViewer, and many other powerful remote access apps offer you unattended access.
To make unattended sessions more practical, a remote desktop app might let the two sides agree upon an unattended password, so that the remote user doesn't need to be present, even for the login process in the beginning of the remote session.
Optional screen blanking
Screen blanking is a feature that prevents the host system from showing what is currently being displayed on its screen while a remote computer is connected to it. In some cases, this feature can be important for security reasons. However, it can be a problem for purposes that require both sides to be able to see what’s going on screen, like remote education.
In some remote desktop software like Remote Desktop Connection, this is the only mode. When a remote computer connects to your system through Remote Desktop Connection, you cannot see or control your own screen. As soon as the remote user logins into your computer, your screen switches to a login screen for you, while the actual screen and what is happening on it can only be seen and controlled by the remote user, as if he/she is sitting at it.
Some other remote desktop apps let users decide whether they want their screen content to be visible during remote desktop sessions or not. For instance, TeamViewer allows the local user to see everything that the remote user is doing, by default, but it also offers screen blanking as an optional feature. However, currently, screen blanking in TeamViewer is only possible when connecting to Windows systems.
Allowing simultaneous session
More often than not, you are going to need to connect to more than one remote server. This is especially important in commercial uses, like remote support, where you are required to keep an eye on multiple remote systems, at the same time.
Many VNC variants including RealVNC, TightVNC, TigerVNC, TurboVNC, and UltraVNC allow unlimited simultaneous connections. In TeamViewer, the maximum number of simultaneous connections you can have depends on your license and only goes up to 15 for the highest license tier. In AnyDesk, the maximum number depends on your license. The Free and Lite license will only allow one simultaneous session. The Professional license allows for as many sessions as ordered and the Power license enables unlimited sessions for the number of active devices ordered.
Sometimes you need to remotely connect to a computer that is sleeping or even powered-off. Some remote desktop apps offer this option, which is called Wake-on-LAN. This can be especially helpful for providing more efficient unattended access for the users.
For example, using TeamViewer’s Wake-on-LAN feature you can turn on a sleeping or powered-off computer and then start a remote desktop session with it.
TeamViewer lets Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS users send the wake-up request to turn on a Windows or Linux system that is sleeping, hibernated, or even completely powered-off. As for the macOS systems, they cannot be remotely turned on by TeamViewer if they are fully powered-off, but they can be woken up from sleep mode.
Two-factor authentication (aka 2FA) is a type of multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication method in which a computer user’s claimed identity is verified only after successfully providing two or more pieces of evidence required by the authentication mechanism. So, unlike the traditional login method, in which you just need to know the password to a username, in 2FA you must present an additional key, too.
In this day and age, old passwords are not enough anymore, especially in a field like remote desktop connections that is proven to expose the systems to lots of potential risks. Therefore, some remote desktop software now offers this feature to users for extra safety. For example, AnyDesk has Two-Factor Authentication for the MyAnyDesk account, as well as for the AnyDesk client during a session request.
However, if the remote desktop application you are using does not offer a quality 2FA method, you can use third-party apps, instead. For example, SunFirewall offers remote client two-step verification for RDP users.
Session reporting and history log
Another necessary feature to make sure your system has not been compromised through remote desktop vulnerabilities and risks is having access to detailed reports of all your remote sessions. For example, TeamViewer has a built-in reporting features that records a complete history of all remote session activities and management console actions for all remote desktop connections.
There are third-party tools for this feature, as well. For example, Windows’s default remote desktop users can use SunFirewall to enjoy a comprehensive report of their RDP logs with informative tables, graphs, and maps.
We named a few of the most important features that can make your remote connection experience more satisfying. Features like file transfer, session recording, unattended access, optional screen blanking, allowing simultaneous session, wake-on-LAN, two-factor authentication, and detailed session reporting are among the most important remote desktop features that are required during many common usage of remote desktop software. That said, you may find some other features necessary, depending on your circumstances. For example, to up your remote desktop security, you may want to look for a remote desktop tool (or third-party remote desktop protecting software) that offers more security features.