TeamViewer vs VNC
Today, we are going to give you an overview of TeamViewer vs VNC and compare their strengths and weaknesses, to help you decide which one is the best remote desktop tool for you.
Remote desktop tools allow users, who have the right permissions, to connect to remote systems and take control of them, just as they sit behind them. In our previous posts, we have compared Remote Desktop Connection vs TeamViewer and Remote Desktop Connection vs VNC. It’s time to put the Microsoft’s product away, for a few minutes, and confront TeamViewer vs VNC, head-to-head.
History of TeamViewer vs VNC
Virtual Network Computing (VNC) was first created in the 1990s, at the Olivetti & Oracle Research Lab in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The software is based on the Remote Frame Buffer protocol (RFB) that was also developed at the Olivetti Research Lab. RFB is a simple protocol to remotely connect to graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
The lab was closed a few years after, but since RFB and VNC have been open-source from the beginning, after the closing of the lab, several groups decided to continue the VNC project, that resulted in the creation of a variety of new VNC implementations, including PocketVNC, TigerVNC, TightVNC, TurboVNC and UltraVNC.
One of the most important groups that did not give up on VNC after the closing of the lab in 2002, consisted of some of the main developers of the original VNC. They decided to continue what they had started, so they formed a new company called RealVNC Ltd. and succeeded to improve VNC and released several new VNC-based products. In 2013, the terms "VNC" and “RFB” were claimed as registered trademarks by RealVNC Ltd.
First released in 2005 by the German company TeamViewer GmbH, TeamViewer is also considered a veteran among the remote desktop tools. But in contrast to the original VNC software, TeamViewer has not stopped improving and the German company has been releasing new versions of the TeamViewer software with better features and functionality, every other year.
Cross-compatibility in TeamViewer vs VNC
TeamViewer is free for personal use but purchasing a license is required for commercial use. VNC is a free software package, released under the GNU General Public License. As for the modern VNC forks, some of them such as UltraVNC and TightVNC are free, but some others need to be paid for. For example, VNC Connect by RealVNC Ltd. is free for personal use but needs a license in order to be used for business.
TeamViewer is available for many platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, ChromeOS, Raspberry Pi, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry.
A problem with TeamViewer is that it lacks backward-compatibility, i.e. the older and newer versions of the TeamViewer software are not compatible with each other. So if all your team members have a certain version, you should be careful not to update yours, or else, you may face compatibility problems.
Unlike some other remote desktop protocols, the RFB protocol is designed to work at the frame buffer level . The frame buffer (aka video Ram or VRAM) is a part of random-access memory (RAM) that contains the current image (frame) in the form of a bitmap of pixels. The frame buffer is placed between the computer processor and the display. So, the images are first read by the processor as data from some form of main (non-video) RAM and then, they are written to the frame buffer and can be sent to the display as a digital signal. This model enables the RFB protocol to keep the requirements of the client to a minimum. As a result, RFB and VNC can be used regardless of the machine’s operating system. This gives VNC a great advantage over its rivals, in terms of cross-compatibility. Although this is not necessarily the case in all the modern variants of VNC, considering several of them exist out there, you can certainly find VNC client and server applications for virtually any desktop or mobile platform, including Java. For example, VNC Connect is available for both the server and viewer sides in Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX. It is also available in Chrome, iOS and, Android to be used on the viewer side. Plus, VNC Connect does have backward-compatibility.
So far, it looks like VNC and its diverse forks have the upper hand in terms of cross-compatibility in the TeamViewer vs VNC battle, but TeamViewer has the advantage of being better equipped when it comes to mobile platforms. Even the most powerful VNC variants do not have much to say when it comes to mobile devices. For example, VNC Connect does not have any solution for Windows phone, and even for Android and iOS devices, VNC Connect can only be used by the viewer side, i.e. using VNC Connect, you can control your PC from an Android or iOS smartphone, but you cannot control your mobile phone from a PC. But TeamViewer allows mobile to mobile, desktop to mobile, mobile to desktop and desktop to desktop connections for many Android, iOS and Windows phone devices. In fact, TeamViewer’s QuickSupport was the very first remote desktop app in the industry that allowed full remote control access to Windows Phones. QuickSupport also has versions for iOS and Android smartphones. In addition to offering remote desktop apps for Android mobile phones and tablets, TeamViewer cooperates with more than 100 prominent original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Philips and BenQ, to provide other Android-powered commercial-grade devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) systems, point of sale machines (POS), interactive kiosks, and digital signage, with remote solutions.
So yes, VNC and its modern forks are very cross-compatible, but if you need to access mobile devices, TeamViewer can be a better option.
Security in TeamViewer vs VNC
As a simple and old software package, it’s normal that the traditional VNC is not created with enough security strength for the age of the hackers. But, some of the modern VNC variants have tried to keep up with the times by investing more and more on security measures.
For example, RealVNC claims that even if one’s RealVNC account credentials are stolen or guessed, the hackers cannot connect to the VNC Server and control the person’s computer. They explain that to start a cloud connection to a remote system through VNC Connect, you must first log in to your RealVNC account, and then use your Active Directory or system credentials to do another authentication in order to connect to the VNC Server app running on the remote PC. So remote access is not controlled solely by one password.
Additionally, VNC Connect supports two-factor authentication (2FA) for all its authentication systems.
RealVNC accounts can be protected by TOTP codes, and VNC Server can be more secured by using multiple passwords, digital certificates and authorization operations using the Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service ( RADIUS is a client/server protocol that prevents unauthorized access to networks.
Plus, if someone tries to log in to your RealVNC account from a suspicious place, a confirmation email will be sent to the user.
As for TeamViewer, it secures its traffic by using RSA public/private key exchange and AES (256 bit) session encryption. The private key only stays on the client computer and never leaves it, therefore, none of the connecting computers in between, not even the TeamViewer routing servers, can decrypt the data stream.
TeamViewer has whitelist and blacklist features that enable you to define lists of TeamViewer IDs and/or accounts that are permitted to or blocked from requesting to access your computer.
Besides, in order to resist against brute-force attacks, TeamViewer increases the latency between connection attempts, exponentially. For instance, a hacker would need 17 hours for 24 attempts. It only reset the latency after a successful login.
Nonetheless, using remote desktop tools inevitably exposes your system and information to some level of risk, so, it’s best to listen to the recommendations of security specialists and personally keep your system in a good place, security-wise. Because several security incidents have happened to remote desktop users, so far, and definitely, we have not seen the end of such incidents, yet. So as they say, better safe than sorry!
Features and properties of TeamViewer VS VNC
The classic VNC is a very simple piece of software that does not offer many options and features. So when comparing TeamViewer vs VNC, in terms of their additional capabilities, we try to also have a glance at VNC’s modern forks, which support a wider range of options. With that in mind, let’s compare TeamViewer VS VNC, in some remaining aspects.
- Installing TeamViewer and getting it started for the first time is easier than VNC. TeamViewer also gives you the option of "run-only", if you want to use TeamViewer to do a one-time remote session, without actually installing it. This can be especially useful for a quick remote assistance or tech support session for a client who doesn't want to fully install TeamViewer.
- Comparing to TeamViewer and some other modern remote desktop software, VNC does not have a very efficient protocol, therefore, it needs to transit rather large amounts of data during its sessions. So the remote sessions can be faster in TeamViewer vs VNC, especially in places with low bandwidth.
- Unlike many modern VNC variants such as TightVNC and UltraVNC, the original VNC cannot transfer files. TeamViewer has 3 options for transferring files, including transferring files through Copy and Paste and file manager in all platforms, as well as Drag and Drop file transfer that currently is only available for the Windows users.
- In VNC and TeamViewer, both the local and remote users can see what is going on the screen of the remote system. This makes them good options for remote assistance.
- Many modern VNC implementations including RealVNC, TightVNC, TigerVNC, TurboVNC, and UltraVNC allow unlimited simultaneous connections. But in TeamViewer, the maximum number of simultaneous connections one can have depends on their subscription type and only goes up to 15 for the highest tier.
- You can connect to a remote system through either the Internet or a local network, in TeamViewer and VNC, both.
- TeamViewer and some of the modern VNC forks such as VNC connect and UltraVNC offer chat tools.
- TeamViewer has a feature to allow you to record the remote session. You can either manually turn on recording whenever you decide to record a session or set TeamViewer to automatically record all sessions. It also gives you the option of converting your recorded session into an AVI file with a simple click. VNC does not have this feature.
- TeamViewer has a Wake-on-LAN feature that allows turning on a computer that is in sleep mode or even turned off. VNC does not offer any similar options.
- TeamViewer only supports audio sharing in Windows. VNC and many of its forks do not support audio. RealVNC offers audio sharing for Windows and Linux users who have purchased the Professional and Enterprise editions.
As open-source and free software, VNC still has many believers, over two decades after its first introduction. As a result, today, there are several modern VNC variants in the world and some of them offer many interesting options.
On the other hand, TeamViewer is a very powerful remote desktop tool that is installed on over two billion devices around the world. TeamViewer has many amazing features and abilities, including offering a wide range of remote desktop services for mobile phones, including many Windows phones, Android and iOS devices.
In the end, it is up to you to decide which remote desktop tool can fulfill your needs the best. It is also ultimately up to you, to make sure you have secured your remote desktop sessions and your computer in general, by taking sufficient security measures, including setting up a powerful firewall.