PCAnywhere Gets an Upgrade for Its Birthday

Symantec is adding new gateway options and other new features to its 20-year-old remote control software, PCAnywhere.

Symantec on March 14 will show desktop administrators how to teach an old dog new tricks when it launches the next major release of its 20-year-old remote control software, PCAnywhere.

Along with version 12.0 of the widely used remote desktop management software, which emphasizes simpler connectivity and greater scalability, the Cupertino, Calif. company will also introduce a new PCAnywhere Access Server to facilitate connectivity from anywhere to anywhere.

PCAnywhere 12.0 includes a new gateway that addresses the challenges of connecting to remote PCs and laptops through firewalls, routers, Network Address Translation devices and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol IP address assignment through a new gateway option.

The gateway, which performs local, real-time scanning on the local network, allows administrators to create a single access channel for all incoming connections to a host machine.

"That way, Im not opening ports in the firewall or redirecting ports for each [remote] device I want to connect to," said Mike Baldwin, senior product manager at Symantec in Newport News, Va.

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"And I dont need to worry about what my IP addresses are for those host [remote] computers. If I can recognize the host name, it doesnt matter if those hosts use dynamic IP address assignment," he added.

The gateway option is installed on a machine in a central location. It does not require a dedicated PC.

Symantec also added a new host invitation feature that allows remote host machines to invite remote control sessions, simplifying the process of calling a waiting remote control device.

Administrators can create a host invitation file that can be installed on a host and represented as an icon on the users screen. It can also be posted on a Web page for the help desk or it can be e-mailed to the user.

"When the user selects the icon, it extends a handshake backwards to [the help desk]. When the help desk sees it, the connection proceeds as if it were a forward facing connection. You still have to get by the same security hurdles as if it were a forward connection, but you dont need to know an IP address," explained Baldwin.

In making the remote control software more scaleable, Symantec extended both host and remote platform support to Apple Computers Mac OS X operating system as well as Windows XPe and WEPOS embedded operating systems.

Embedded OS support allows help desks to execute remote control sessions with kiosks, cash registers and other host devices. The Mac OS X support also extends to browsers that operate with that operating system.

Beyond such improvements, Symantec also modified PCAnywheres user interface to accommodate more novice users working with the remote control software.

The changes help users unfamiliar with the tool to quickly get up to speed starting from a basic view with more limited options. Users can easily toggle between the basic and more advanced views.

A new multipane view also allows administrators or help desk operators to view multiple, concurrent remote control sessions across different host operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The multipane view can be used to monitor tasks such as software distributions.

Symantec exploited the new host invitation function to create the PCAnywhere Access Server, which facilitates discovery of hosts and passes connection through to a central server.

The Access Server, a separately priced option, is intended for small and midsize businesses, VARs and management service providers to help them support both internal and external clients.

It allows them to discover and connect to multiple PCAnywhere hosts from a secure, centralized access point, regardless of location or network configuration.

"It works on a model similar to instant messaging. You dont need to know the IP address or device name. It will show up if youre online," Baldwin said.

It is due in the second quarter. Symantec PCAnywhere 12.0 is due at months end.

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