RemotelyAnywhere Offers Strong Remote Admin

Hands On

Sometimes the task of reviewing a product is more fun than work. Such was the case with version 2.33 of RemotelyAnywhere, a utility from Binary Research Int'l Inc. that provides remote administrative capabilities for Windows NT workstations and servers.

Although RemotelyAnywhere comes in a small package -- an install file of 1.5 MB -- it provides remote administrative functionality commensurate with some of its bigger and more feature-complete brethren such as PCAnywhere 32 from Symantec Corp. (www.symantec.com). Using RemotelyAnywhere, administrators can remotely control a host computer, start and stop processes, view event files, edit registry keys, schedule tasks and manage files, users and services -- all through a simple Web browser interface.

Installing RemotelyAnywhere was a snap. It's packaged as a setup file that installs itself as a Windows NT service and runs as an HTTP daemon. We installed RemotelyAnywhere on a Windows NT Enterprise Edition PDC test system and on a Windows NT 4.0 Workstation on which we perform task-oriented work. We set up the system to access the RemotelyAnywhere daemon using Web browsers on a separate Windows NT workstation that was physically attached to the network and a Windows 95 laptop using TCP/IP over a dial-up PPP connection to an Internet Service Provider.

The RemotelyAnywhere service listens -- by default -- on port 2000 of a workstation or server's IP address. RemotelyAnywhere also supports Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) authentication and listens for SSL connections on port 2001 by default. RemotelyAnywhere's standard TCP/IP and more secure SSL port configurations can be adjusted by administrators through an ability to grant or deny user access based on Windows NT login credentials, IP addresses or both.

Connecting to a RemotelyAnywhere host is as simple as opening a Web browser and entering the URL of the host machine, followed by a colon and the port number of the RemotelyAnywhere daemon. A user is then presented with a challenge response that requests a Windows NT username and password. Administrators can choose to enable Windows NTLM authentication -- NT's secure authentication method -- but should do so in Internet Explorer-only environments: Netscape Navigator does not support NTLM.

RemotelyAnywhere's granularity of control was impressive. The software has a number of access control configuration settings that provide stepped levels of control. The most basic access setting is one in which users with access to RemotelyAnywhere can obtain information about a host machine or read the RemotelyAnywhere help file -- and nothing else. RemotelyAnywhere also supports Windows NT's native access control list (ACL) restrictions: Logging in as an ordinary user, I was permitted access only to drives, directories and files for which I had been given ACL permissions.

The range of administrative control is comprehensive. Using RemotelyAnywhere we could start or stop most Windows NT services, with the exception of the RemotelyAnywhere service itself, as well as device drivers. Scheduling tasks in the RemotelyAnywhere environment is easier than the command-line based approach we were accustomed to in the past. Using RemotelyAnywhere, we were able to easily edit the registry of another machine that had a video card refresh rate mistakenly set too high to function, locking out an inexperienced user.

Like most remote control applications, RemotelyAnywhere suffers from the bandwidth constraints of a dial-up connection. Performance wasn't too bad, however. Using the 33.6 Kbps throughput of our Windows 95 laptop's modem, we could negotiate the same series of tasks -- albeit at a slower speed compared with the network-attached workstation.

RemotelyAnywhere is unique because it is small and still packs a powerful administrative punch. While it lacks some of the functionality provided by more robust remote management/remote control tools, RemotelyAnywhere smartly leverages NT's native management APIs to provide a wealth of capabilities with an ultra-light footprint.

RemotelyAnywhere 2.33
Binary Research Int'l Inc.
Glendale, Wis.
(888) 446-7898
www.binaryresearch.net
Price: Single license, $99 each; 10 to 49 licenses, $75 each; 100+ licenses, $45 each

+ Leverages Windows NT's native management API infrastructure
+ Ultra-light footprint, powerful remote administrative capabilities
+ Leverages familiar Web browser interface

- Netscape users cannot take advantage of Windows NT's secure NTLM authentication method