01 Communique – I’m InTouch 7.1 review

hosted remote PC access and remote control
Photo of 01 Communique – I’m InTouch 7.1
from $9.95 per month (approx. £7) for Standard version

One of a number of hosted remote access services to hit the market in recent years, I’m InTouch provides the usual facilities to connect to and remotely control your desktop PC when out and about.

In addition, however, you also get support for wireless mobile devices and the ability to connect to your Outlook inbox rather than have to navigate the remote desktop every time. Plus, in the latest 7.1 release, it’s possible to wake up an otherwise switched off remote PC.

The Standard implementation of I’m InTouch is aimed at individual users, but we tested the Premium service ($12.5 per month per PC) which has features oriented towards small business customers. For our tests we used PCs running XP and Vista, but the software can be used with any version of Windows from 98 onwards.

Installation takes a while but is pretty straightforward. We started by creating an account via Canadian developer 01 Communique’s website after which we were able to activate a licence for each of the PCs we wanted to access, giving each a unique name for later identification.

We were then sent an email containing a link to the client download. This takes a few minutes to install, but it’s not difficult and once up and running the client maintains an outbound connection with the special 01 location server so firewalls and proxy servers aren’t normally a problem.

Indeed, all you need to do to remotely connect to one of your PCs is open a browser, enter the URL of the 01 location server and either type in the name of the PC you want or, if using the Premium version, login and select it from a list.

Of course you’ll also need to supply a valid username and password and, if you want full remote control, there’s a Java applet called the Remote Desktop Viewer which you’ll need to install. Fortunately you’re prompted to do this when you connect and, if Java isn’t available or downloads are blocked, you can choose to simply transfer files back and forth or connect to your Outlook inbox on the remote PC instead.

These reduced options don’t need the viewer and are very useful if connecting via a smartphone or other mobile device where full remote control isn’t practical. The Outlook option also gives access to your contacts and calendar and can be used with Outlook Express and Windows Mail on Vista as well as the full Outlook client. Added to which it’s possible to configure the I’m InTouch host to send an email to your wireless device to let you know when messages associated with specific accounts or from specific senders are received.

As well as remote control and email access, you can also transfer files and view a remote webcam using I’m InTouch. Covert surveillance of, for example, children’s use of a home PC is another feature.

Security is catered for in a number of ways. The 01 location server, for example, is only used to establish the connection, the remote PC/device then communicating directly with the host PC over a secure 128-bit SSL link.

Moreover, usernames and passwords are only ever stored on the target PCs rather than any of the 01 servers. The Premium service also adds centralised management of host PCs and the ability to use physical logon tokens for extra security.

Performance is, of course, largely determined by the available bandwidth. We, however, tested it using both fixed line and mobile broadband connections and were impressed with the results even when using a mobile device in areas of poor 3G coverage.

The remote wake-up option was useful, too, enabling us to connect to a PC even though it had been switched off to save energy. Remote PCs can even be switched off again when you’ve finished, although remote wake-up is only available if you subscribe to the I’m InTouch Premium service and requires a separate, always-on, wake-up proxy PC on the remote LAN in order to work.

Company: 01 Communique

Contact: 001 905 795 2888


Verdict
An affordable alternative to conventional remote access products, the hosted I'm InTouch service is both secure and easy to use. It compares well on price and performance against other such services and stands out through its support for wireless mobile devices, direct access to Outlook data and the ability to power remote PCs on and off.