TeamViewer is a favorite in administrator and helpdesk circles and holds quite a decent share of the RAT market.
A RAT is a program that is used by individuals, remote system administrators, or tech support personnel to remotely connect to a computer, server, or networking device across an Internet connection or via a local area network (LAN).
A RAT should not be confused with Remote Access Trojans – which are used for malicious purposes and share the same acronym. The only tools we will discuss here – the good RATs – tools that allow administrators and helpdesk technicians to remotely connect to, and access clients’ computers, wherever in the world they are located.
Despite TeamViewer being a popular tool, it doesn’t mean it should be your only option. Here are the best alternatives for TeamViewer:
- SolarWinds Dameware EDITOR’S CHOICE Solid set of 3 tools that offer multi-platform support for remote sessions with multi-factor authentication, AD management, and help desk integration. Two on-premise solutions, Dameware Mini Remote Control, and Dameware Remote Support, along with a SaaS Solution, Dameware Remote Everywhere. Try risk-free on a 14-day free trial.
- AnyDesk This is a popular RAT that has millions of users all over the world. It is a fast tool that uses data compression and encryption to create a great UX.
- RescueAssist This is a browser-based RAT that can be used to connect from, and to, almost any device that has a browser. Alternatively, an application can be downloaded to make it work.
- Zoho Assist A RAT tool that comes by way of a company that has established its brand in the collaboration and connectivity technology industry. Easily integrates with numerous applications for a broader performance capability.
- Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop Connection This is a native tool that comes with the Windows operating system. It is the best free alternative and can be used to basically take control of a host computer.
- WebEx Remote Access A Cisco RAT that comes as part of a bigger, conference solution. It is reliable, secure, and easily integrates into networks.
- RemotePC A cloud-based RAT. It has a light digital footprint and can be used for personal and business use. It comes with backup services.
- ltraVNC A tool made for Windows machines; this RAT is a small application with a tiny digital footprint.
- Chrome Remote Desktop This is a browser RAT from a popular browser company. It is easy to use and master, and yet, is an efficient and secure tool.
Why even bother to use a RAT?
Before we delve further into the details of each RAT, let’s have a look at why we would even need one:
- Eliminates the need for travel – there is no need to waste time and money traveling to site servers and remote computers when you can reach them from your desk.
- Easy file sharing – RATs facilitate the sharing of files between a client and host computers (and vice versa), irrespective of the distance between the two devices.
- Collaboration – more than one administrator can work on solving a problem.
- Cuts IT costs – businesses don’t need to invest in remote access network devices and software solutions (which are expensive); all that is required is a RAT and a LAN or Internet connection between the client and server devices.
- Personalized customer care – tech companies can offer better hands-on, one-on-one service to their clients, thus creating a positive rapport with them.
- Provide pro-active support – supporting, patching, and upgrading of computers and remote servers can be done without the need to be physically present on-site; this will raise tech-support service profiles as a business will be able to impress clients with high uptimes.
- Remote access for location-limited websites – some companies (PayPal is a good example) offer country-specific services. This means you won’t be able to get that service in case you are traveling because they may assume your account has been compromised and, thus, try to stop the “hackers.” Should you find yourself in such a situation, using a RAT tool would serve as a temporary solution.
Note regarding the last point: make sure using a RAT isn’t a violation of TOS (Terms of Services) as it could end up being a costly mistake including having your account shut down.
The Best TeamViewer Alternatives
SolarWinds is a tech company that is well-known for its innovative and robust solutions that are used for monitoring systems, networks, and other IT infrastructures.
The company also makes remote administration tools. As a matter of fact, they have three main remote support tools:
Dameware Mini Remote Control
Dameware Mini Remote Control is great alternative to TeamViewer that is small and has a tiny digital footprint. This on-site tool works on any device that is running Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux and also supports multiple sessions at a time.
Although it is small, Dameware Mini Remote Control packs a powerful punch: it doesn’t matter if the remote computer is on the same LAN or halfway across the world, whether it is attended or not, this tool will connect to it – even if it has been turned off or happens to have crashed.
More importantly, Dameware Mini Remote Control is a secure RAT. The authorization and role assignments are enhanced by the tool’s ability to integrate with Active Directory – guaranteeing tighter control over roles and privileges.
Dameware Remote Support
Dameware Remote Support is another on-site RAT; it is packed with even more advancedfeatures than the Mini Remote Control.
Among the features that stand out with this RAT is the fact that it can be used to manage a network’s security as well as its ability to manage user accounts and licenses. Meanwhile, the tool itself is secure – with multi-factor authentication or smart-card support. It integrates well with other SolarWinds products like Web Help Desktop which can be used to initiate remote access from opened tickets. Great for team management, no matter where they are.
Dameware Remote Everywhere
Dameware Remote Everywhere is a cloud-based RAT and support tool. This means it is a light, fast, and operating system-independent support and administration tool.
Of course, here too, administrators and tech-support experts can use this tool to help clients who could be located anywhere in the world. The main difference is that the remote service is provided without the need for local software solutions.
This is an ideal solution for small-to-medium businesses with remote clients that are not looking to have dedicated hardware and that doesn’t want to compromise on any feature that would be available in a full-fledged, on-site tool.
Dameware offers a 14-day free trial on all three versions of their tool.
SolarWinds Dameware consists of two powerful on-premises tools as well as a robust SaaS solution. These IT troubleshooting remote-access tools easily remote into machines on all platforms, offer multi-factor authentication, AD management, and even support mobile devices.
Get 14-day Free Trial: dameware.com
AnyDesk is another good alternative RAT that has been downloaded over a hundred million times and continues to garner even more loyal users.
One of the best reasons this tool is popular is simply due to the fact that it is fast. This is thanks to a smooth UX (user experience) owing to a 60 FPS screen refresh rate and an efficient bandwidth management system. Another good example of its efficiency would be the fact that it conserves bandwidth resources by simply compressing images before they are transferred.
A good sign that this company takes its users’ safety – and the integrity of its connections – seriously would be that AnyDesk uses “banking-standard” TLS 1.2 protocol to ensure security as well as RSA 2048 asymmetric encryption to verify each connection.
Finally, although it was built for the most demanding of users, AnyDesk is free for personal use and works well with almost all operating systems: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Free BSD, and Raspberry Pi. Those that prefer the cloud can even use Chrome to run AnyDesk.
Related post: Free Remote Desktop Software
The first thing you notice about UltraVNC is that it is free for everyone – be they individuals or enterprises – that requires a remote connection session between Windows machines only. This includes Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista. Meanwhile, server versions include Windows Server 2012, Server 2008, and Server 2003.
But, don’t write it off just yet; at least not because it only works with Windows operating systems.
Once you start using UltraVNC, you soon realize that it is a small, light, and efficient tool. The compression of data being passed between the connected devices is highly efficient (and configurable) which makes it seem almost seamless when working with it – it doesn’t matter if you’re using the GUI or CLI options. Chatting between client and server can be done via an embedded engine and won’t have lag times.
It is also secure. For example, man-in-the-middle attacks – which let malicious parties snoop in on a connection – are prevented with the help of a Data Stream Modification (DSM) encryption plugin system.
A few complaints that can be made about this otherwise great RAT include:
- You must know the IP address of the remote machine before a remote session can be initiated.
- Router port forwarding needs to be configured on the server.
- The interface could do with an upgrade as it looks a bit out-of-date – like something from the Windows 95/NT 4.0 era, to be honest.
And so, apart from these minor issues, UltraVNC is an amazing tool that will deliver as promised.
Remote support – including unattended access sessions – can be initiated with a single click from within a call or chat. Alternatively, if you choose to use your browser, all you need is to add a plugin and you’re all set to go.
RescueAssist boasts of a 15-second connection time – from IP identification to gaining control of the remote machine – once a session has been launched.
Once connected, detailed reports can be generated to show relevant information like details of the client device, whether or not service-level agreements are being met, and even notes other technicians have left about previous sessions.
All this makes it easier to start troubleshooting and, eventually, resolve issues.
In case of a need to escalate a problem, the session can also be transferred to another teammate. If that doesn’t help, the whole support team can discuss it in a Slack room with which RescueAssist can also be integrated.
And if even more people need to be brought in to help, a session screen can be shared among 15 support technicians. As a matter of fact, in case of issues on mobile devices (iOS and Android), they can leverage the devices’ cameras to help with their resolution.
Finally, it doesn’t come as a surprise that RescueAssist is a reliable tool when it comes to security: end-to-end encryption renders stolen data undecipherable while secure remote passwords (SRP) prevent sniffing of in-transit packets. And yet, this tool doesn’t require “preferential treatment” or need special configuration when it comes to network peripheral devices like firewalls as it easily integrates into most network configurations.
RescueAssist offers a free 7-day trial.
Zoho Assist has one clear advantage over the other RATs: the brand name alone itself is instantly recognizable. So this brand is a sign that this is a company that is well-known for its large array of collaboration tools.
Zoho is the owner of solutions for helpdesk support, social media outreach management, email hosting, and much more; they also have a RAT: Zoho Assist.
- It is a cloud-based remote support solution that doesn’t eat up resources.
- It is a secure RAT that is compatible with all major antivirus and access control solutions.
- It works with PCs, laptops, and mobile devices (Android and iOS) – in fact, anything with a browser can be accessed.
While Zoho Assist offers competitive prices on all their plans, the Free Forever plan is (as its name suggests) free versions for both personal and commercial use. This plan could, in fact, be enough to meet the demands of many small businesses:
With that being said, paying for premium services becomes worth the investment as even more features become available. One critical feature would be the ability to integrate Zoho Assist with applications like:
- Zendesk Support, Service Now, Jira – for raising tickets and resolving issues while viewing clients’ screens in real-time
- GSuite – to make use of clients’ addresses to help with sessions
- Zoho Desk, Zoho IQ – of course, this RAT also integrates with other Zoho productivity tools
All in all, this is a heavy-duty RAT made by one of the leading tech companies in the industry. Try it for free.
No list of RAT tools would be complete without mentioning Microsoft’s own Remote Desktop Connection. Also, no decent administrator would deny the usefulness of this free tool that comes as part of the Microsoft Windows operating system (you need to enable it first).
Now, although this is a Windows tool, it doesn’t mean it only works on that single operating system. As a matter of fact, the tool can be run from Android, iOS, and Linux devices to connect with any other Windows device that also has remote connection enabled.
Once installed, all that is required to connect to other devices is to enter a username and a password. Alternatively, remote connections can be initiated by simply double-clicking on remote servers and devices that have been saved from previous sessions.
Once connected, the administrator can pretty much do everything users could do if they were sitting right at the computer itself; after all, this is more of a remote support tool aimed at working directly on the remote device.
Other devices that can be accessed on the remote machine include printers, the clipboard (for copy/paste commands), smart cards, ports, drives, and other plug-and-play devices.
Now, although Remote Desktop Connection might have a few drawbacks – like not being able to copy files by drag-and-dropping them – it still is a quick, secure, and uncomplicated RAT that can be used to easily reach out to clients.
Also, only one client is allowed to connect to a machine at a time and even then the local user is locked out for the duration of the session.
But, even then, nothing beats the smooth, instant response that is the norm with this RAT. It is almost always the default, go-to tool for administrators and tech support personnel in SMBs.
Now, although this is an all-rounded tool that has functionalities like video conferencing and collaboration, Cisco Remote Access Agent – their remote access and administration tool – is an impressive part of it. And once it has been installed, the agent automatically logs the computers in the Remote Access network and it is ready to host a connection (if it has been enabled, of course).
Security measures like email notifications let clients know their devices are being accessed remotely, while features like Access Control, authentication by phone, role assignments, and device groupings keep accounts and devices safe. Accountability and tracking are done with the help of session recording.
This RAT can be used to get real-time views and control of unattended servers, computers, and even point of sale (POS) devices. It also integrates well with other third-party productivity and collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, Google Drive, and much more.
There is no need to worry about reconfiguring ports and permissions as WebEx can work with most firewalls and supports most machines behind proxies.
You can try WebEx Remote Access software for free for 90 Days.
RemotePC runs on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms as well as mobile devices. Because it is a cloud-based application, all you need to get started is your favorite browser. There is no need for installing any agents or applications.
Once you’re logged in, remote sessions can be initiated by deploying packages on client computers and assigning them unique IDs and keys.
And once the remote access desktop session is up and running, the smooth connection allows for quick transfer of files – simply drag and drop them – which will remain protected at all times during the session. In fact, the connections are secured using TLS 1.2 AES with 256-bit encryption which ensures confidentiality as well as data package integrity. In short, you’re in safe hands.
RemotePC is a powerful RAT that allows complete, seamless access to devices. The access includes everything from the ability to play audio files remotely to accessing all peripheral devices and even data that has been shared on mapped drives.
A unique feature that comes with this remote desktop access is the ability to back up and store files or entire drives to the cloud – starting with 5GB for free.
This is a great TeamViewer alternative – try it for free with a 30-day trial.
Admittedly, Chrome Remote Desktop application sn’t a RAT tool, per se, that you would choose to use in a corporate environment or even in a customer support business. But, once you take a closer look at this browser-based tool, you will see the many advantages it could bring to your tech support table.
For instance, the most convenient thing about Chrome Remote Desktop is that it is a tool that uses Chrome – a popular browser from Google that now controls about 70 percent of the market. This means tech support can be delivered on a global scale. Even those with basic tech know-how won’t feel intimidated when using Chrome Remote Desktop software for the first time.
The tool itself makes it clear and easy about what needs to be done – it is self-explanatory every step of the way. A good example is an initial screen:
The Chrome Remote Desktop software interface is minimalistic and the menus and processes are simple to understand:
- Get Support – users looking for support proceed to download the browser add-on which can then be used to create a code to be sent to the people they want to support them.
- Give Support – meanwhile, the support personnel can simply enter the access code sent by the user above, in the second login control panel to start a session.
Depending on the requirements, connections could be:
- One-time – for a single session.
- Permanent – as would be the case should users want to have round-the-clock access to their remote devices.
- Timed, login-required – to ensure the sessions time-out and the user is forced to re-authenticate to continue with the session.
It doesn’t get any easier than this; but, of course, it wouldn’t be fair to say that it doesn’t lack some advanced features:
- There are no chat functions that come with the tool – users would need to use an independent, third-party application.
- No way to exchange files – most RATs go as far as to offer drag-and-drop file transfer capabilities; there will always be a need for exchanging files when complicated technical issues are being resolved.
- Multi-user and multi-session connections are non-existent – this isn’t an ideal tool for admins looking to support multiple customers or those that might require colleagues to jump in and help them with resolutions.
- Can’t reboot and reconnect automatically – troubleshooting computer usually involves a few reboots; this RAT won’t be the best to go for if admins are looking for a quick reboot-and-commence session.
So, why mention it at all? Well, this would be the perfect RAT for that moment when only a browser is available or you need to make a quick connection and repair a single machine with not-so-serious problems.
Features to look for in a good remote connection tool
It usually is a tough job to find the perfect remote administration tool for your personal or business use. But, here are some features you might want to make sure are part of your final selection:
- Trustworthy and secure – end-to-end data encryption should be a default, and using the RAT shouldn’t compromise a business’ HIPAA or GDPR compliance, for example.
- Firewall-friendly – using your RAT shouldn’t trigger an alarm every time its connection requests hit a firewall; as a matter of fact, it shouldn’t even be blocked or on a blacklist at all.
- Quick data transfer speeds and quality connections – there should always be a smooth, constant connection between the two ends of a RAT session. The compression of data packets should be high while the tool itself should have a tiny payload with a small digital footprint.
- Screen or image quality – high-resolution views of the remote device should be standard.
- Access of peripherals and media – your RAT of choice should allow you full access to all peripheral devices on the host machine as well as the ability to play, view, and listen to media files.
- Ease-of-use – an ideal RAT is easy to master and allows even newbies to be comfortable with initiating and hosting sessions.
- Flexibility – a good RAT isn’t limited by operating systems or device types; in fact, it can seamlessly traverse between these platform limits.