Choosing a free remote desktop solution

Why they aren't always free

Free remote desktop solutions are not always free. This follows from the fact that you strongly depend on them. You trust them to connect to your computers, and they are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Which means you are on hook.

One day you might find your free solution to have been discontinued (actually, replaced with a paid one, like Pro instead of Free). And your remote machines are only accessible from that remote desktop tool.

Or, it can be a bit more tricky.

Imagine yourself using a tool that has a free version. The free version is limited to non-commercial use only. "Non-commercial" is explained in vague terms. And the developer is enforcing limitations, of course. They perform checks to find out if you are really "non-commercial". And they won't tell you how exactly they check this and what their criteria are. One day you may find yourself limited to 5 minutes per remote desktop session is even unable to make sessions.

And because the definition of "non-commercial" is vague, you have no chance to prove the developer company is wrong. They may just refuse to answer your questions, and "free" users typically have the lowest priority in helpdesk queues.

If you want to compare some affordable tools, here's a link.

"Non-commercial" - what it actually means

Non-commercial use check criteria may be as follows:

- Server operating system on the remote machine. We all know it doesn't always imply commercial use.

- Domain-based network structure. Again, in many cases, it's not commercial.

- Some computers are from the same subnet. Same as above.

- Long remote sessions. Same as above.

- Many machines accessible from a single machine. Same as above.

Such limitations are mostly introduced silently, so customers suddently find themselves cut off from their remote machines. That's disappointing, to say the least.

Some users find workarounds, they even use legacy versions of popular software that didn't include more recent limitations. However, we must bear in mind that it is very unsafe. The older some popular software is, the more known security holes it has. So, you may end up giving away control over your machines to someone else. Especially given the fact that legacy software is often distributed via bit torrent trackers. Also, "seeders" may say you have to turn down your modern anti-virus software, because it doesn't like legacy software and it gets quarantined.

If you want to compare some affordable tools, here's a link.

What you can do

Bottomline, let's see how we can avoid being locked onto such a vendor:

- Always have a back up remote desktop tool.

- Try requesting a free or discounted non-commercial/charity organization license.

- Carefully read the terms of "free use". Make sure there is little space for speculation on whether you qualify.

- If the vendor is a fast growing company, pay attention to rumors whether it may be acquired or go IPO. In either case, company leadership and/or responsibilities may change, leading to changes in licensing. Sometimes, your remote desktop solution may even become available only as a part of another (more expensive) solution.

- Try considering tools that are not free but inexpensive instead. While not completely free, they may offer honest terms.

If you want to compare some affordable tools, here's a link.