Desktop sharing tools can be invaluable aids for any organisation, they can help you to:
- see what a colleague is seeing on their their screen (for diagnosing problems, bugs etc)
- train (seeing what they a colleague is doing on their computer screen, or showing them what you are doing on yours)
- give presentations to remote person/s in multiple locations
Desktop sharing tools can be of great assistance to large and small organisations seeking to offer their services flexibly in an increasingly globalised world.
Until recently, these types of services required paid solutions from companies like Webex (Cisco systems), or GoToMyPC (Citrix). Typically these services might cost between $10 - $50 (per user) per month.
In increasingly challenging economic times for both not for profit and commercial organisations with ever tighter budgets, anything that can help to lower operating costs is of course more than welcome. Thankfully, there are now a wide range of free desk top sharing solutions that can offer a more cost attractive solution.
Here at Liquid Light we continually experiment with various desktop sharing solutions, in our case to help provide training and assistance to our clients across the world. Below is a list of the best free solutions we know about, along with some pros and cons for each.
One of our favourite solutions is Skype, - best known for their video chat software, and now owned by Microsoft, they've now offer desktop sharing built into their free software.
Pros: good quality video, easy to use app, cross platform (windows/mac), many people have Skype access already including those within large organisations with closed networks that probably allow Skype as a more trusted app.
Cons: Free version is restricted to 2 users at a time, with no remote control
They offer a very powerful, cross-platform solution in a free (domestic version) and a paid commercial version. Although less well known in the commercial IT departments - it seems to do a very good job at working it's through corporate firewalls (not always a bad thing!).
Pros: remote control, cross platform (Windows, Mac and Linux and iOS).
Cons: requires download before use, restricted to 2 users at a time.
Powwownow is a well established conference call service - but less known is its free web and video conferencing tools. The desktop sharing app is actually pretty easy to use - and although in most cases we avoid Flash, this is one exception where we can see that it does a pretty good job. Once you've downloaded their app - you start a session and email your colleagues with a s simply web address that they can put into their browser. So long as they have Flash installed it works like a dream.
Pros: It's free, works on PCs and MACs, is easy to set up a new conference (no special software for other people to install)
Cons: It's Flash based so you need the plug in for it to work and it's known to be a bit of a memory hog - so expect your computer fan to kick in. The software isn't that slick - there's no bells and whistles.
The boys from Mountain view have only recently begun to play around in desktop sharing arena - but they have a strong track record in providing good quality and free online tools.
Pros: Allows multiple users to benefit from desktop sharing, currently able to get round restrictions in countries that block others such as Skype.
Cons: Not that many people use Google+. Video is pretty poor quality. Google may want to use you're account data for search etc.
Another Google solution, based on using their Chrome web browser.
Pros: also good at getting round restrictions as with Google+.
Cons: Requires using Chrome browser, restricted to 2 users, Google may want to use you're account data for search etc.
While initially at Liquid Light we began using Cisco's paid Webex, we have recently switched to using some of the free solutions for example Skype which provide good solutions for our needs. While Google+ offers some interesting possibilities such as multiple desktop sharing – due to the low quality video we will probably wait and see if they will improve this before we might try this out further.
If you're currently using a paid desk sharing tool – why not try some of these free solutions? You may find they provide just what you need, for free ! If you currently don't use such services, perhaps you might consider how using these can help improve what you already do in your organisation, such as presentations and telephone conferences.
With the range of free tools currently available, this might be a great way to enhance what you already do to provide better value and service - for no cost at all !
Have you heard of any other solutions worth testing? We'd love to hear about them!
Pranath is our back-end developer who knows the deepest, darkest secrets of our CMS of choice - Typo3. In his free time he likes to balance the mind and body doing plenty of hot yoga, freediving, SUP, or balancing on his new slackline in front of the old west pier.