After toying with the idea of connecting the two computers my husband and I have into some sort of network, I began looking into the various options available. One that impressed me was Ositis Software's WinProxy, which serves as a firewall proxy server. In addition, I wanted something I could use when I was on the road to connect to my PC at home. Again, I did some research and that's where Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 comes in. If one product won't satisfy your needs, I'm pretty sure the other will.
WinProxy by Ositis Software
After opening the box, I was a bit surprised to find a 3.5" diskette in the box - no CD-ROM. The manual was comprehensive and easy to understand. What impressed me most was that the program runs on any PC running Windows 95/98 or NT, allowing you to link all the computers in your home or office, no matter which Windows platform you use.
I installed the program in a snap, then ran it and let the "wizard" take me step by step through the configuration setup. You do need a working LAN (we used my old P200 with a LAN card installed in it as our network computer) - the box states you should have a "WinSock API compliant networking package" already installed.
The next step was assigning each of our computers a unique IP address. Since our internet account with Netcom randomly assigns them, WinProxy showed me how to do this. I found WinProxy's protocol support superb - it provides proxy services for DNS, FTP, HTTP, IMAP4, NNTP, POP3, SecureSockets, Socks 4, and RealAudio, staying online long enough to download or do what you want, then automatically disconnecting when done.
When the program initially runs, it looks similar to the old DOS window, which took some getting used to. I looked at the security options - restricting Internet access to certain PCs and blocking web sites (if these are accessed, the message "Forbidden HTML" appears onscreen). I didn't need to apply either of these, but they would be useful for a business using the software.
WinProxy is not only inexpensive, it saves money on additional modems or ISP fees. The online help is comprehensive and the WinProxy web site offers additional information, online tech support and updates. It also retrieves and stores web pages for review when not online, which is a bonus.
The best thing I like about WinProxy is that my husband and I can be online at the same time - no more fighting over who can go online first!
pcANYWHERE32 Version 8.0 by Symantec
I found pcANYWHERE32 suitable to my needs - being able to communicate with my computer at home while on the road, especially to retrieve my email messages or if I needed a certain file or document. Those who use a LAN will find this program useful for the same reason, as pcANYWHERE32 can access any computer on a LAN (making it compatible with or a nice addition to WinProxy or other networking programs).
I'd previously used a remote package that came on my laptop (TranXit), then switched to LapLink, but found them both difficult to use. So when I installed pcANYWHERE32, I held my breath and hoped for the best.
I was not disappointed. I soon found myself going through the various options and tooling around the program to get a feel for it. I did find that a user should have a working knowledge of basic modem/network principles to make the program easier to understand, although it isn't necessary. I especially liked the capability of switching from data to voice on a phone line (although you must be running from the same jack on both the local and remote PC). But this feature is great - once you've finished a phone conversation and want to switch to data (fax, Internet, FTP, etc), you just click the "Voice First" menu to hang up the phones, then click OK and the data session automatically begins. If you decide you want to talk, all you do is click on the toolbar telephone graphic, then on OK and pick up your telephone handset.
I also liked the fact that Version 8.0 of pcANYWHERE32 supports not only all Windows platforms (including 3.1), but also DOS - so if a business has different PCs running different platforms, it shouldn't be a problem.
pcANYWHERE32 offers many features that would appeal to a business, but the ones I found
most useful to me while on the road were:
Multiple types of encryption support
Checking my email
Access to files on my home PC
SpeedSend - allows me to send the part of a file that's been changed instead of the whole thing
Parallel port cable to direct connect my laptop to my PC before or after a trip for fast transfers
Businesses will probably find the capability of the Host Multi-Connect conferencing support very useful - it allows you to connect up to 256 users, plus White Pine's CU-SeeMe software is included for video teleconferencing, presentations, training, etc.
Program updates and technical support are available from Symantec's web site, which is also nice, especially the live Chat with a technician.
All in all, pcANYWHERE32 is a must for anyone who is on the go and wants to connect remotely to a computer at work or at home.
Related web sites/newsgroups for both products: