Review: 2 USB devices offer easy remote access

The Pogoplug and I'm InTouch SecureKey let you access files remotely without negotiating complex remote-control software.

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I'm InTouch SecureKey

The essence of 01Communique's I'm InTouch SecureKey is the ability to take control of your home or office PC from any connected PC. You can download files, read e-mail and even look through the system's Web cam. However, it's not the easiest system to set up and you'll need to use the special SecureKey memory stick on the remote system.

Unlike the Pogoplug, the SecureKey is for PCs only. The setup is kind of complicated -- after installing the 230KB applet, you create an account, enter a user name, give the host PC a name, activate the program on the host PC and set up the included SecureKey USB memory key.

In my case, it took about two hours and a couple of calls to the company's support staff to get it properly set up and working.

Remote access devices
I'm InTouch SecureKey

At first, the SecureKey wouldn't accept my password; after they fixed that; it wouldn't connect because the key didn't have the right data on it. After the support tech reinitialized my account, everything finally worked.

It was worth the effort. With the SecureKey memory stick connected to the remote computer, I was able to access the host PC's desktop 21 seconds after starting a connection and logging in, only a little slower than Pogoplug's connection to an external drive. The host PC's desktop and apps show up in their native resolution on the remote PC, so things can look a little pixilated.

Using SecureKey, you can do just about anything remotely that you can do sitting in front of your host computer, regardless of whether you're using a netbook in Nanking or a library computer in Cleveland. You can even let your system hibernate if you wish; the program wakes up your computer remotely when needed. However, the computer does need to be left on.

As with the Pogoplug, speed is not of the essence. It was able to grab the same Acrobat document over the same AT&T 3G connection at 54Kbit/sec., slightly faster than access via Pogoplug, and at about the same 100Kit/sec. with a public Wi-Fi connection. But the nice thing about SecureKey is that you don't have to download the file -- you can remotely open it and let SecureKey relay what's on-screen. Using that method, I was able to view the contents of the same Acrobat file in less than four seconds.

With Secure Sockets Layer software behind the scenes, SecureKey has strong enough security for most company information and your credit card data.

A one-year subscription to the I'm InTouch Premium service, which includes the SecureKey, costs $130 per host PC (the price goes down to $100 per host PC if you plan to use it with more than three host machines). You can also try the service for free without the SecureKey, but you're limited to using it with one remote PC and can't wake up the host PC remotely.

Conclusions

Both of these USB remote access systems make it a simple matter to access files remotely with very little effort. They both, however, left me wanting more. While I found them easier to use and more reliable than the remote access software I've tried, they both showed the rough edges of first-generation hardware. I wish I could have the ease of setup and use of the Pogoplug combined with the ability to control my entire PC from afar that SecureKey offers.

In addition, neither product can be called a speed demon; it can be slow going, with requests and files slowly traveling over the Internet to their destination and back. Still, it's better than calling home to get someone to e-mail a needed document to you.

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer based near New York and is the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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