Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.
This month we answer readers’ questions about the best remote-control services for working from home, and whether the pay-for-professional-recognition organizations are worth the money.
Q: What are the best remote-control services for working from home and elsewhere?
A: There are several very good services, each with its own pros, cons, and pricing.
Let’s face it: You can do a lot on your mobile phone, but to get any extended work done, you need a real keyboard, a mouse, and as big a screen as possible.
With the current coronavirus pandemic, we are all being encouraged—even mandated—to stay home.
Remote access programs allow you to quickly connect to a computer back in your office when you are somewhere else.
Unattended access is the key feature for remote working: You don’t want to rely on having a person physically present in the office to log you into your office computer. Remote control or screen-sharing services, on the other hand, allow two or more people to share a screen together. Our focus here is on services that allow you to connect to your office computer any time of the day or night without assistance.
Two other key features are responsiveness and security. When you type something or move the mouse, you need to see the action on the remote computer’s screen almost immediately. Otherwise, the time lag will annoy you every step of the way. And it goes without saying that your remote access service needs to be highly secure.
I was a happy, longtime user of GoToMyPC until the service was acquired by LogMeIn and the price tripled. LogMeIn also boosted the price of their original remote-access service to $349.99 per year. You can get the same sort of service for much less.
My current favorite is Splashtop. The Business Access Solo account is $5 per month billed annually. It allows one user to access up to two computers. It includes file transfer (copy files between your computers) and remote printing. For an added $3.25 per month, the Business Access Pro version offers support for viewing multiple remote monitors simultaneously instead of having to alternate. That assumes you connect an external monitor to your laptop or have a dual-monitor setup at home. If you need to do extended work at home, having dual monitors can significantly improve the ease and productivity of your experience.
Also, with a Business Access Pro account, you can share your remote computer session with a colleague (who has a Pro account). The Pro account’s remote reboot and reconnect lets you restart a PC to apply an update or unfreeze it. A 20 percent discount applies for four or more users. There is a seven-day free trial.
A decent free option is ConnectWise Control Free. It is designed for one user to access one computer at a time. It is missing some typical features such as file transfer, multiple-monitor support, and remote printing. Those features are available in the paid version at a rather steep price, $24 per month per user. ConnectWise Control Free runs on computers and also Android phones, iPhones, and tablets. Security is strong, with an option for two-factor authentication. I found it a bit clunky to set up and access, but, hey, it is free.
Zoho Free is another reasonable option, although I found the performance to lag a bit. It does not support file transfer, but it does have multiple-monitor navigation. The upgrade to the Standard version with more features is only $18 per month or $12 per month on an annual plan.
Some firms provide access to the office network using Windows Remote Desktop. It requires the installation and configuration of a Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on a server. Unfortunately, hackers have heavily targeted Remote Desktop. If your firm uses this technology, make sure that RDS is set up very securely. Typically, this involves using a virtual private network (VPN) between your laptop or home computer and the firm’s network. For small firms, the easy setup and minimal maintenance needed for remote access services make them attractive alternatives to RDS.
A remote access service can make a big difference in your productivity. It can give you the flexibility to work when and where it is best for you and your schedule. You are connected to your screen, keyboard, and mouse on a computer back at your office. You may even use a tablet or smartphone, although the smaller screen and lack of a mouse make the process more time-consuming.
We are all adapting to the realities of living in these difficult times. Remote access services are valuable tools for continuing to serve our clients and support our families.
Q: Are the pay-for-professional-recognition organizations worth the money?
A: I regret that, in truly lawyerly fashion, I must answer “it depends.” Most of the time, probably not. But depending on your practice area and the specifics of the recognition, it might be worth it. The public has a hard time understanding how to evaluate the quality of lawyers. Most of the time, people will decide on a lawyer based on client reviews, but a professional award on your website is one way to legitimize yourself. So, in that light, yes, it is probably helpful to have some professional recognition you can promote yourself with. That said, it is highly unlikely any potential client will know the difference between any of the many pay-for-recognition companies. So, if you want to pay for some professional recognition, choose wisely. First, ask yourself if there are any recognitions that your target clientele will actually recognize? If not, the cheapest option is probably your best.
Techie: Jordan L. Couch, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor, Palace Law, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 9, Number 8, March 2020. © 2020 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.