For all of the talk about cloud computing, there is still the undeniable fact that most business computer users will make use of their PCs or Macs to get things done. Because of this bias, a lot of data -- along with the specialized applications that handle that data -- will still live on laptops or desktop machines.
There are many iPad apps that can duplicate some or all of desktop applications' capabilities, but there's still a lot of desktop applications that don't have an iPad equivalent yet. Then there's the data. There are lots of cloud storage apps for the iPad out there -- MobileMe and Dropbox come immediately to mind -- but this is only for files that you've already made available to those services. What happens when you need a file you didn't think to put into the cloud?
This is where remote desktop connectivity comes in. Remote desktop applications make use of the Internet to connect to your system from another location and use that computer as if you were sitting right in front of it. This is not just getting to the folders and files remotely -- you will actually be able to visually control and open any file and application on your PC or Mac.
There are drawbacks to this kind of connection. Even the fastest broadband connection won't be able to replicate the speed you'd get actually sitting at your computer. It takes a lot of bandwidth to send a graphic image of your remote desktop to another computer and the instructions to manipulate the remote computer as the same time. But in a pinch, when you really need to get some business done remotely, being able to plug into your computer remotely can be a real convenience.
There are several iPad applications that can connect to remote PCs or Macs. In this article, we'll look at three of the better options: GoToMyPC, LogMeIn Ignition, and Splashtop Remote. Each one of these apps performs the functions that a remote desktop app should, with remote connectivity available after installing a local client to the Windows or Mac OS X system to which you need to connect. All of the client apps for this article were installed on Windows 7, and there were no problems with that process for any of them, beyond the usual Windows installation rigmarole. Unfortunately, none of these apps connect with Linux machines -- which is a little irksome with LogMeIn Ignition and Splashtop Remote, considering their open source origins.