I've been meaning to review remote access options for the Macintosh for quite some time. Two software solutions have not only significantly enhanced my ability to work with more than one computer, but they made it possible for me to use a remote computer from very great distances--even from France! The different solutions I intend to review here are as follows:
The relative strengths and weaknesses of these programs are as follows.
ShareWay IP works in conjunction with the new AppleShare extension included in OS 8 and later or available directly from Apple to give you complete access to a remote computer's hard disk as if it were being shared over a local network. This means for example that you can actually run an installer on your local Mac, and install software on the remote Mac ... which may be halfway around the world. Its major disadvantage is that the remote Mac must have a more or less permanent connection to the internet. It also does not allow you to control that remote computer, and file transfers are relatively slow (although of course limited by the bandwidth of your internet connection).
Timbuktu Pro allows you to run a remote Mac as if you were sitting at its keyboard, and it can give you complete access to that computer's files as well, through a very well-designed dialog box. It offers significantly faster file transfer speeds over a local ethernet network (I have observed 800-900 kbytes per second). Perhaps most importantly, it works over virtually any kind of connection: direct modem to modem, AppleTalk, tcp/ip (it is also cross-platform, so that Macs can control Wintels, and vice versa). This is the ultimate technical support tool: how many times have you experienced frustration while trying to help someone with a problem over the phone? Timbuktu Pro 4 even allows you to converse with someone using the remote Mac! Its only disadvantage is that the remote Mac's files are not accessible using the Finder's file metaphors--meaning that you will not be able to run an installer on your local Mac in order to install files on your remote Mac-- but in many cases you can run the installer on the remote Mac, and Timbuktu's file exchange dialog is very easy to use. Given that the two products are approximately the same price, while Timbuktu Pro offers greater functionality, Timbuktu Pro is the better deal.
AppleTalk Remote Access Personal Server 3.0 offers in a sense the best of both worlds: it gives the seamless Finder integration of ShareWay IP, but with much of the connectivity of Timbuktu Pro (yet still without the remote control features). It can also give your local Mac internet access if it connects by a local telephone call, so to speak modem to modem, to an ARA server on a Mac which is itself connected to a tcp/ip network. However, ARA PS 3.0 still appears to be of no use to those users whose local Mac which might only be able to connect to the ARA server via an internet connection. Timbuktu Pro would appear to be the most comprehensive remote access solution.