Access everywhere! Lots of interesting services are being set up to make it easy for you to have access to files, folders, photos, and computers from anywhere, whether it’s working on an office computer from home or bringing up pictures from your home computer on a mobile phone.

Dell Remote Access

The latest entry comes from Dell, strangely enough. Dell just introduced Dell Remote Access, a ten dollar per month service for a number of tasks loosely related to “remote access.” It’s designed to be extremely easy to use. You’ll install some software on the computer to be controlled; the software will run continuously and periodically check in with Dell Server Central Command. Then when you go to my.dellremoteaccess.com and log in, you can control your computer remotely as if you’re sitting in front of it. That’s not all, though! You can stream music and photos to your remote device or upload files to the computer running the Dell software. Plus one more interesting feature that I haven’t seen before – you can send a link to someone by email that gives them an encrypted connection to a folder on your computer, so they can look at pictures, say, with very little fuss.

Here are a couple of places where people say nice things about the new service. The people saying those nice things work for Dell. Haven’t seen much feedback from the real world yet.

That’s pretty cool stuff, and you might want to try it, but I’d offer two thoughts before you jump in.

This is an increasingly crowded field. You have alternatives to choose from at a range of prices, with simple or difficult interfaces, and with similar or different features. You can jump into whichever one gets your attention first – just be aware that’s what you’re doing. LogMeIn will let you run its software and connect remotely to a single computer for free; its paid subscription adds very easy file transfers and the ability to email a link to a single file on your computer. GoToMyPC is slightly more expensive and aimed more at business users. Windows Live Mesh is a free service from Microsoft that will let you connect remotely to a number of computers, along with file and folder sharing and syncing and more to come; it’s a little complicated to get started but might be worth the learning curve for its extra capabilities. Windows Home Server sets up remote access and photo sharing along with its file storage and backup features. Businesses running Microsoft Small Business Server already have remote access to their office computers using Remote Web Workplace.

Which leads to a point that gets more important all the time. A new program or service requires a commitment! Do not install programs or sign up for services on a whim! Each program will require time to learn its features and its quirks; it will require periodic attention to keep it up to date when security issues inevitably appear; if it’s a good choice, it will require time to figure out where it fits in your life or your business. You’ll likely have another web page address to memorize and another login name and password to add to the notes you can never find when you need them.

There are exciting new services out there! Choose them wisely and stick with the ones you choose so you can make them work for you. If you flit from one new thing to another, installing programs and abandoning them quickly,  you’ll wind up talking to me about why your computer is slow and programs are crashing. You’ll be depressed when I click on your Start menu and nod my head sadly and give you an economics lesson in the cost of cleanup versus the cost of a new computer.

With that in mind, get connected remotely! You don’t have to leave computers behind any more.