Although mainly intended for third-party desktop sharing, rather than personal remote access, CrossLoop's foolproof operation makes it a worthwhile addition to any computer technical support department. The newly added support for Mac OS makes it even more invaluable.
Simple foolproof desktop sharing for Windows and Mac OS computers; supports file sharing; free.
Not suitable for remote access.
Windows 2000 or higher; Mac OS 10.4 or higher; broadband internet connection
CrossLoop is ostensibly an online marketplace where freelance technical support 'experts' pitch for business. But the real value lies in the remote desktop application it provides as part of the service, which could be useful as a helpdesk tool for enterprise IT teams.
Available as a free download even if you choose not to sign up for paid online help, CrossLoop is a powerful remote desktop tool that, thanks to a recent update, now works with Mac OS as well as Windows.
Getting at the remote desktop tool requires a little effort. It's an obvious download from the CrossLoop home page (2.5MB for Windows, 8MB for Mac OS), but once installed it prompts you to sign up for a free account. This isn't necessary and you can just click the tiny 'Skip' option to proceed to the application proper.
CrossLoop uses the Virtual Network Computing (VNC) desktop sharing protocol - it's actually TightVNC - to connect two computers. While it doesn't do anything that can't be achieved with the multitude of other free VNC applications, it does make setting up remote desktop sessions remarkably easy.
Accessing one computer's desktop remotely over an internet connection is often made more difficult by the need to know the local IP address of the PC to connect to. The problem arises when that IP address is hidden behind the Network Address Translation of a home or office router, and the resulting need to reconfigure firewall ports often makes VNC impractical for corporate environments.
CrossLoop gets round this by routing traffic through port 80, and providing a unique ID for each session. The host selects the 'Share' option and provides the ID, while the client selects 'Access' and types in the ID. Click 'Connect' at each end, and the connection is quickly established.
Connections are routed through CrossLoop's servers and, while the CrossLoop-generated computer names are transmitted in plain text, these can be edited if their identities need to be protected. Data transmitted for the shared sessions is encrypted, and CrossLoop simply tracks the length of the session and the amount of data transferred for its own purposes.
Remote desktop applications come into their own for hands-on trouble shooting, and CrossLoop's ability to establish Windows/Windows, Mac/Mac and Windows/Mac connections with a mere mouse click makes it an invaluable tool. Files can be easily shared too, and the role of host and client can be quickly reversed for two-way sessions.
As with other remote desktop tools, the need to manually initiate a shared session on the host makes CrossLoop ill-suited for accessing your own home or office computer remotely. This is obviously a security measure to keep out interlopers.
CrossLoop hammers the point home by putting a two-minute time-out on new connections, so you can't leave the application running on one computer ready for on-demand access from another. LogMeIn and GoToMyPC are both better for personal remote access.
Overall, CrossLoop's foolproof operation makes it a worthwhile addition to computer tech support teams, even though it is not suited for personal remote access. The newly added support for Mac OS makes it even more invaluable.