Without remote desktop services, IT admins are flying blind, relying on users to accurately describe their problems and attempt various troubleshooting techniques — a recipe for disaster.
In today’s world of remote and hybrid work, it’s virtually impossible to run a quick and efficient IT helpdesk without remote desktop solutions. As a result, many organizations have turned to remote desktop protocol, or RDP, for their user support.
RDP was originally built by Microsoft to enable IT to provide remote assistance and to empower employees to access their enterprise desktops, thin clients, or headless computers while working from home or traveling.
Whenever a user connects to a remote PC, RDP redirects any keyboard and mouse events to a remote server. RDP uses multiple virtual channels to present data, encrypt input events, and facilitate communication and can scale to 6,400 separate channels.
While RDP gets the job done, IT admins and MSPs are looking for other remote desktop access tools that can support macOS and Linux, have higher security standards, and a lower cost model. Below, we’ll outline RDP’s main limitations and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of several alternatives with better cost structures, security, and performance.
Limitations of RDP
As the industry standard for Windows-based companies, remote desktop protocol became an immediate target for cyberattacks. Getting into users’ operating systems and devices would help hackers gain access to company or customer data and systems, allowing them to wreak havoc on a company’s reputation.
Today, RDP is still hunted by hackers who are looking for new avenues for exploitation, such as:
- Unpatched vulnerabilities: Microsoft tries to provide OS updates and hotfixes, but RDP still has significant vulnerabilities that open the door to harmful worms or ransomware. IT admins must stay vigilant, identifying and patching these vulnerabilities and ensuring OSs and applications are up to date.
- Weak authentication: No matter how much security training you provide, most users reuse the same password across multiple applications. Hackers know this and attempt credential stuffing or rainbow table attacks to get into your company’s network. Unfortunately, RDP doesn’t support multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO), so IT admins have to keep reminding users to change their passwords and adopt password best practices.
- Unrestricted port access: RDP connects to other devices through one port and one port only. Leaving TCP port 3389 open invites hackers to mount an attack. To prevent attacks from happening, IT admins and MSPs must implement and maintain safeguards like firewalls.
Beyond RDP’s susceptibility to cyberattacks, it has notorious bandwidth issues that negatively impact device performance. And RDP only supports Windows OS and certain devices, automatically restricting its usability in modern organizations.
Common RDP Alternatives
While RDP was the original remote desktop software, several other competitors have emerged over the past few years.
Like RDP, AnyDesk gives users access to desktops, machines, devices, and servers from a tablet or smartphone. AnyDesk was built with the user experience in mind with an intuitive installation process. Users also benefit from fast file transfer, chat, screen sharing, and secure access to virtually any system.
AnyDesk users get six months of free access to the tool and graduate to paid plans that go up to $80 per month for 100 licensed users. A downside to AnyDesk is that it’s not ideal for multi-user collaboration, frequently losing communication between mobile and desktop apps. It also requires a steady internet connection for it to work — something that may not always be available to users on the go.
TeamViewer is an efficient, secure, and user-friendly remote desktop software built for individuals, small businesses, and enterprise teams. With 99.99% uptime and comprehensive desktop access, TeamViewer is a reliable solution for IT teams that need to triage mobile device, tablet, and computer issues and teams that need to collaborate from anywhere.
Notable TeamViewer features include multi-platform support, remote printing, 2FA, whiteboarding, and session recording. However, TeamViewer’s performance depends highly on your internet connection and frequently experiences outages. It’s also more expensive than most remote desktop software on the market, with corporate plans that start at $230 for 30 licensed users and 500 managed devices.
JumpCloud’s Remote Assist
AnyDesk and TeamViewer come with significant limitations, especially for IT staff. Thankfully, they aren’t your only remote desktop options. JumpCloud Remote Assist was designed specifically with MSPs and IT admins in mind, with features like multi-user collaboration, remote command execution, unattended access, and native integration with JumpCloud’s open directory platform.
JumpCloud Remote Assist supports Windows, macOS, and Linux and virtually any company device or server. To keep devices and data safe, the platform leverages SSH-based connections, MFA, and SSO. MSPs and IT admins also benefit from JumpCloud’s cloud-based console and backend reporting, giving them insight into identity and access management across the entire company’s assets. Plus, Remote Assist is a free add-on for organizations already using the JumpCloud Directory Platform.
Exploring Free and Paid RDP Alternatives for MSPs and IT Admins
Today, MSPs and IT admins have a wealth of remote desktop access tools to choose from. But evaluation typically comes down to the most common RDP alternatives: AnyDesk, TeamViewer, and JumpCloud Remote Assist. Although AnyDesk and TeamViewer are popular, they require a strong internet connection, have limited collaboration features, and can’t compete on cost.
JumpCloud Remote Assist and Silent Assist gives MSPs and IT admins the horsepower they need to run a fast and efficient ticketing machine. Admins also gain peace of mind with robust security features and alerts to stop credential sharing and other poor user behavior in its tracks.