Q&A: Relocating to the country

Q We are relocating our business to separate, rural home addresses, and setting our Macs up so that we can work together in a virtual office. We want to view and control one another’s Mac, and had bought Timbuktu Remote for this purpose. Using the Skype connection option, this has proved impossibly slow to render the remote screen. Currently we have dynamic IP addresses on our broadband connections. Would static addresses help? Is this the best approach, or is there something better?

A Your fundamental limitation is bandwidth on your broadband connections. If you can afford to, and have the option, try to upgrade your connections to 8 Mbps or more, as this type of remote access will then work much better, and you will have spare capacity to support voice over IP (VOIP) services like Skype, plus general web and other Internet access.

If you are stuck with less, then you will have to limit the services that you use in order for them to work well. Sadly there is no simple formula, as the demands of remote control depend on the software itself, screen resolutions, complexity of screen image, and more. The lower the screen resolution, the simpler the image on the screen, and the more slowly that it changes, the less bandwidth will be required.

The industry standard for remote viewing and control is VNC, which has been well implemented by Apple in its Remote Desktop (ARD) product, available from the Mac App Store at £59.99. Timbuktu Remote was popular, but its security has been criticised; as it has recently been discontinued, you should look to switching away from it as soon as you can.

Although static or fixed IP addresses make it easier to connect, as you know every time the IP address that you want to connect to, they do not alter the bandwidth of the connection.

First invest in more bandwidth.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 11, 2011.