What is VNC? | ITProPortal

What is VNC?

VNC (Virtual Network Computing) is a remote office-sharing system that you can use to control another computer in different place. VNC-based remote desktop tools are lightweight and versatile, making them some of the best remote desktop software available today, and are often also free, ranking among the top desktop software platforms. free remote.

What does VNC do?

  • Allows you to remotely control another computer (called the server)
  • Displays the remote computer’s desktop on your screen
  • Transmits your mouse and keyboard functions to the remote computer
  • Uses a server program for the machine to be controlled and a client/viewer program for the controlling device
  • Works on a wide range of operating systems
  • Is the basis of many remote desktop applications, although not all remote desktop programs use VNC

How departments can use VNC

IT support

IT support can use VNC to resolve issues remotely. The most common use of VNC is to make quick changes on a remote computer through a convenient and familiar interface. For IT support teams, it’s a big advantage to be able to troubleshoot an employee’s computer remotely.

When new installations and software updates are rolled out, which would typically require an IT support technician to physically travel from machine to machine to make changes, VNC allows them to perform all updates remotely from the computer on their own desktop.

Web development teams

Web development teams can use VNC to remotely access web servers and virtual machines hosted in the cloud. When your company has cloud-hosted websites and applications, it can sometimes be difficult to update and administer them because the files are all stored on remote servers.

When you need to make significant changes to a server hosted in the cloud or a dedicated server, using VNC can be a convenient way to work on the server. It’s intuitive to work in a desktop environment, making changes to the server using the graphical interface of the operating system you’re used to.

Woman using laptop next to server farm

VNC is a convenient way to administer servers from a remote computer (Image credit: Ch[email protected] on Unsplash)

Call center managers

Using VNC can be a quick way to display data across multiple screens for the entire sales team to see. A computer generates and displays statistics on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as call volume, queue length, and wait times. Screens throughout the office connect to this computer and mirror its display, keeping everyone informed of the current state of the call center.

It is a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to deploy digital signage on the floor.

Remote workers

VNC’s remote desktop features can be useful for any user who needs to access a computer remotely. For example, a software developer working from home can use VNC to access their desktop computer to run applications or get the files they need.

Since VNC can run on many platforms, it can be useful for people working in a cross-platform environment. For example, you can sit in front of your macOS computer while using VNC to control your Windows computer. This way, they can run Windows apps that aren’t available for macOS.

VNC Features and Benefits

How much does VNC cost?

Screenshot of VNC Connect pricing page

RealVNC offers a paid VNC solution that includes features not available with basic VNC (Image credit: RealVNC Limited)

VNC itself is a free open source protocol. Excellent free VNC-based remote desktop solutions include TightVNC, TigerVNC, and UltraVNC.

Some paid solutions using VNC exist. These typically extend VNC’s functionality by adding built-in encryption, better user authentication, or cloud connectivity. RealVNC’s VNC Connect, for example, adds all of these useful features. It starts at $3.39 per month per device.


How to configure VNC?

VNC solutions consist of two parts: the server and the customer/viewer. Install the server on the computer you want to connect to remotely. Install the client/viewer on the device(s) you want to connect from.

VNC, at its core, is a relatively simple protocol. Thus, you will usually need to enter the server’s IP address in the client/viewer to be able to connect to it. This can be annoying if your network uses DHCP (so IP addresses change often) or if you’re trying to connect to a computer that’s on another network.

There are workarounds for these issues, but you should be aware of these potential issues before choosing a VNC-based remote desktop tool for your business.

Is VNC secure?

VNC is a 20+ year old protocol, and this was not designed with safety as a primary concern. VNC passwords are sent encrypted, but the encryption protocol used is weak and could potentially be hacked. All session data is also sent in an unencrypted format.

Again, workarounds exist for these shortcomings. For example, VNC can be tunneled through an SSH connection, or you can use a VPN. Some VNC solutions, such as UltraVPN and VPN Connect, include their own encryption, essentially solving this problem.

Does VNC work well?

Man using MacBook at home

VNC can be used to connect to your office computer from home (Image credit: RealVNC Limited)

VNC performance has its pros and cons. At its core, it works through a simple mechanism where any pixel changes on the server are relayed to the client. The protocol needs to know very little about the underlying operating system being used, which makes it easy to port VNC to newer operating systems. It also makes the program lightweight and uses few resources on the server.

For basic administration tasks, VNC works well. But the simplicity of the protocol has its downside. When the server has a lot of data changing on the screen at once, the amount of data sent over the network increases and the latency gets worse. For example, using VNC to watch video remotely results in excessive screen tearing and the interface may become unresponsive.

Main takeaways

  • VNC is a widely used remote desktop sharing tool in IT environments
  • You can use VNC-based remote desktop tools to remotely view and control a desktop
  • VNC servers and clients exist for hundreds of operating systems and platforms
  • VNC, by itself, is not very secure; you should take steps to secure your connections or choose a solution that includes built-in encryption
  • It can be difficult to configure VNC to work on multiple networks; commercial solutions such as VNC Connect add cloud connectivity that makes setup much easier

Further Reading on Remote Desktops

VNC is used as the basis of many remote desktop tools, but some of the best remote desktop solutions use their own proprietary protocols, such as XRDP, which provide better image quality and lower latency.

Due to the increase in remote working in recent years, remote desktop tools have become a prime target for hackers. Regardless of the software you use, it’s essential to consider ways to secure the devices of remote employees.

Although VNC is a fantastic tool, sometimes it’s not the right solution for your business needs. If your team constantly needs to use a remote desktop solution, you might consider a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) provider, where you rent cloud-hosted virtual desktops.