All you need to know about VNC remote access technology

What is VNC?  

VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. It is a cross-platform screen sharing system that was created to remotely control another computer. This means that a computers screen, keyboard, and mouse can be used from a distance by a remote user from a secondary device as though they were sitting right in front of it.   

VNC works on a client/server model. A server component is installed on the remote computer (the one you want to control), and a VNC viewer, or client, is installed on the device you want to control from. This can include another computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone. When the server and viewer are connected, the server transmits a copy of the remote computer’s screen to the viewer.  

Not only can the remote user see everything on the remote computer’s screen, but the program also allows for keyboard and mouse commands to work on the remote computer from afar, so the connected user has full control (after being granted permission from the remote compute)r.  

VNC was created in Cambridge in the late 1990s by the founders of RealVNC, and was commercialized in 2002 when the company was established. 

What’s a VNC Server?  

A server is a piece of computer hardware or software that provides capabilities for other programs called “clients.” This is called the client-server model, whereas a server can provide services such as data or resource sharing to one or multiple clients. One server can serve multiple clients in this way, and one single client can use multiple servers. A client will send a request to a server, which then sends a response back to the client.  

A computer with VNC Server software installed can be accessed and controlled from a different device in a different location. The software allows a broadcast of the device desktop to a secondary device with VNC Viewer installed. Connected VNC Viewer users send a request, and then (with permission) can see the same thing as the person sitting in front of the remote computer. 

Download VNC Server here: VNC Server download

What’s a VNC Viewer?  

A viewer, on the other hand, is a program that renders the contents of a digital file on screen. 

VNC Viewer is used for local computers and mobile devices you want to control fromdevice such as a computer, tablet, or smart phone with VNC Viewer software installed can access and take control of a computer in another location. 

It is a graphical desktop sharing system that allows a user to remotely control the desktop of a remote computer (running VNC Server) from your device, and it transmits the keyboard and mouse or touch events to VNC Server, so that once you are connected, you have control over the computer you’ve accessed. If you’re using your mobile phone, for example, you would be able to use the computer you’ve remotely accessed as though you were sitting right in front of it.  

Download VNC Viewer here: VNC Viewer download

Watch: VNC Server and VNC Viewer tutorial

What is the RFB protocol?

Remote Framebuffer, or RFB, is the protocol that governs the format of the data that passes between the client and server within the VNC system. This is what allows a client to view and control another computer remotely. It is applicable to all windowing applications and systems, which means that it works across platforms such as Windows, macOS, Linux, and other popular operating systems. 

The place where the user sits, with the display, mouse, and keyboard capabilities, is called the RFB client or viewer. The place where the framebuffer changes originate (as in the windowing system) is called the RFB server. Remote Framebuffer is designed so that clients can run on the widest range of hardware and so that implementing a client is as simple as possible, with very few requirements needed from the client.  

RFB started as a very simple protocol but has been enhanced to include features such as file transfermore refined compression, and stronger security measures as it has developed. Seamless cross-compatibility between VNC clients and servers is made possible because they are able to negotiate a connection which uses the best RFB version, as well as security and compression options that are supported by both.  

RFB was developed as a remote display technology in Cambridge, UK, by some of the original developers of VNC and the current RFB protocol specifications for version 6 are published on the RealVNC website

Blog: VNC vs RDP: which remote desktop tool is the best? 

Similarities between VNC and RDP

The VNC protocol and RDP, the Remote Desktop Protocol developed by Microsoft, share several similarities:

  • These protocols both provide access to remote desktops for quick and easy troubleshooting and remote working. 
  • They both require both client and server-side software to support communication.   
  • They use direct peer-to-peer communication, which just means that the local user computer can connect directly to the remote computer or device.  
  • Both support software to manage users and enable secure access.

Differences between VNC and RDP

Both VNC and RDP connect devices through a network, either via server or peer-to-peer. But even though their goals are the same – to provide graphical remote desktop capabilities to a device – they also differ in how they achieve that goal.  

  • RDP has limited platform capabilities, whereas VNC works across multiple operating systems.  
  • RDP can be faster than VNC.  
  • Security levels can vastly differ between the two protocols. 
  • VNC connects directly to the computer, but RDP connects to a shared server. 
  • RDP is not very compatible if you need to implement a remote desktop solution across a wide range of devices.
  • Because of this, RDP can limit the ability to provide IT help.

VNC Connect remote access software: the evolution of VNC

In 2016, RealVNC launched their latest VNC-based remote access product: VNC Connect. This software combines the convenience of a cloud service with the flexibility of offline connectivity (also known as direct) and provides an optimized strategy for every size business.  

Since its initial release, the product has continued to evolve, with features such as high-speed streaming and remote audio being added to the mix, along with continual tweaks to further refine the product to meet the needs of our customers.  

VNC Connect’s key features include intuitive remote control, cross-platform support, attended and unattended access, file transfer, multilingual support, online team management and virtual desktop management under Linux. Its sessions are encrypted end-to-end using up to 256-bit AES encryption providing multi-factor authentication, single-sign on (SSO), granular access control and rich session permissions. 

See all VNC Connect features

Read: How to use VNC Connect remote desktop software

VNC Connect is available in English, French, German, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese languages. It offers PC to PC, and mobile to PC support across Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS and Android platforms. 

Take a free trial of VNC Connect:

Take a free trial

Misconceptions about VNC and VNC Connect

There is always going to be a little hesitation when it comes to using new software and systems, and misinformation going around that affects how people feel about implementing these programs into their business model. The issue with this is that it prevents individuals and businesses from accessing real, measurable benefits through use of such technologies

Here we outline some of the most common misconceptions about VNC Connect that are often tied to VNC's open source origins, and then break down why they are just not true 

Misconception: all VNC-based remote access software is open source  

It is true that VNC technology was originally open-source, and many modern derivatives of the software still are, but that's not the case for all VNC-based software. VNC Connect, which was released in 2016 and uses version 6 of the RFB protocol, is not open source.

Misconception: VNC-based software is not secure

Open source VNC-based remote access is insecure out of the box and increases exposure to risks. VNC Connect however is secure out of the box, all connections are encrypted end-to-end, and by default remote computers are protected by a password or by system login credentials.

Features such as multi-factor authentication and remote access logs give additional protection to users. This software also meets the compliance demands of HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR.

See: VNC Connect Security

Misconception: VNC-based software doesn’t support cloud

Most VNC-based open-source software only allows for offline connectivity. VNC connect offers both offline (also known as "direct") connections as well as cloud connections, so you can choose whichever one is most suited to your business requirements

Blog: Cloud vs direct connections with remote access software: which is right for your business?

Misconception: VNC technology is outdated 

VNC technology was developed over 20 years ago, but it has significantly evolved. VNC Connect is monitored and updated regularly to fix any bugs and to address customer needs as they change with the times. The software roadmap is informed by the feedback submitted by its users, to ensure it includes the designs and features that are most commonly requested.

Comparison guide: VNC Connect vs Open Source VNC

Want to try VNC Connect for yourself? We offer a 30-day free trial!

Take a free trial