It's 8 p.m., you're on a sales call, and your customer is ready to sign on the dotted line, but oops — you forgot to copy the contract, specs, and financing information over to your laptop before you left the office. Now what?

There are a dozen or more remote control packages available. Some, like Symantec's PCAnywhere ( have been around for years and work great, but they're either expensive to purchase, require a serious techie to get set up, or both. Instead, here are three free (or cheap) and easy solutions that will get the job done.

Windows XP Remote Desktop. If your office computer is running Windows XP Pro, you already have a remote control solution called “Remote Desktop.” It's free but requires some tinkering to make it work, making it better suited for getting on your office PC from home, where you can count on the connection, than on a sales call or jobsite.

RealVNC. A favorite of system administrators who need to work on lots of computers but are too lazy to get out of their chairs and too cheap to buy commercial software, RealVNC is a totally free, “open source” remote control application. It installs a “server” component on your office computer and a “viewer” component on your laptop or home office PC. The VNC viewer is available for just about any platform, but you'll need to know how to get under the hood of your office router and firewall to make it work.

GoToMyPC. This one is going to cost you $20 a month, but the no-hassle convenience is well worth the price. GoToMyPC installs a server component on your “host” computer. You can access it from any other computer with Internet access. Log on to their Web site, type in your password, and you're working on your office PC. —Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Reach him at