The iTwin Connect solution is a natural extension of the iTwin File Access we reviewed before. While the iTwin File Access is just that, the iTwin Connect goes beyond by offering remote desktop access without port forwarding, shared folder access and VPN rolled in one secure product.
Like its predecessor the iTwin Connect comes as a pair of USB devices that plug into each other like so:
The idea is that when you insert both devices plugged to each other into a USB slot the iTwin software will generate a secret key for this pair. You can also assign a password for enhanced access security and generate a disable code to be used in case you lose one of the devices. Once this is done you can separate the devices and take one with you on the road, leaving the other one connected to a PC at home or office.
When you plug your single iTwin Connect unit to another PC it will install the software and automatically connect to the other unit, wherever it is in the world, over the Internet.
The iTwin Connect software will created a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) so that you can access each other PC's resources. Once those two PCs are securely connected they will each have access to the partner's shared folders and even access to remote desktop without any port forward or firewall configuration needed.
You can even configure your PC to "teleport" you to the other PC, and all Internet traffic will be routed through your PC at home or office. This is interesting if you have services that can only be accessed from a certain IP address - for example work servers that only accept connections from your home static IP address.
Alternatively you can use the iTwin Connect device to "teleport" you to another country, using one of the iTwin VPN servers as an exit point. In my tests this worked well with geo-restricted services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and others. This is the only option you have if only one of the devices is plugged in.
This shows the menu options when only one device is plugged in:
This shows the menu options when only both devices are plugged in on different computers:
The advantages here are extreme easy of use due to no configuration and portability since the software is available for installation on the devices themselves.
Once you buy the iTwin Connect there are no ongoing fees or monthly charges. If you are interested in having access to VPNs in other countries, the iTwin Connect is more expensive than a third party VPN service. But it offers more in terms of remote access to your own data without having to run around configuring your own VPN server, firewalls and routers.
It's also more secure than a simple VPN software solution. Even if you install the software in a PC with a keylogger that manages to catch your iTwin password, once you remove the device from the USB slot there's no way to reestablish the connection. And you can always use the disable code to kill the VPN connection from any other PC via the iTwin website.
I did test speed when "teleporting" to the iTwin US servers from New Zealand and it wasn't the fastest option. Even so, I had no problems streaming content from some of the digital providers mentioned before.
Update 24th November 2013: I have tested the iTwin Connect speeds again as there was a major update and it's considerably improved as you can see below:
- Easy, almost hands off configuration
- Security requires both the device and optional password
- Remote disable code
- No ongoing fees
- VPN back to your home or office, including Internet access tunnel
- Both Windows and Mac OS X software available
- A bit more expensive than third party VPN only services
- Not as fast as a dedicated third party VPN only service