If I were to be completely honest about it, when I first thought about using the Eltima USB Network Gate app, I was more than a little dubious. I have used applications like this in the past and they were not all that the developers promoted them as being, so my trepidation was founded upon past bad experiences. Thankfully, as I went through the process of setting up and running the application, I found the Eltima app to be well thought-out and functional.
So what is it?? In their own words: USB Network Gate (former USB to Ethernet Connector) easily connects one or more remote USB devices to your computer over Network (Internet/LAN/WAN) as if the device was plugged into your own machine. Doesn’t matter if you are in another country or in next door office, you can always use remote scanner, printer, webcam, modem, USB dongle or anything else as if they were connected directly to your PC.
The above paragraph might give you a little idea, but read on — the experiences I describe further on will help you realize how this application can benefit you practically.
Before getting into it, please bear in mind that Windows needs to be configured for network sharing in advance and your device should be installed and functioning properly on the host PC before you attempt to share it. I realize that this may ‘go without saying’, but if you attempt to share a misconfigured device, it may produce some unstable and unusual results.
To start out with, the installation of this application was very smooth. All up it took me about 30 seconds to install and share my USB 2.0 hard drive.
There are two modes of installation: Client/Server mode and Client mode. You need to install the Client/Server mode if you wish to host a USB device. If you are merely wishing to connect to a USB already hosted, the Client mode is what you need.
Sharing a device is very, very simple — click on ‘Share’ next to the USB device in the application window. When you do this, the USB Network Gate application running on any PC in your network will instantly ‘see’ the shared device and give you the option to connect to it. It’s really that simple! When you opt to connect to the device it will instantly install any necessary drivers as is normal when adding a new device to windows. At that point, in the case of a USB drive, you will get a shared folder with a standard drive letter assigned to it, same as you would any new USB drive attached to your PC. The only difference being that it operates through the network (or internet, as the case may be) to the drive plugged into a remote PC.
One of the handiest features for the more technically inclined is the ability to share USB devices from a host PC to a virtual machine. In short, this makes it possible to share devices that you would not normally be able to access from a virtual machine.
The bottom line:
This is one extremely good and useful application if you are looking for a way to share a USB drive, a printer, your mobile phone, or virtually any other USB device (I was even able to share the SD card reader and built-in webcam from my laptop with my other PCs).
There are not a lot of configurable options, but this really isn’t a drawback, as it is meant to be simple and simplicity is achieved beautifully by Eltima in this app.
- Easy to use and fast to setup
- Single-click sharing of virtually any USB device
- Excellent user documentation
- Works across the internet with minimal configuration
- Will share USB devices to Virtual Machines where previously impossible
- A bit on the expensive side per license
- A little lean on configuration choices
- Limited device access security options