There are dozens of utilities available that allow you to support remote clients including Remote Desktop, Remote Assistance, VNC, Dameware, GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, and WebEx, only to name a few. Some of these are free, some are expensive, some offer encryption, and some require router modifications at either the host or client site. I recently signed up for the new Citrix GoToAssist Express Beta Test which seems to offer all of the good features and more, of the aforementioned, and with none of the aggravations.
Though this service will not be free, it is well worth trying out, and consider adopting in the future. It is extremely easy to use by both the support technician and client, and offers secure access with good performance. It is ideally suited in my opinion for supporting non-enterprise clients for which you do not have preconfigured access to the remote site.
The session is started by selecting “start a support session” from a task bar icon. You are provided with a support session number and the option to automatically generate an e-mail to send to the client, or just read it to them over the phone. The client then connects to the www.fastsupport.com web site, enters their session ID, which then initiates running a tiny app (less than 200K). The client then has to approve your request to connect, and at any time they have the ability to end the session. I was impressed with how well all the features worked, and the performance.
Some of the features included, that I felt were important:
- Client ability to control connections (clientvsecurity)
- Very good performance
- No router reconfiguration (port forwarding) at either site
- It is a shared session, ideal for training purposes
- Either the client or the support technicians sessions can be shared, and flipping back and forth between them is very easy
- Drawing tools allow pointing out features and options to clients
- Chat session available during the connection
- Bi-directional file transfers
- Diagnostic tools which can be run from the support screen to gather information about the client PC. This includes 10 pages of information such as hardware, software, and status information, which can also be saved to a local file for reviewing
- A notes section to allow you to create notes to be saved with the session information
- The ability to re-boot the PC remotely, not only to the same session, but also to reboot to safe mode and automatically re-connect the session while in safe mode - “very cool”
- There is an option to configure the client machine to allow unattended support sessions, i.e connecting without the client preset. Installation of this feature, again requires approval by the client. Like Remote Desktop, these sessions lock the screen on the client PC. One nice feature is the client can refuse the connection, if they are in the middle of a project.