EWeek: Time for Web-based Remote control

We all have stories about that panicked user call in the middle of the weekend to fix a broken server or restart a downed connection. One of the most productive tools that a VAR can use is a Web-based remote control product. Unlike client-based products such as PCAnywhere and VNC of the past, there is no need for any software on the client computer, and the remote control session can be done by using a small piece of software that works with a Web browser over the Internet.

There are two main technology vendors in this space: LogMeIn Rescue and Citrix’ GoToAssist. Citrix used to offer a channel but now sells its software directly, while LogMeIn offers a partner program where resellers can monitor all of their customer’s PC via an online portal and also provides joint marketing programs too. “Being able to address issues without travel time is incredible,” says Mike Loughery, a principal of Lockree Computer Services of El Cerrito, Calif. Remote control “has revolutionized our support offering,” says Michael Post, Technical Manager, Intelligent Time Systems Ltd of Swindon in the U.K. “All of our customers love it and resolution times have fallen by 40%. Best of all, it was incredibly easy to setup – we were up and running in about 5 minutes. ”

More than just for break/fix, Web-based remote control can help extend a VAR’s geographic reach and make regional IT companies offer national or international 24/7 support.

There are other features of Web-based remote control products that can be useful for VARs, too. One reseller maintains a library of its remote control session recordings for training purposes. “GoToAssist makes you so much more capable for diagnostic purposes and provides an excellent revenue stream,” says Jeanne Johnson, principle for Server Centric Consulting in St. Louis, Mo. She uses the built-in diagnostic tools that come with the product that make it easier to identify common system problems. “You can also record a remote control session as a movie and use this for compliance risk mitigation, and training purposes too.”

Of course, without a working Internet connection or a faulty network adapter on the target PC, these remote-control products are useless. Still, they can work for the vast majority of monitoring and servicing tasks.

About the only other downside is figuring out the best version of either companies’ extensive product line makes the most sense for the particular support or remote control session. Both offer a confusing selection of products for free personal use between two computers, and for enterprise use through gateways that require some software to be installed on the target computer. LogMeIn’s offerings, for example, include a personal free version, a “rescue” version which can be downloaded on-the-fly, and a “reach” version that supports remote printing and file transfer.

Both also sell versions that include centralized administration and remote monitoring, along with a hosted service that can use a gateway to broker connections between computers. This can be useful in situations such as remote monitoring and administration of servers. It is worth it for VARs to study the comparison charts on both vendors’ Web sites before deciding the appropriate product to use. LogMeIn also offers an online wizard that asks you a series of questions and makes recommendations based on your answers.

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