Easy and Secure Remote Support is Available

February 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

For the last week I have been looking for an inexpensive remote desktop solution for providing support to my customers from home. Many times a problem can be solved over the phone, but as tech support it can be difficult to “drive blind”, especially with there being a few different common operating systems out there. Yesterday I found a good free option for basic remote support, and today I’ve tested and confirmed that UltraVNC will do the job.

There are many companies out there offering “desktop sharing” where one user can take control of the other users computer over the internet. Most of the good ones are free for personal use, but cost money to use commercially. My two favorites are TeamViewer, and LogMeIn.

LogMeIn actually offers a free solution which is cleverly called “LogMeIn Free”. All you have to do is create an account on their website, then click Add Computer to install LogMeIn on your computer. Every computer you install LogMeIn onto will be listed on your account and you’ll be able to access them from anywhere in the world through a web browser.

I have two problems with this when it comes to incident-based remote support. First, the customer either needs my LogMeIn account credentials to install LogMeIn Free on their computer, or I need to have already installed it previously. Second, I don’t want an incident-based remote support tool to leave traces of itself on my customers computer. I don’t want them to feel like I could login again and spy on them at any moment.

LogMeIn has another tool which does exactly what I want, and it’s called LogMeIn Rescue. With LogMeIn Rescue, the customer goes to a website and enters a pin code which is issued over the phone, e-mail or text message. When they click Connect, a small program is launched which allows the support agent to control the desktop for as long as the small program is still running. Rescue has a lot of great features and it is what our support team uses at my day job, but it isn’t cheap at $129/month or $1188/year. And that price is per agent, so if I ever bring on a partner it would cost twice that for the two of us to be able to help customers simultaneously.

TeamViewer doesn’t offer any free options to commercial users like myself, but they are a cheaper alternative to LogMeIn Rescue with all the same features. Still, I can’t smile as I fork over $749 for their entry-level product right now – especially when I may only do one or two sessions per month in the beginning. What I really like about TeamViewer is that you purchase the right to use that version of the software forever. If you want to upgrade to the latest version you get a trade-in credit, but if you don’t need any of the new features then you don’t have to pay for them. I like this model a lot, and it is far less expensive than LogMeIn Rescue.

There are other options out there like Crossloop, Mikogo, ShowMyPC and more, but they either cost money or don’t work they way I’d like them to (or both). UltraVNC Single-Click is a customizable program that can be run without installing, and connects directly to my computer providing mouse and keyboard control, and file transfer ability. The session is encrypted with 128bit RC4 encryption, and when either of us ends the session the program closes and leaves no trace of itself in your Program Files directory or registry. Finally, it is completely free open-source software which means that if I was smart enough I could make changes to the software myself (but I’m not, so I wont).

It isn’t the best solution out there as far as features and reliability go to be honest. One of these days I will probably move toward TeamViewer or something similar. This custom UltraVNC utility works great for now though, and I could install LogMeIn Free during our first remote session for customers who might need ongoing support.

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Beaverton, OR

Josh Hendricks
971-217-8489
josh@fixitpnw.com

Hours:
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