Remote control done right
- By Tim Fielden
- Dec 26, 2002
If you've ever worked on a help desk, then you may understand all too well the frustration of dealing with users who are unfamiliar with applications and their computers.
If your users are in-house you can, of course, run down the hall and show them what to do. But if the user is off-site, setting them straight can be a real challenge.
Fortunately, thanks to advances in remote control software, help for end users is now really just a click away.
The premise behind CrossTec Corp.'s NetOp Remote Control Version 7.5 is incredibly simple: By employing small footprint host and guest clients, users can easily interact with a central location.
The host module enables a computer to be controlled and provides the remote user with the ability to chat either online or via audio with a support person. The guest module, in addition to offering all the features of the host, also supports file transfers complete with drag-and-drop functionality via a split screen, as well as the ability to link to multiple hosts during a single session.
Although previously able to work with operating systems ranging from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 to NT, CrossTec's latest release touts increased cross-platform support with guest and host capabilities on Microsoft's XP, CE and any Linux distribution based on the 2.x kernel. And, should your shop require it, support has also been added for Symbian Ltd.'s OS.
Other features new to this release include enhanced security with support for Active Directory, gateway authentication for dial-up users and the ability to set user-defined timeouts for guest activity.
Likewise, the host interface has been updated with new layouts, toolbars and extended status information.
For testing, I installed the guest module on a machine running Windows 2000 and the host on one with Windows 98. After completing the configuration and online registration, I was able to verify the solution's connectivity by running a test session between each. Once done, I quickly ran through each of the tabs on both interfaces as a way to acquaint myself with the solution and began work in earnest on the guest.
The tool employs a phonebook-style manner for connections, so I created a couple of entries, defining the name, the phone number, the IP address and the profile used when connecting to a host. If I decided not to create an entry, I could have just as easily entered information manually for each connection via the Quick Connect tab.
I found that by right clicking on one of the entries, I could start or end a remote control session, start or end a file transfer, and start or stop online and audio chat sessions.
All features worked as expected, but the one thing I did not expect was the speed at which they performed. The solution's performance truly made it shine in my eyes.
In addition to providing remote help, the solution also aims to simplify common tasks by using automation via scripting. If desired, a user could copy files, install a program and back up data automatically with no action required from the remote device.
Because security is always an issue, I was pleased to find, in addition to features such as password protection, that NetOp also provides extensive logging of remote control activity, multiple encryption methods and support for a new optional security server in which an ODBC compliant database is queried for session permission and user rights.
If you want more control, the solution can also be augmented with optional gateway and name servers, making integration possible in just about any environment.
In all, NetOp is an excellent addition for any department looking to increase the effectiveness of its help-desk staff and reduce costs. In addition to the solution's strong security features, users will find the product easy to install, learn and use. Add low price to the equation, and it makes the product definitely worth a look.
Fielden is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.