Remote desktop solutions allow you to view and control a computer via the Internet just like you were sitting in front of it. Unlike Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), most third-party solutions allow you to easily access remote PCs that are behind firewalls, proxies, and NAT routers. This is useful for corporate networks as well IT service providers serving multiple companies. Here I review three different remote desktop solutions designed for remote tech support.
There are many features that all three of these solutions support: the ability to chat, transfer files (via copy/paste, drag/drop, or a file manager), reboot and reconnect (including rebooting into Safe Mode), and session logging with the ability to make notes. Additionally, all of them offer the ability for the technician to share their screen with the client and each supports video recording of the remote sessions and multi-monitor support. Each also offers some type of branding or customization of the client interface to better integrate the solution into your company.
Instant Housecall supports remotely connecting to Windows PCs and Macs. After their free 15-day trial, pricing starts at $49 per month (or $499/year) for the Express edition or $89 per month (or $907/year) for the Professional edition.
Instant Housecall offers some features and functionality not seen in most other remote desktop solutions. First, you can customize Terms and Conditions that are displayed to the client before connecting. While remotely connected, you can run the d7 tech utility for automating virus removal and repair tasks. In addition to transferring files you can remotely run/open a program or file from your local PC to the remote computer. You also have the ability to quickly prompt clients for payment via PayPal or a third-party payment solution. Plus like higher-end solutions, you can transfer or collaborate on remote sessions with other technicians.
Clients must download and install an application, which by default installs an icon on the desktop named “Get Remote Support” and a start menu entry. Once installed, the client can initiate a support session with a particular tech from your organization, which notifies the tech of the support request. The client application also allows them to give you unattended remote access and ability to see session history with notes.
Experts must download and install a different application, which they sign into to be available for support requests. They can also send email invites to clients, access the list of unattended installs, and review session history. During my testing, I found the remote process and functionality to be user-friendly. There’s a shortcut on the remote window to quickly create a restore point of the remote PC, which can be useful. However, I did find one feature missing that’s available in the other solutions I reviewed: a way to prompt the client for their Windows password so you can do unattended reboots.
Techinline supports remote connections to Windows PCs. After the free 15-day trial, there are a range of subscription options to choose from starting with $30 per month to $300 per year for unlimited sessions or $39 for 5 sessions to $569 for 100 sessions. All licensing options provide the same functionality, branding, and technical support.
Techinline offers similar features and functionality as most other solutions. However at the time of this writing they didn’t support unattended remote access but said it’s coming within weeks. But like LogMeIn, it did allow you to request the client’s Windows password, for unattended reboots.
Clients must download a small program or a browser extension in order to initiate a support session. Both the program and browser extension display a 6-digit Client ID number which they tell the technician in order to start the remote session.
Experts must also download a small program or a browser extension in order to perform remote support. Both options however display a nearly-identical web-based interface where you can open the separate remote desktop window, share your screen, access reboot options, and send files.
Unlike both other solutions, Techinline doesn’t offer any collaboration or transferring options in case you need help from other technicians.
LogMeIn is one of the established names in the remote desktop industry and LogMeIn Rescue has been designed especially for remote support. It supports remote connections to Windows PCs, Macs, and even mobile devices. After their free trial, pricing is $129 per month or $1,188 per year. And to support mobile devices it’s an additional $90 per month or $768 per year.
LogMeIn Rescue offers all the features and functionality that the other two solutions provide plus more. It offers a solid technician interface with the ability to quickly gather system information from the remote client. It provides many management tools, settings, and even a separate management interface to better control and monitor technicians and to track support sessions. It also offers great branding and customization features.
For mobile devices, LogMeIn Rescue allows you to fully remote control Windows, Symbian and BlackBerry devices and text-based setting configuration support for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian devices.
Like Techinline, LogMeIn Rescue uses a PIN-based method of connection for new clients, but with LogMeIn the technician generates the PIN code and gives it to the client. Plus unlike Techinline, LogMeIn supports unattended access for future connections. You generate a 6-digit PIN code and can provide it via email, a link, or SMS for mobile devices. And then clients can visit the LogMeIn123.com site (or your site if you’ve integrated it), enter the PIN code, and then download the small client program designed for one-time use.
For the experts a web-based and desktop application is provided, both offering a nearly-identical interface. During my testing I found it to be user-friendly while offering many options and functionality. My only gripe is that Google Chrome isn’t supported for the web-based interface.