ScreenConnect vs SimpleHelp

The Need for a Secure Remote Access Tool

Having access to a secure, reliable, easy to use remote support tool is a must for any IT professional.  There are just some problems that are just easier to resolve when you can actually control the remote machine.  As the old saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words“; this rings even truer when trying to resolve a problem without physically travelling to a site.

There are a few basic that a remote support tool should have.

First, it should allow for ad hoc connections: the client should be able to run the tool without the need for a permanent install, or a messy clean-up.

Second, it should support multiple platforms.  Put gently it should support not just be available for Win32 platforms, but also OSX and Linux.

Third, it must support an encrypted connection, and offer a level of security that can be trusted by both sides.

Fourth, it should offer a dedicated client to allow for extended support or monitoring.

Those are the four “musts“.  The nice to have parts would be an affordable price, notifications, reverse desktop sharing (meetings), and remote registry editing. Also worth mention is session monitoring; it never hurts to be able to show the client exactly what work was completed.

There are some names that readers may recognize immediately.  TeamViewer is one that comes to mind; it’s a great tool, but the price may be beyond the budget of some users.  Ammyy Admin is another name – not a bad tool, but unfortunately its reputation has been unfairly tarnished by scam artists using for illicit purposes.

ScreenConnect

Another product that has been around since 2008, and has developed a loyal customer base is ScreenConnect. Originally developed by Elsinore Technologies in 2008, ScreenConnect gained a very loyal following over the past few years.

ScreenConnect’s popularity, and aggressive pricing caught my attention, and I purchased a license in 2014. While the product was good, it did have its warts. Perhaps the biggest was simply issues with the remote client being flagged as “suspicious” or wrongly tagged as a virus on the client side.

While some users love the product, I just never saw ScreenConnect as fully polished.  Its “rough around the edges” type look, feel, and performance just didn’t sit well with me, and my purchase never made it into full production.

In early 2015 ScreenConnect was acquired by ConnectWise.  While having a larger company backing the product bodes well for its continued development, it also came with a significant price increase for new customers.  To ConnectWise’s credit, they have promised to honour legacy pricing for existing customers.  So far they have kept that commitment.

So with the future of ScreenConnect being cloudy, I went looking for a replacement and found a name I had never heard before – SimpleHelp.

Where ScreenConnect lacked polish, SimpleHelp shined. Setup was incredibly simple. On a Windows server, it was as simple as running the install, going to the newly created webpage, and then downloading and running the Simple Help Technician app.

On a Linux server it’s just as easy; untar the files, move them to /opt, and start the server.  On a side note, it works best if you remove Apache or anything else using ports 80 and 443 – if these ports are available, it just makes life so much simpler.

The Magic of the SimpleHelp Technican App

Where ScreenConnect does all of its remote magic through a webpage, SimpleHelp uses an app that retains the same consistent look and feel whether it is run on Windows, Linux, or OSX.

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This little app was one of the first things that caught my attention. Whether it is launched from Windows, OSX, or Linux it looks the same. It just works.

Remote management is consistent between platforms. It just works.

When it comes to features SimpleHelp boasts a long list of things ScreenConnect can’t touch, including port forwarding, a remote console for command line operations, and more.  It just works.

SimpleHelp has powerful tools to increase productivity.

  • Multiple simultaneous remote sessions allow you to connect to multiple customers at the same time
  • Virtual queues of users let you specify which customers a technician should be able to view and support
  • Transfer a session to a colleague to both support the same customer
  • Block user’s display and input to prevent them from interfering while you work
  • Can elevate session to administrator privileges
  • Full control including Windows UAC and Ctrl+Alt+Del
  • Automatically reconnect after reboot

The bottom line – SimpleHelp just works.

SimpleHelp has that last bit of polish that ScreenConnect is lacking. When a client connects using SimpleHelp it is simple for them, it is a professional presentation, and I can do what needs to be done. Price, function, and polish, SimpleHelp delivers.

Check it out, try the demo, and come to your own conclusions.

https://simple-help.com

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The curse of Windows updates

Patch Tuesday – for those in the IT sector Microsoft patches have become one of the painful realities we have just come to accept.  Thinking back 10 years patches were fairly painless, but as of late “Patch Tuesday” doesn’t always pass as painlessly as it should.

I recently ran into Windows Update Error 80072EE2 which ultimately sent me on a search on fix this dreaded message.  The exact technical issue was a corrupt CBS.  In short, Windows lost track of its own components and updates.  It does make me wonder why an Operating System has to use a database to keep track of all its parts and components, but such is life.

The required fix was a “repair install”, which wasn’t that difficult.  The bigger difficulty was finding the right Windows 7 DVD for the repair.

The computer in question shipped with an HP OEM version of Windows 7.  I had the original DVD, but it was an original Windows 7 without SP1.  The computer requiring the “repair install” was patched with Windows 7 SP1.  It is frustrating to keep the original disks only to have them become useless over time.

To make a long story short, I did eventually find an original HP Windows 7×64 DVD that included SP1.  The repair install took about 90 minutes and was relatively painless.

And now the irony.  After the repair install, Windows had to install all of its updates over again.  It took longer to patch Windows 7 than it did to do the reinstall.  And some days I just sit and wonder……..

Windows Updates.  Who came up with this idea again?  It isn’t a bad idea when everything works.

 

 

Information and security – the basics haven’t changed

We still use the term Information Technology, or just IT, but what is more complex – managing information or managing technology?  In my estimation, technology is now just a commodity, and managing “Technology” is not rocket science. Information, or more directly managing, securing, and controlling Information, is becoming increasingly more complex.

Going back before the computer age, enterprises operated without much automated technology, but they did use information. Getting back to basics, there have always been business processes, and every business process is in some way tied to information.  Business, or the enterprise has always been in the simplest of terms, tied to business processes that drive services provided to clients, employees, and other stakeholders. No matter how you look at it, every business process is tied to information in one way or another.

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The importance of physical security

It makes no difference what Operating System (OS) you run, Windows, Linux, BSD, or OSX, if someone has access to your computer (or server), password security is meaningless.  Every OS has the possibility of resetting the administrative password.

This does make some sense, as often computers or servers are set-up, run an application or service for an extended period of time, and potentially become “orphans” in the enterprise.  Put another way, the person who did the original set-up has moved on, let go, or simply forgot how the device was configured.

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It’s your password: it’s your information. Who can you trust?

In the first weeks of June 2012 both LinkedIn and eHarmony were hit with a security breach exposing as many as 8 million passwords.  There is some irony in that one site contains professional and business information, while the other holds intimate personal information.  Now whoever said business and love can’t mix?

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