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.
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.
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.