Tactical Advice

Improve Remote Worker Support Without Leaving Your Chair

This story appears in the December 2007 issue of BizTech Magazine.
John W. Ellis
Photo: Purestock/Punchstock

Nothing is better to a support technician than being able to provide quality help to clients while eliminating the need for travel — be it across the building or across town. The better remote support applications allow technicians to remotely administer another computer without the need to install software or configure licenses.

Who needs a remote support app? Companies with a significant telecommuting workforce or large buildings or campuses can justify the cost of remote support. Building on Citrix’s experience in terminal services applications, GoToAssist offers a solution for the corporate environment.

End-User Advantages

Like many of the remote support solutions on the market, Citrix GoToAssist allows technicians to remotely control the client’s PC in a full-resolution “mirrored” mode of the end user’s desktop with the same screen session visible to both the end user and the technician. This makes GoToAssist a boon for end-user education, too. The GoToAssist client is distributed to the end user through a push download that is compact, compared with similar products such as WebEx. Establishing a connection via a 256-kilobit-per-second DSL connection on the customer’s end will take about two minutes.

Citrix provides customers with a Web portal customized with the customer’s corporate identity. Technicians need to direct end users to that site either orally or by supplying them a URL or e-mail link. The connection is established with end-to-end Advanced Encryption Standard encryption.

Among the more compelling features of GoToAssist are:

  • the ability to push files and URLs to the remote desktop;
  • resuming a session after restart with the most current version;
  • allowing client-technician interaction via a chat window without requiring additional phone time;
  • a session management console with tabbed views of remote sessions that allows the technician to manage multiple remote assistance sessions.

Why It Works for IT

A complete set of back-office tools for meas­uring performance, billing and managing users helps GoToAssist shine. At the close of each session, the technician marks the issue resolved or unresolved and is given a field for comments. Simultaneously, the customer is directed to a Web page to provide feedback. The Web-based management interface provides the technical services manager with reports on time spent in sessions, sessions per technician, resolution rates and customer feedback. All reports can be downloaded into spreadsheets or databases.

With its strong session encryption and end-user password policies, Citrix claims that GoToAssist meets all standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act with regard to security, user access control, privacy and logging.

Disadvantages

As powerful as it is, GoToAssist’s primary drawbacks are cost and that it’s geared toward organizations with large numbers of remote workers. Additionally, the resume session after logoff/restart feature needs work, and this is a pity because many types of corporate support require elevated end-user access or reboots. At the same time, this is a difficult feature to implement while balancing security concerns, and it does work more often than not. At the end of the day, Citrix GoToAssist should be considered a leading candidate for any large organization’s support structure.

CDW Price: $4,498.72

CEO Takeaway

Remote support allows IT to eliminate travel and troubleshoot using their desktop toolkits. Critical features include:

• Remote administration without the need to install software or configure licenses
• Security options, such as session encryption and passwords
• Easy-to-establish sessions, even in slow bandwidth environments
Connor W. Anderson is a senior director of IT services at Effective Networking in Clinton, Iowa.
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