Choosing the right remote desktop control software

While more enterprises are investing in remote desktop control tools for their IT help desk workers, many of these organizations are overlooking key considerations that can limit the success of their deployments, according to Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.

“Often, they are choosing a tool that doesn’t technically traverse the various network infrastructure bits that an organization has in place,” said Russ Conwath, a senior research analyst at the London, Ont.-based consultancy.

One of Conwath’s clients purchased a remote control solution that worked well for users on the WAN, LAN or VPN, but wouldn’t work for users who were on the road and only available to connect via the Internet.

“This works fine until you have to support a user, usually senior management, in a hotel somewhere on the other side of the world,” he said. “The ability to function on the Internet, particularly behind firewalls, NAT, IDS systems and a plethora of Internet provider obstructions can be a showstopper for some solutions. Good solutions will traverse these with ease.”

Another factor to consider when selecting a remote desktop control tool should be the ease of deployment. A browser-based solution is recommended because it does not require any installation on the end-user’s PC.

Organizations should also test and evaluate any potential solutions to ensure they function effectively with firewalls, anti-virus programs and other network security solutions, Conwath said. An effective way to do this could be to try out a software-as-a-service offering, rather than jumping right into an on-premise tool.

“I’ve had clients who were not sure this was something they wanted, so we brought SaaS in to see if the IT staff and the users liked it,” he said.

In fact, SaaS might be the permanent choice for both small organizations that don’t have the IT staff available to maintain an on-premise system as well as “Googleplex-sized” enterprises that might actually save money (and stress) by simply outsourcing the functionality.

For medium shops that have about five to 25 help desk workers, appliance-based solutions will probably represent the best value, Info-Tech advised.

A crucial feature in a SaaS solution should be remote help desk access functionality, which will allow IT staff the ability to remotely connect to the service from on-site, Conwath said.

Info-Tech’s recommended SaaS vendors and products include Citrix Systems Inc.’s GoToAssist, LogMeIn Inc., NTRglobal’s NTRsupport, NetViewer and WebEx Communications Inc.

On-premise recommendations include BOMGAR’s Remote Desktop Control, DameWare Development LLC, N-Able Technologies Inc. and NetSupport Manager.

Whether opting for a SaaS solution or purchasing an on-premise system, organizations will want to ensure their software comes with features such as file transfer, remote printing, remote clipboard, screen recording, and integrated chat.

The software should also come with a user acknowledgement feature that requires the help desk staff to wait for end-user approval before taking over a machine, Conwath said.

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