NetworkStreaming's SupportDesk 9

Most remote control support options are offered as hosted services that offer the convenience of quick setup and low maintenance. SupportDesk 9 offers a different option: a hardware appliance

August 11, 2006

4 Min Read
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Remote control support options abound. Most are offered as hosted services that offer the convenience of quick setup and low maintenance. Others are available as one-to-one direct connections that typically require applications to be pre-installed on remote computers prior to being connected. NetworkStreaming's SupportDesk 9 offers a different option: a hardware appliance and requires no pre-installed applications on the client PCs.

The option to install SupportDesk 9 as a rack-mounted unit behind the corporate firewall may be appealing to companies facing monthly ASP bills that continue to increase as more users and sessions are added. SupportDesk 9 installs in about 30 minutes by simply connecting it to your internal network and power, then configuring it to meet your needs. The initial price of $3,690 includes a license for one support rep. Additional concurrent licenses are available at $1,695 each.

Licensing by concurrent support persons allows unlimited concurrent client sessions. A single support rep can typically handle multiple clients at a time using the support rep application that displays the rep's current sessions, requests in queue, and any other representatives that might be online.

Locating the appliance behind the corporate firewall makes it ideal for providing secure connections to support for internal client PCs. It can also just as easily support external clients using standard TCP/IP ports 80 and 443.

The test driveI used a demo account installed at NetworkStreaming's offices. The first step was to download the support representative's application. Download was quick and simple, and I was immediately able to log into the system. The application displays a list of active conversations, the other representatives that are currently active, and incoming support requests. Dedicated buttons allow for accepting callers and adding them to my queue, and then transferring them to other support reps.

From the client side, all the user needs do is point to the support Web site and identify themselves. No previous registration is required. When the user clicks the submit button to send a support request, the temporary client application requests permission to download. I clicked the OK button and the download took about 30 seconds, then another 30 seconds to install and run.

Once the application was running on my client computer, the request for support appeared in the support queue on the tech support rep's PC. I was able to click the Accept button on the tech support PC, which added the new session to the active queue, along with a dialog box showing the support rep and client conversation. Initiating remote control was as simple as clicking a button on the support rep's console, which requested permission from the client to allow control.

Control of the client PC was fast and fluid within the support window. In addition, there was a set of controls allowing me to resize, refresh, change the video quality, initiate the Start menu (without having to scroll to it on the remote window), and initiate a Ctrl/Alt/Del. Once I had the task manager visible I could initiate a reboot of the remote computer if necessary. The reboot task is often a sore spot for both support reps and clients, since it usually requires that the client wait around and be present when their computer restarts so they can reinitiate the support session and allow the support rep to have access again.

SupportDesk 9 has a special function that automatically reestablishes the support session and activates the remote control session once the PC has returned to life. I tried the function and it worked like magic, announcing on the client PC that the support rep was viewing the computer, but not requiring a response. This function is likely to be popular with clients who don't want to wait around while the support technician uploads files, restarts the PC, and resolves the problem.The SupportDesk 9 client application is entirely temporary. When the support session is terminated, the application removed itself completely from the client PC. In addition to keeping the PC uncluttered, removing the application provides assurance that the client PC won't be accessed without permission.

SupportDesk 9 includes a full set of tools for the support rep, including predefined phrases and a document library, file transfer, and the ability to transfer the current session to another support rep. All the functions were easy to understand and operated flawlessly in my tests.

SupportDesk 9 is simple to install and simple to use for both the technical support rep and the end user. From management's perspective, purchasing a hardware device means having a fixed expenditure with the ability to expand at predictable cost, with no monthly fees. NetworkStreaming estimates that a single appliance can support up to 30 concurrent technicians, able to support a total of 40,000 PCs (not concurrently).

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