Remote Control Done Right
Seeing the whole picture with NetSupport 8.1.
"Who needs another remote control product?" I asked looking
at the NetSupport Manager box that just arrived. I installed the product
and began to take it through the paces. Turn by turn, I was pleasantly
After ignoring the 300-page manual (I expect software to be intuitive),
installing the product, and launching the control console, I noticed the
ability to add a new client, which I expected would install the client
on the system. It didn't. Right clicking on the icon for the client didn't
provide an installation option either. I checked out the online help.
As it turns out, you cannot install a client remotely from the control
console. Instead, you have to launch the separate NetSupport Deploy tool.
While the tool is intuitive, and flexible in deployment options, I'd like
to see it integrated into NetSupport, or at least accessible from the
Control Console (see Figure 1).
Once the client was installed, taking remote control was simple, and
there are options for voice chat, file transfers, inventory of the remote
machine, Wake-On-LAN, etc. Think NetMeeting. Then think steroids. Remote
control was responsive, and the mouse lag I expect from most products
was virtually non-existent. It also did not conflict with VNC or the SMS
Client already on the machines. NetSupport also includes a feature that
allows the clients to request assistance, which is wonderful in a school,
library, or Internet café setting.
Then I started poking around and noticed that you can add a client of
a different typeVNC! For the uninitiated, VNC is a free remote control
product downloadable from www.realvnc.com.
Suddenly I thought that NetSupport might serve as a central console for
managing my VNC machines as well. It willjust not for Windows machines.
Only Mac and Linux clients need apply. Drat.
Sulking, I returned to investigating the product again. When I review
a product, I always try to find something that would compel me to buy,
something that would make me spend my sons' hard-earned paper route money
on it. I found it.
|Figure 1. NetSupport Control console. (Click
image to view larger version.)
NetSupport Tutor (also referred to as NetSupport School, and yet another
standalone interface; see Figure 2) allows an instructor, administrator,
parent, or Big Brother to simultaneously monitor multiple desktops. You
can select what URLs and applications are permissible for the clients
to run. As a trainer (and as a parent) there is something very compelling
about that feature.
|Figure 2. NetSupport Tutor console. (Click image
to view larger version.)
It also allows you to exhibit one user's desktop to the other machines,
though it locked up the few times I tried it. In a classroom setting,
this lets every student get involved in the troubleshooting process.
So, while I would love to see the NetSupport folks integrate all of the
functionality into a single interface, where features could be shown or
hidden based on the user's job function, the product is well suited to
the environments it caters to. "Who needs another remote control
product?" I asked myself. "I do," I replied.
Joe Crawford, MCSE, works as a support engineer for HP, supporting Microsoft networking technologies. He specializes in Microsoft Systems Management Server and scripting.