Product Reviews

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 surprised.

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 type—VNC! For the uninitiated, VNC is a free remote control product downloadable from Suddenly I thought that NetSupport might serve as a central console for managing my VNC machines as well. It will—just 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.

NetSupport Control console-o-me-o...
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.


NetSupport Tutor
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.

About the Author

Joe Crawford, MCSE, works as a support engineer for HP, supporting Microsoft networking technologies. He specializes in Microsoft Systems Management Server and scripting.


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