In this article, I answer a question from one of my readers, where he asks for a recommendation on good remote support software. You’ll want to read this, as he’s not just asking for any old recommendation, there are some specific things his software of choice will have to do. Read on to find out what he’s looking for and what I think will do the trick for him.
Here’s the original question from one of my three blog readers:
Just wondering if you had any thoughts on Remote Support Software. As you know I am a Freelance Software Consultant, so keeping costs low is always pretty key for me. But when it comes to remote support, I need to ensure my customers have an easy to use ‘click and go’ facility or at least something that looks professional and doesn’t require lenghty tuition from me to explain how they use it. File transfer facility is a must too. So I appreciate I may have to spend a little more.
I have looked at BOMGAR, GoToAssist, Mikogo, to name but a few and have to say that GTA and BOMGAR are quite good. Although at £39 a month for one or two support tasks it can get quite pricey. Are they really the market leaders?
I was interested to know your thoughts on this topic.
This is a great question to which an answer could benefit individuals as well as businesses. If you’re an individual, you could use remote support software to help relatives and friends, both near and far, without having to make the drive to wherever they live to help them find that lost icon, or work on cleaning malware off their PCs.
For businesses, large and small, this is extremely valuable software as this will enable you to support either your staff or your customeres remotely, and yet have full access to their PCs to fix whatever could be hindering their productivity.
Thanks for asking this, Robin! I’m really looking forward to answering this question!
The Options Laid Out
In Robin’s email, he mentioned a few options out there. Some of the options he listed were:
- GoTo Assist
Let’s look at each of these and see what other options may exist.
I haven’t used BOMGAR and frankly, I hadn’t heard of BOMGAR until Robin mentioned it. After checking out their website, I’ll admit, I had a hard time finding out how their products can help Robin in his quest for good cost-effect remote support software. The site is ambiguous, and suffers from a typical “enterprise grade solution” type of web site.
What that means is that the content on the site is full of industry buzzwords, full of ”solutions by industry”, but very short on what their product actually does, how it can benefit your needs, and how much it costs.
Sadly, the pricing is not up front, and you have to contact Sales in order to find out. What that means is that they most likely cater to larger companies, and not the individual or small business, let alone the freelance IT professional such as Robin.
I’m going to say that even if BOMGAR has an offering that is absolutely perfect for individuals and small businesses, I would never know it from reading their website.
Therefore, I’m going to take BOMGAR off the list of recommended products for Robin’s purposes.
I’ve used GoToAssist before and I did find it very easy to use. It’s a sister product to the popular GoTo Meeting and GoTo Webinar virtual meeting solutions offered by Citrix, who is both a pioneer and a technology leader when it comes to virtual access solutions.
I’ve used virtual desktop solutions from Citrix as far back as the late 90′s. Citrix was ahead of it’s time back then, and they’ve continued to evolve with more virtual meeting solutions, as well as virtualized server solutions that are on par with VMWare and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.
For these purposes, though, we’re only going to focus on GoToAssist. It’s a fine product, extremely easy to use for both supporter and supportee, making it worthy of consideration as it does meet all of Robin’s requirements, except price. It’s a bit pricey at $69 USD a month, but it is one of the “market leaders” that Robin mentions.
I remember Mikogo a few years back, 7 years ago already, to be exact (where did the time go!). They were just a startup, so they offered web video conferencing for free for up to 3 attendees while they were still in beta and working out their business model and pricing. Going back to their site to answer Robin’s question, I’ve seen quite a few changes.
Their site has changed, and they are more business than in the past, where they were a little more home user friendly. Their pricing is agreeable and starts at $13 USD per month for their starter package for up to 3 attendees.
However, for Robin’s purposes, it doesn’t really meet his requirement of actually being able to remotely support a PC and it is definitely not designed for file transfers between computers.
That doesn’t mean Mikogo isn’t a good solution, it’s just not the right solution for remote support software. Mikogo is actually a web conferencing solution that is similar to GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and even Google Hangouts (which is free, by the way).
So for that reason, Mikogo is out.
Ok, so, as one out of the three that Robin mentioned seems viable, we need some more options, don’t we? Especially as GoTo Assist is a bit on the high side in terms of price, I think we can do better. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
I’ve used join.me a couple of times in a pinch, and it really does deliver what the site promises: Screen sharing that is ridiculously simple. It enables you and your user to be supported to join a “meeting” by simply going to the join.me website and selecting the right panel for which role you’ll be playing.
If you’re the person about to receive support, you click the panel that says, “Share your screen”. If you’re the person about to provide the support, in this case it would be Robin, then you select “Join someone’s screen” by entering in the code the person sharing their screen will provide you after they click their button.
Once you enter the code, you’ll be connected to the person’s screen who you’ll be supporting. It’s too easy.
There is a free version that allows you to control the other person’s screen and you can also transfer files, which are a couple of Robin’s requirements. The difference here is that because join.me is primarily a person-to-person web conferencing solution, if you are going to take control of the other person’s computer, you’ll have to request permission to control their screen. This means they’ll have to be present.
For additional features, there is a pro version that gives you more features, and it’s priced very competitively. Pricing starts at $149 USD per year ($12.42 USD per month), or $19 USD if you prefer a month to month option.
Overall, for a quick “let’s connect and see what’s going on with your computer” type solution, join.me is top notch.
TeamViewer is a bit different from the rest of the options highlighted here in that it’s actual software the user will install from a download. The other options do require the user to be supported to install some sort of software, however, that is typically done from a web-based interface. TeamViewer is an old fashioned .exe file download and install.
However, it is very easy to use, but may require a bit of hand-holding of the user to get it installed and explain to them how to share the access code and password with you so that you can remotely access their PC. Typically, it’s not much harder than the other options, it’s just a bit of an extra step.
One thing I’ve done is to upload the user’s .exe file to a file sharing service like Box.net or YouSendIt, so that the user can download the file easily and run the installer. If you try to attach an .exe installer file to an email, it will certainly be flagged by any email system’s security and remove the attachment. Why? Because many a malware and virus has been sent via email attachment. And .exe files can look innocent and end up being vicious malware.
So, because of a few bad apples, .exe files are generally stripped from any emails and so, to save yourself some time and headache, use a free version of Box.net or YouSendIt and let their servers do the downloading.
The paid version weighs in at a hefty $749 USD for a one-time purchase, meaning there are no recurring costs. You own the license, and aren’t merely renting it. However, for occasional use, and if you’re just supporting friends and family, the personal free version may suit you just fine.
For Robin’s needs, it actually does meet all of his needs quite nicely, but there is just a bit of a learning curve to use it, but really, not much.
I’ll admit, I haven’t used this solution, but for the price and the features, I have to add this to the list. ZOHO has been around for several years as a cost-effective alternative to a variety of cloud-based small business tools. They offer cloud-based MS Office-style apps that compete with Google Apps. They offer a cheaper alternative to the more expensive Salesforce.com for CRM, and they have many other cloud-based services who’s price point is extremely agreeable for the freelancer or small business.
ZOHO Assist is no different. It’s a full-featured remote support software solution that is very similar to GoTo Assist as it’s web-based and very easy to use.
They have a free version that is somewhat limited in that it allows you only 5 sessions per month and a duration of 2 hours per session. For the casual user, that may be fine, especially if you really only help Aunt Edna with uploading her photos to Facebook during the holidays anyway. However, if you’re more of a frequent user, you may find that their $12 per month option is extremely easy on the pocket-book.
Their paid version offers unlimited sessions of unlimited duration. What’s more, the paid version enables secure file transfer between PCs, which is more times than not, a necessary feature when supporting users. And for Robin, that was one of his requirements for a good solution. At $12 a month, and with all the same features that GoTo Assist offers, I’d have to say this is a solid option to consider.
One additional feature the paid version offers that I haven’t seen on any of the other options mentioned in this article is a feature called Remote System Diagnostics. This enables you as the support provider to see the status of events, processes, and drivers on the remote PC to help you better determine the cause of certain issues. That’s a feature I have yet to see on any of the options out there, especially for the price.
Since they have a 30 day free trial, I’d say this would be worthy of consideration so that you can be sure this option is truly easy to use and meets all of your needs.
We’ve covered a lot of software in this article. And I hope you’ve found this breakdown of options to be helpful. After writing about these options, and considering Robin’s requirements for his particular needs, I’d have to say that it boils down to two options that I would recommend:
- ZOHO Assist
As your needs may be different, I encourage you to consider your actual needs carefully, just as Robin has. Be sure you know what you have to have and weigh that against what you’d like to have but may not absolutely need. That can mean the difference in a solution that is rather expensive vs. one that is quite agreeable on price.
Have you used remote support software before? Do you have a service or software that you would recommend? If so, share it in your comments below for the benefit of the community. Thanks for reading!