New Remote Access System for TCG Clients

While the people here at TCG are great conversationalists, sometimes a problem with technology just can’t be handled over the phone. When that happens, it’s best for one of our techs to go “hands on” with the afflicted system. In the past this involved a trip onsite to visit a client, or having the client bring things to us.

Back 15 years ago, I would spend 30 minuets driving to and from a location to preform a 5 minute “fix” for a problem. To overcome this discrepancy of billable time my employers of the past would often institute bizarre fees such as “Service call charge”, “one way travel bill”, or bill at a high rate for work done on site. When I started TCG I wanted to eliminated this confusion, and not penalize a client just because I was clever enough to fix their issue in 5 minutes. This is one of the reasons we never bill for things that take less than 10 minutes to fix.

However, time is the most valuable of all resources, for both our clients and our techs. As much I enjoy my clients company, sometimes the best use of everyones time is for me to go “hands on” with technology without the need for scheduling an onsite visit and travel time. This is were the gem of IT Consulting comes in, Remote Access. Remote Access gives the ability for a tech to take “remote control” over a system, and use it as if he or she was siting at the desk.

This is not new, in fact remote access features have been a core part of the Windows Operating system for almost 10 years. Even here at TCG we have a collection of remote access methods, mainly centering about the use of Windows RDP, Open Source VNC, and Mac Screen Sharing. The problem is however that there is not a unified and simple way for any of these methods to transit the complex world of Internet security and firewalls. The end result is that even with our own remote access methods we spend more time maintaing the access paths (port forwarding, routing, etc) than we ever do proving support.

Starting late last year, I started a research project to find the “best” method to create a system that would allow us at TCG to best serve our clients via remote access. The fruits of that research have lead a company called LogMeIn.

There are several commercial and free remote access software packages, such PC Anywhere, RealVNC, Windows Remote Desktop, and MAc Screen Share. The problem with a software package is that it requires that we here at TCG maintain a “path” into whatever system needs to be remotely accessed. This gets even more complicated when realized that most computer no longer connect directly to the internet, but rather are behind NAT routers and firewalls. Several computers within a single office all share a common “gateway” to the internet, and transitioning this gateway to access a single system within that network is a non-trivial task. Also, there was no real uniformity between Macs and PCs. Both had native remote access system, but of course they are not compatible. VNC does work on both, but it’s not a totally secure method. Because of all of this, we ruled out using a “software only” solution.

The other possible solution was a “hosted” remote access system. The advantage of a hosted system is that it is much easier for client and tech to link up. Both sides report to a common third party computer that handles the messy technical details of the connection. This means that accessing any number of computers behind an office NAT router is no longer a problem. There are several high profile companies that offer this hosted remote access service, they include Webex, GoToMyPc, and LogMeIn. The down side of these hosted remote access services is the cost and the dependancy on a third party companies which may or may not be around in the future.

Of all the services I looked at, I liked LogMeIn. I felt like they offered the best overall package of features for the price. But what really tipped the scales was they apparent embrace of new technologies. They no only offer remote support for Mac and PC, but also Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Symbin Phones. They also have an iPhone app that will allow me to take a quick look at a clients machine directly from my iphone.

The correct software for LogMeIn can be downloaded from the software section and instructions for installation and use can be obtained by contacting us at TCG.

Leave a Reply