Software

NetOp offers speed, security for remote control support

Remote control programs can make supporting your end users easier, but waiting for screen refreshes can drive you crazy. NetOp promises to speed up the process significantly, and one TechRepublic member said it does the job well.


When Jahann Ahadi likes something, he sticks with it through thick and thin. He is one of TechRepublic's earliest members; he joined in 1999 and continues to patronize our site.

Ahadi demonstrates that same kind of loyalty to software he likes and finds useful.

"I've been using NetOp for about five years, and in every company I go to, I try to bring it in," he said. "It works better for me and it is easier to train people on."

NetOp is a remote control application developed in 1987 by Danish company, Danware Data A/S. According to Doug Taylor, vice president for marketing at CrossTec Corporation, which represents Danware in the U.S, it was originally developed as a tool to securely monitor another program Danware had developed for the Denmark stock exchange.

Let's take a look at how Ahadi uses the program, and some of the features that make it stand out from other commercial and freeware remote control programs.

Saving time and aggravation
Ahadi is the IT support coordinator for a Dallas-based restaurant and hotel food distributor. He supports about 75 salespeople in Dallas and several remote offices. His company uses several versions of Microsoft Windows, including Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000.

When one of the remote salespeople has a problem, they can't afford to wait hours for a fix. Using NetOp, Ahadi said that he can access the user's laptop without leaving his office, fix the problem in five or 10 minutes, and let the salesperson get back to doing what he or she does best.

"They don't lose any time and they don't lose any sales," he said.

"Of all the products I've dealt with, including LapLink and pcAnywhere, it's the fastest and easiest for me," Ahadi said. "It is way more convenient, way more user friendly, and way less aggravating."

Ahadi went on to comment about NetOp's speed saying, "It paints the screen really fast, five to 10 times faster than pcAnywhere. I don't care what version you are using."

Why so fast?
Taylor said NetOp is faster than its competitors for a number of reasons. Among those reasons, he lists:
  • GDI hooking
  • A proprietary compression algorithm
  • Minimal requirements of system resources
  • Non-polling networking

GDI hooking means instead of information being drawn on one machine and then sent through the network to the other machine, one machine pretends to have a green screen and the video card sends the paint instructions only. The program's proprietary compression algorithm also makes screen redraws and file transfers quicker, Taylor said.

NetOp's host program takes up only about 800 KB of system memory, compared to the megabytes of memory required by most NetOp competitors. This conservative use of system resources also makes it quicker.

Finally, the use of non-polling networking speeds responses because the machines aren't always asking if the other is still there, he said.

"A product like VNC has to send out packets constantly to see if you're still there," Taylor said. "When you've got 10 PCs on your network, it's probably fine. When you have 10,000 PCs on your network, that's a lot of traffic."

CrossTec lists lots of Fortune 500 companies as users on its Web site and Taylor said the company targets large enterprises because NetOp scales up so easily.

He calls the software a "best-of-breed" solution for large organizations and said many of the company's large customers come to the program because they've bought a systems management solution such as Microsoft's SMS, only to find that the remote control capabilities in SMS don't scale very well.

Security is another talking point for NetOp
Along with speed and scale, the company offers a name server for NetOp users to speed connections over multiple subnet networks and a NetOp-only secure server that uses grouped permissions and rules to control what NetOp users can and can't do.

"Our core customers are using it on their network with remote users and they need security," Taylor said.

That's where NetOp shines, because it draws on the very roots of the program's history, he said.

"Danware actually developed it as a utility to support a fault-tolerant database tool they had made for running the Danish stock market. They created this tool that would allow them to go behind locked doors and work on the program securely," Taylor said.

Even on a smaller scale than a huge enterprise with thousands of users, Ahadi said he appreciates the security features built in to even the most basic distribution of NetOp hosts and "visitors." (Visitors are the computers that control what happens on the hosts.)

"My sales people are really good at what they do, but they aren't all computer literate," he said. "I can lock everything down within the program, so all they can do is bring it up for me when I need it. They can't change any of the settings so I don't have to worry about them screwing things up."

NetOp vs. other remote control products
If you have an entire network of Windows XP computers, you probably won't be interested in spending $66 per seat for the host version of NetOp because you will have XP's Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance features. Even NetOp's other features might not be enough to warrant the extra cost and trouble of deploying the third-party, add-in in such a Windows environment.

Realistically, however, most organizations are using a mixed platform environment. If you have OS2 or DOS machines on your network, NetOp becomes even more appealing with its host clients for those operating systems.

The cost of NetOp also might doom remote control deployments where funding is so tight that a freeware program like VNC is the only option. If that's the case and the organization is large, scaling issues may doom the entire project.

Support is limited for products like VNC, but Ahadi said his experience with NetOp's support people has been very positive.

While VNC is free, NetOp's price compares favorably against the market's number one product, pcAnywhere. A guest and 10 host package of NetOp goes for about $775 versus about $1,790 for 10 copies of pcAnywhere.

Remember, the point of remote control software is to save the help desk time, and how much is that worth to you?

Are you using remote control software for support?
If you are using remote control software for support, why do you think it's worth bothering with? What program are you using and why? Can you compare it with NetOp? Share your experiences in the discussion below.

 

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