Without the ability to remotely administer desktops, administrators would either A) walk around working on most of their days or B) have to rely on their clients' abilities follow instructions over the phone. The latter, of course, can be a complete disaster. Instead, administrators depend upon various tools to gain remote access to desktops. But what are the best practices for managing this ever-growing task? Here are a few suggestions.
1: Keep the end users aware
One of the cardinal rules of remote administration is to inform remote users that you are going to be logging in and administering their system remotely. Why is this so important? I have had plenty of clients (such as lawyers and doctors) who handle sensitive client data that can't be seen by anyone other than those defined by HIPPA or whatever governing body they fall under. You shouldn't want to see sensitive data — or take a chance that you might see it. Why risk a possible lawsuit? Always make sure clients know you are about to remotely take control of their machine so they can close out any sensitive data.
2: Have a back door for your back door
I recently ran into a situation where I was using a remote tool that was unable to start as a system service. I needed to enter the admin credentials for the UAC for a client whose end users were not allowed access to the admin creds. So to get around that, I quickly set up a remote session within a remote session using a tool I knew could start as a system service. No matter how well you plan, something is going to come up to foil your efforts. Make sure you have another way in... especially if you are dealing with end users who seem to have trouble knowing where to enter http://logmein123.com! If you have this back door in place, you will avoid adding extra time and frustration to an already-frustrating job.
3: Use Logmein Free
We have numerous clients who we KNOW will require weekly (if not daily) remote sessions to remap lost network drives, locate lost files, etc. We always add their machines to the LogMeIn Free tool. By doing this, you have nearly instant access to those machines (without having to depend upon the end users to connect the remote session). If you use this option, be sure you password-protect the computer on Logmein — and never enter the machine unannounced (see #1).
4: Avoid the Windows UAC and use remote reboot
This issue will kick you in the pants more often than not. Some remote support software will allow you to start the remote tool as a system service. (LogMeIn Rescue is outstanding for this.) When you do this, you won't have to require the end user to constantly click OK on the UAC. And if necessary, you will be able to enter the administration creds when prompted. You'll also be able to initiate remote reboots that don't require user interaction. This allows unattended reboots — a boon to remote administrators.
5: Be polite
Remember, you are working to help the users on the other end. There are instances where those users are going to be near panic and need help right away. They may be desperate to make sure they haven't lost work or just need to get back to work as soon as possible. Or... you might wind up with one of those users who think they know more than you. Either type of user might be prone to constantly taking control of the mouse — which will prevent you from getting your job done. When this happens, do not lose your cool. Just let them be a "part" of the session and kindly, gently remind them that you can fix the problem and for them to allow you to have control of the machine.
Your turnHow many times have you had a remote session do directly to pot? It happens. And when it does, your job comes to a painful halt. But with just a bit of planning and patience, your task will be much easier to handle and a future remote administration chores will be a snap. Do you have additional tips to recommend to your fellow admins?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.