In these days of cost consciousness and the demand for instant fixes, more and more organisations are turning to remote support as a way of getting customers problems sorted out quickly and economically. The company I work for is changing its product focus from office automation and paper handling to business support systems, such as parcel tracking, access control, accounting systems and any other applications that can run on a PC.
Consequently, a lot of the problems that occur are ones that are fairly easy to deal with once the system is in front of the service engineer. But we traditionally have supported our customers face to face.
But on-site support is not a sustainable situation. It takes time to travel to customers, it costs money -- if you think that gasoline is expensive in the USA, try buying it in England! -- and Murphy's law dictates that if you have an urgent call in Brighton there will soon be another in Bristol and you can't be in both places at the same time, especially on our crowded roads.
With this in mind we decided to look into remote support. There are various useful tools to use; in house we use Dameware to take control of any of our networked PCs to do any necessary work, but outside we needed a solution that does not require the installation of any software. We found a possible solution in the form of Webex. All that is required is that the PC to be supported is connected to the Internet. It may require an ActiveX control but once this is in place it is possible to control the PC, push files to it, and manipulate the system.
The end user at all times has the option to terminate the session and has to click a box to allow the access. There is no question of us being able to wade in and mess about uninvited.
There are many remote support products but many of them require something to be installed on the system to be supported.
In recent months on TechRepublic a lot has been said about Crossloop. It is an excellent product but for two things:
- You have to install it on both machines, OK for in house but maybe not so good for external customers.
- Although there is a file transfer utility, it is the host that can initiate the transfer, in a support situation it is the remote user who will want to do this. I have used it very successfully to sort out my mother's PC and have unstuck a stalled print queue on a customer's machine but had I wanted to do an update to the customer's machine it would have been difficult.
For me, the idea of remote support is the good old adage about "working smarter, not harder."
If I can stay in bed till late, drag myself out and log in and fix problems and get as much, if not more, work done, save hours of driving time and many gallons of petrol it must be a good thing. If my working hours can be reduced and my productivity improved how can anyone object?
In my home town there is a free wireless access point that can be accessed from the beach so it is possible to provide remote support whilst lazing in the sun. Can life get much better?