For many organizations, the ability to offer remote support is not an option. This is true, of course of large distributed businesses but also of managed service providers, those companies that take over the management of multiple components of their clients’ IT infrastructure.
While the base of remote support software tools is definitely remote desktop control, several additional functionalities are often included. This is where evaluating the different products can become challenging and this is why we’re doing this post about the best remote support software.
We’ll begin our exploration by having a thorough look at remote support, what it is and how it can help. We’ll then dig a bit deeper and discuss the various components you should be looking for when evaluating various products. Although products vary widely in their respective feature set, some features are a must-have and will be present in most of them. And finally, we’ll get to the core of the matter and review some of the very best remote support tools you can find.
About Remote Support
Remote support is a simple concept. It has to do with supervising and controlling IT systems (such as network devices, desktops computers, servers and mobile devices) by means of locally installed agents that can be remotely accessed. Remote support provides Managed Service Providers with the ability to install new or updated software remotely (including patches, updates and configuration changes), to detect new devices and automatically install the appropriate agent and configure them, to observe the behavior of the managed devices and software for performance and diagnostic tasks, and to perform alerting and provide reports and dashboards.
This is a highly specialized type of software created to address a highly specific need. Although remote support tools are often created with Managed Service Providers in mind, some large organizations use them as well. It makes sense as there are not many functional differences between a Managed Service Provider offering services to several small and medium businesses and a large corporation offering service to several small- or medium-sized branches or units. We’ll keep this dual clientele in mind as we review the different tools. For now,
Common Features Of Remote Support Tools
Remote support tools vary greatly in their feature set. There are, however, some characteristics are present in each one of them. They are the must-haves and they are, therefore, the features you should be looking for—and comparing—when selecting a tool. In the next paragraphs, we’ll introduce these characteristics, tell you why they are important, and explain, when needed, how they can be compared.
Ease of Deployment
Although your chosen remote support solution will most likely become your eyes and hands in the environment of your clients, before that happens, you’ll need to deploy the solution. Many remote support solutions are cloud-based so you’d think that you don’t have any software to install. Or do you? These tools often require that you install client apps—called agents—on the computers and servers that you will be monitoring and managing. These agents handle most of the job and take care of tracking, monitoring and allowing you to perform the needed management tasks.
Auto-discovery combined with “push-installation” features should be preferred. With these two, you can simply select a newly discovered system in the management console and begin the remote installation of its remote support agent. Otherwise, you will have to deploy a client installation file using some third-party tool such as Windows Active Directory GPO, scripts, PSA tools, etc. Big MSPs can manage thousands of devices so not having to manually install an agent on each one is more than welcome.
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Remote Desktop Access
When you manage computers located miles away from you and there are issues with them, accessing them in person is rarely an option. This is why one of the most important modules of each and every remote support solution is certainly a remote desktop application. And even if the defective device is located nearby, it could be in some sort of hostile environment—such as a very cold server room—where it is more agreeable to use remote access.
Remote desktop applications let you easily connect to remote systems and perform any necessary action as though you were sitting at its keyboard and monitor. This is far better than giving instructions to someone over the phone, never certain that they are carried out correctly and that you’re getting proper feedback as to what appears on the screen.
Remote desktop systems typically use lightweight technologies to carry only the bare minimum amount of data over the network. They typically only send keystrokes from the local keyboard to the remote system and screen updates the other way around. Sending only screen updates rather the whole screen at every frame (30 times per second) greatly reduces the amount of transmitted data.
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It seems like everyone in the network monitoring field is designing their products with “single pane of glass” dashboards. More than just a fad, it is a way of putting as much relevant information on the screen as possible. Rather than manually checking the status of multiple remote systems, you can take a glance at your dashboard and typically see the status of new systems, systems that require actions, the lists of last issues found, etc.
One needs, however, to remain careful when reviewing the actual function of the dashboard of a potential remote support solution. Sometimes, too much information is not any better than not enough. You and your team will spend a lot of time working with the dashboard. It should be adapted—or adaptable—to your needs and your environment. Fortunately, the best tools come with highly customizable dashboards. Some will even let you built different dashboards for different team members.
Alerting And Reporting
No matter how good and uncluttered a dashboard your tool may provide, you possibly have better things to do than sit in front of it and watch it. This is why alerting is often an important component of remote support tools. It is also an area where there are many differences between various products. The simplest ones will simply send out an email whenever something odd is detected. Better systems will have automatic escalation features or even the ability to automatically run remediation scripts.
Reporting a rather important albeit often overlooked element of remote support software. Using your tool’s reports, clients can check their system’s health and whether the service level you provide meets the contracted SLAs. But different clients will often have different reporting requirements. This is why customizable reports are important. You need to be able to build reports containing the information your clients need.
Integration With Other Tools
If your organization is using a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool, you might want to select a remote support tool which can integrate with your PSA. In fact, the deeper this integration the better. For example, wouldn’t it be nice if your chosen remote support tool automatically created trouble tickets in the PSA tool whenever an issue is discovered? It could also create PSA tasks when it finds that some maintenance activity is required.
The level of automation provided by this type of integration can save you and your team a lot of time. Furthermore, it lets you proactively solve issues prior to the customer’s report and it helps to meet your SLA for common issues. You might need to spend some time configuring the integration but doing it will most certainly pay off rather quickly.
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The Best Remote Support Software Tools
We’ve scoured the market looking for remote support software tools. We’ve found quite a few interesting tools; too many to mention them all in this post, actually. So, we’ve picked the best ones we could find and here’s a brief review of each one.
SolarWinds is a well-known name with network and system administrators. The company has been making great tools for them for about twenty years. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, is recognized as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tools. The SolarWinds MSP division—created by merging activities from SolarWinds, N-able, and LOGICnow—specializes in building tools for Managed Service Providers. One of its product is a very complete Remote Monitoring and Management tool aptly named SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management or RMM.
The primary purpose of this tool is to let you support and manage your clients’ assets on remote sites, either via direct contact or through automated procedures. Patch management and antivirus update coordination are two strong features of this tool. Furthermore, the Risk Intelligence module greatly improves the security features of the tool, which include malware protection as well as website protection. The system also protects against the possibility of infected websites being used as an entry point to the network.
- FREE Trial: SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwindsmsp.com/products/remote-management/trial
SolarWinds RMM is also an excellent monitoring tool which covers a wide range of devices, both physical and virtual. The tool enables administrators to keep track of system status on client sites from one console. Several built-in reports help you monitor the performance of your staff as well as the condition client’s sites. One of this product’s greatest assets is the simplicity of its interface as it enables support staff to get to the most frequently-used tools quickly.
If you want more info read our full review.
This product is so rich with features that describing them all would require a whole post. To give you an idea of all that’s available, here’s a list many of the product’s features:
- Remote Monitoring
- Network Device Monitoring
- Remote Access
- Active Network Discovery
- Automation And Scripting
- Patch Management
- Mobile Applications
- Backup And Recovery
- Managed Antivirus
- Web Protection
- Service Desk
- Risk Intelligence
- Mobile Device Management
Pricing for SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management is not readily available but can be obtained by requesting a quote SolarWinds MSP. The good thing about this is that you’ll get a price that exactly matches your specific needs. If you want to give the tool a try and see for yourself what it can do for you, a free 30-day trial is available.
Our next tool is also from SolarWinds. At its base, Dameware Remote Support is a remote control tool but it comes loaded with extended functionality for all sorts of systems management tasks, all in one easy-to-use package. The tool allows administrators and help desk attendants to remotely troubleshoot Windows computers or servers without even having to start remote control sessions. Using the built-in system tools and remote administration capabilities of this powerful tool, you can remotely reboot systems, start/stop services and processes, copy/delete files, view and clear event logs, and more. It is also a remote administration tool that helps you remotely manage multiple AD domains, groups, and users. You can use it to remotely unlock user accounts, reset passwords, and edit Group Policies from a single management console.
- FREE TRIAL: Dameware Remote Support
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/remote-support-software/registration
Dameware Remote Support also provides remote access to several system tools and TCP utilities such as ping, tracert, DNS lookup, FTP, and telnet. This tool also features a built-in exporter tool to help easily export AD properties, software information, and system configurations from remote computers in easy-to-use .csv or .xml formats.
The Dameware Remote Support is priced per technician and varies between $295 and $370 depending on the number of licenses purchased. The license allows for an unlimited number of managed devices and it includes one year of support. Should you want to give the product a test run, a 14-day trial version is available.
3. Datto RMM
Datto RMM, formerly known as Autotask Endpoint Management is a well-integrated remote monitoring and management platform. It claims to be “The easiest, cloud-based Remote Monitoring and Management platform for managed service providers who are looking to scale and improve service delivery operations”. The tool features comprehensive auditing to get complete visibility of every device and pinpoint areas for action. It also features patch management to automatically maintain every device with flexible, native OS and application patch update policies.
Real-time monitoring is another important feature of Datto RMM. The feature allows you to implement system-wide monitoring with intelligent alerting, auto-response, and auto-resolution. A remote support and management tool wouldn’t be complete without remote control and this product can provide instant support with one-click access to any of your managed devices. And last but not least, the tool’s flexible reporting features can help you prove the value of your service as well as help your customers make informed decisions with a wide array of fully configurable reports.
Pricing information is not readily available from Datto’s website. A free trial is mentioned but clicking the free trial link seems to take to a page where you can register for a demo.
4. Comodo One
Comodo One is a mostly free remote support, management, and monitoring platform with paid security modules. The system can monitor LANs, Cloud-based services, and hybrid systems. It is also particularly strong at protecting web applications. The key element of Comodo One is the Comodo Remote Monitoring and Management (CRMM). This module offers endpoint access, remote desktop sharing, and professional services automation (PSA) which includes ticketing, task allocation, policy enforcement, and logging. As such, it can be viewed as a combined RMM and PSA platform.
The tool’s central console communicates with an agent module which needs to be installed on each remote endpoint. The agent software can be installed remotely. Once a monitored site is connected through its gateway, the network monitor built into the package automatically seeks out and logs all of the assets on that network. The Comodo One system monitors networks, servers, and application performance as well as risks to the network, with 18 different tests to detect security flaws. Once the RMM connection is established, you have the option of adding other Comodo services, such as edge security for web servers. The console also gives access to a task manager for support staff and a patch manager for the systems administrator.
The Comodo One RMM service is cloud-based, but it can monitor on-premises assets that run on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. The service can also include mobile device management and software distribution. If a free RMM from a reputable source like Comodo seems too good to be true, just remember that you will have to pay for some modules in order to assemble a complete MSP system.
5. Kaseya VSA
Our last entry is a remote support platform which excels at task automation called Kaseya VSA. The tool incorporates a remote control module, called Live Connect, allowing you to implement bulk updates as well as remotely connect to and administer any end device. The tool also provides automated network monitoring with built-in alerts, patch management, and service auditing, making it a very complete remote monitoring and management solution.
Feature-wise, Kaseya VSA has everything you’d expect. It has remote control, patch and vulnerability monitoring, audit and inventory, network monitoring, virus protection, unified backups and compliance management. The built-in AssetIQ is a contextual documentation management system made to ease the task of managed service providers. It can, for example, be structured as a script for Help Desk agents to work through an incident and eventually direct problems to back-office staff.
Kaseya VSA will cover most, if not all, of your remote support requirements. Pricing for the product can be obtained directly from Kaseya, and both a demo and a 14-day free trial are available so you can see for yourself what the product has to offer.