Remote Support Technology (RST) is a very important capability to have for any Support/Service team providing assistance to technology users/customers. A white paper  presenting the case for investing in RST has been published by The HotLine Magazine, and may be found in the Library here.
There is an extensive range of features and functionality available in the currently marketed RST products by the various vendors. The following is a list of The HotLine Magazine‘s recommended criteria for selecting an RST resource. The recommendations are intended to be used by prospective purchasers of RST products as a starting point for the development of their own customized list of specifications.
Recommended RST Selection Criteria (V2.1 – 8/12/10)
We strongly recommend that only SaaS/Cloud based RST products be considered for selection. Since the on-demand approach means that all users of the technology are using the same version of the software at all times, there is no need to worry about the installation of upgrades or worry about inconsistencies between revision levels. There is nothing to install on the user’s computer until the resource is needed, and nothing to be maintained afterwards.
Cross-Platform and Multi-Language Functionality:
The need for a support/service center or IT help desk to work with all of the various PC platforms (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) and around the world in many languages is rapidly increasing. Accordingly, the selected RST procut should be able to be used for access, control or screen-sharing between any computer using Windows, Mac OSX or Linux operating systems at either end of the interaction. A range of browsers should be supported, with a minimum requirement of support for Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Netscape.
Firewall accessibility: The features and functionality of the RST should be compatible with corporate network security firewalls.
Session initiation/termination: For most companies and situations, the selected RST product should require the owner of the target computer to specifically grant access privileges to the support rep for every use, and the just-in-time downloaded module must be automatically closed and removed at the end of the session. The owner of the computer must be able to see everything that the rep is doing in real time, and also be able to terminate the session at any point. Termination of the session must automatically cause the immediate and complete removal of all downloaded modules. There should also be a timeout feature that will automatically terminate sessions if there has been no activity within a specific time duration.
Access Limitation: The owner of the target computer/customer should be able to limit access by the rep to specific programs and/or functions. For transferring files, it is recommended that the owner of the target computer be able to either authorize the rep to transfer files as needed during the session, or to grant permission on an individual file basis.
Audit trail/Session recording: An audit trail should be an integral part of the RST, capturing all actions taken by the support/service rep during the course of the connection in such a way that they can be displayed later. The RST audit file should be able to be attached to the case record in the support/service center’s case management system for later review. (To ensure complete compliance with privacy laws and regulations such as HIPAA, recorded sessions should not be exportable outside of the system.)
Encryption: RST products should offer encryption of all transmissions.
“Co-surfing.” The RST product should be able to be used by a support/service rep to guide a visitor around a company web site to demonstrate its features and content.
Chat functionality: RST products need to be able to be used in conjunction with chat/IM interactions, for not all support interactions may involve telephone interactions.
Control of the Desktop Computer: Within customer-authorized parameters (see Security), a support rep may need to be given the capability for full control over the target desktop computer. This includes direct access to the desktop operating system for the purpose of setting or changing preferences or system parameters, running the full range of local diagnostics, uploading or downloading files or modules, running application programs, altering application settings, etc. Simultaneous audio conversations should be enabled either by phone or over the Internet through the desktop computer’s audio resources. Throughout the interaction, the customer must be able to see everything that the support rep is doing, and to terminate the session at any time. Alternatively, the customer should be able to retain control over their desktop entirely and just enable the support rep to view the screen as if it were their own.
Supervisory Monitoring: In addition to the customers’ ability to monitor the support rep’s action, a support center supervisor should also be able to observe the interaction and to take over the session if escalation is required. The supervisor should be able monitor the use of the RST product by staff members, with the ability to see how many sessions are currently being done, and to transfer sessions from one rep to another, etc. Other support reps should have the capability to monitor and participate if authorized, enabling small working groups of senior support reps to collectively work an issue.
Training: RST products should have the capability to be used for training purposes, either in desktop control mode or in screen-viewing mode, to demonstrate the features and usages of any application. This function is particularly useful for just-in-time training delivered in the course of a support interaction.
RST Vendor List:
The following vendors of Remote Support Technology products are on The HotLine Magazine‘s RST Vendor List. Inclusion of a particular vendor on this list does not mean that their product necessarily meets all of the recommendations herein, nor does it constitute a recommendation of any vendor or product. The list is provided only as a resource.
- Advantig Corporation — www.advantig.com
- Axeda Systems — www.axeda.com
- Bomgar Corporation — www.bomgar.com
- Citrix Online — www.citrixonline.com
- Kaseya International Inc. — www.kaseya.com
- LiveLOOK Inc. — www.livelook.com
- LogMeIn Inc. — www.logmein.com
- NextNine Inc. — www.nextnine.com
- nTeras Corporation — www.rapidassist.com
- NTRglobal — www.ntrglobal.com
- SonicWALL Inc. — www.sonicwall.com
- Zoho Corporation — www.zoho.com
The HotLine Magazine, and Mikael Blaisdell & Associates, Inc., follow a policy of full disclosure and vendor-neutrality. Although we remain committed to respecting client confidentiality, we will acknowledge any client relationships in any situation where there might be the appearance of a possible conflict of interest. Accordingly, it should be noted that the first version of the recommendations for selection of Remote Support Technology given herein was published under contract, now completed, with an RST vendor client, NTRglobal. The recommendations themselves, however, were and remain the independent and copyrighted professional opinion of Mikael Blaisdell.