In the early days of information technology before remote support software existed, IT pros had to travel from computer to computer in order to support them. While this was great for socializing, it wasn’t exactly the most efficient method of support delivery. And who could forget IT support by phone?! It is certainly more efficient than walking the halls, but taxes both tech and end-user, increasing frustration on both ends of the call. Conversations held during a phone IT support session sound something like, "Click on XYZ and then tell me what happens," which is inevitably followed by prolonged periods of silence while the user attempts to follow a technician's instructions and report back.
Fortunately, the ways in which remote support can be delivered has evolved significantly over the years. Let’s take a look at how remote support tools have evolved over time.
Early Remote Support Tools
Command Line Support
Humankind’s first foray into the area of remote support involved simple command line protocols. Telnet is a protocol that dates back to 1969 and is still used today to provide option negotiation between a client and the server. According to the THINK protocols team, Steve Crocker wrote RFC 1 in April 1969, documenting the broader goal of "finding a host level protocol capable of facilitating a connection between two hosts, where the remote host acts as if the user were sitting directly at that terminal." Crocker further outlined the collective desire for "the use of a TTY-like connection and a file-like connection in order to facilitate a complete connection between two hosts and the need for error checking."
Secure Shell, or SSH is another network protocol that emerged early on for remote support. It uses a secure channel to exchange data between two networked devices. In earlier years, both Telnet and SSH were found to be better used by network administrators.
Remote Control Tools
Early Licensed Remote Control Tools
In a response to the market demand for remote support tools, DameWare emerged and Symantec created a suite of computer programs known as pcAnywhere. These remote control tools enable techs to share screens with end-users and improve the quality of the support they were able to provide. Both used proprietary protocols and both required agents to be installed on host machines.
The emergence of remote control software heralded the streamlined delivery of remote support from centralized locations and dramatically decreased the time needed to troubleshoot a remote computer. It also eased the transition of housing servers in-house to their placement in colocation facilities. In short, sys admins were able to reliably support and operate their servers from remote locations.
Free Tools Hit the Scene
The next tools to arrive on the remote support scene were the RDP protocol and open source remote support software VNC. RDP was created by Microsoft for Microsoft operating systems. It has been a part of every business or professional series OS delivered by Microsoft since XP. While it is a great tool for administering Windows servers, it has some limitations that prevent it from being a pure remote support tool. The most important of these limitations is lack of support for screen sharing. Another limitation is that it only works for Microsoft OSs leaving those who support mixed-OS environments searching for another tool for their Linux and Mac computers.
As a remote support tool, VNC probably represents a better option. VNC has some advantages over RDP like screen-sharing with end-users and the ability to support mixed-OS environments, but like RDP, has serious limitations preventing it from being a true enterprise-class remote support tool. Large-scale deployment of VNC is not a simple process and as an open-source tool, it is likely that organizations requiring robust security will steer clear of VNC as their remote support tool of choice.
Remote Support Redefined
DameWare - Remote Control and Remote Administration
Today, remote support has evolved even further and can be broken down into two categories: remote control and remote administration. Remote control tools simply allow IT pros to operate computers remotely. Tools like RDP and VNC fall squarely into this category. Remote administration is a more holistic approach to remote support. With remote administration software, sys admins can perform many of their daily tasks from one software console.
As remote support has evolved over time, so too has DameWare. DameWare’s flagship product, DameWare Remote Support (DRS), is a comprehensive remote support solution. DRS includes a remote control solution for mixed-OS environments and is capable of remotely controlling Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers all from one console. On the remote administration side, DRS can manage multiple Active Directory domains allowing techs to manage AD objects and edit Group Policies. DameWare also allows sys admins to perform administration tasks on remote computers without having to initiate full remote control sessions. From the DRS console, sys admins can troubleshoot remote computers by viewing event logs, restarting services and processes, and managing disks and peripherals. The latest version of DRS even includes support for Intel vPro AMT which allows sys admins to interact with computers regardless of the state of their operating systems.
DameWare Remote Support is an affordable, attractive option for providing remote support, saving time with administrative tasks and quickly troubleshooting problems. Download a 14-day free trial today to discover all its benefits for yourself.
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