Big Help Desks for Small Sites

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-12-05

Managed remote assistance services might be cost-prohibitive for all except the largest of organizations, but there are less expensive help desk alternatives available for small and midsize businesses.

Last month, for example, Echogent Systems Inc. released EchoWare Remote Support System 1.0, a remote-desktop platform that includes both server (EchoServer) and client (EchoVNC) software.

Under Echogents shareware license, organizations can have as many as four simultaneous client connections via the EchoServer for free. This license scheme would work best for individual users or for organizations with only a handful of computers to support.

SMBs that want to use the software to support multiple remote users or to provide remote help desk support will be able to assist as many as 100 clients for a one-time fee of $200.

Because the EchoWare system is managed in-house, organizations can use the technology to provide remote support services much more inexpensively than if they were to use a remote assist service such as Citrix Systems Inc.s GoToAssist 7.0 .

Click here for eWEEK Labs review of GoToAssist 7.0.

Echogents EchoServer packet relay server connects clients running the desktop application, EchoVNC, across the Internet. This is similar to the way GoToAssist 7.0 works, with one important distinction: EchoWare is not a hosted service.

EchoWare components run on the Linux and Windows platforms. The system requires a Linux operating system with the 2.4 or 2.6 kernel, or Windows NT or later.

Although the EchoWare systems components are based on the open-source VNC (virtual network computing) desktop-sharing standard, the main difference between the EchoWare product and VNC is the packet relay server. VNC requires that a port be punched open in a firewall, whereas EchoWare-enabled clients can connect without firewall adjustments at each end of the connection. EchoWare uses OpenSSLs 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to secure end-to-end data connections.

There are, of course, trade-offs that go with managing a remote support system in-house versus using a hosted solution such as GoToAssist 7.0. Ease of use is one example: Web-based remote control applications often are easier for users to navigate.

EchoWare requires that users download and install the EchoVNC client. This might make the system less attractive to organizations that want to provide support to users outside the company.

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