ScreenConnect Shifts Remote Support From the Cloud Back to the Desktop

 
 
By Frank J. Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2013-06-09
 
 
 

ScreenConnect Shifts Remote Support From the Cloud Back to the Desktop


It is pretty hard to argue the benefits offered by remote control and user support packages. However, each has its own nuances and billing models that tend to obscure the return on investment equation.

The majority of remote control and remote support offerings tend to be cloud- and subscription-based, making it difficult to calculate the true cost. While that style of implementation has its advantages, such as no need for dedicated hardware and a very simple installation process, those subscription services exist for one primary function—giving network administrators the ability to remotely support an end user.

What's more, those very same individuals need the capability to conduct virtual meetings, training sessions and other Web-based activities that can span hundreds if not thousands of miles.

With that in mind, Elsinore Technologies asks some interesting questions: What if you could remove the cloud- and subscription-based models from the equation? What if one product could handle support, virtual meetings and collaboration events? What if these capabilities could extend beyond the local network?

In the quest to answer those questions, Elsinore came up with ScreenConnect, a locally installed service application that acts as the host and hub for virtual sessions between multiple users, regardless of their location.

The idea behind ScreenConnect is that users can get started with their own internally hosted service for just $325 for a single concurrent user license. There are no additional fees, subscriptions or contracts required. ScreenConnect also scales up to an unlimited license, which supports an unlimited number of concurrent users, for $4,000.

A Closer Look at Screen Connect

I tested the 30-day trial version of ScreenConnect, which offers all the features of the shipping version. Installation of the product is very easy and requires just downloading an installer and executing the installation. You will need a license code to install the product.

I used the 30-day trial license code, which was provided via email directly from Elsinore after I filled out a trial request form. If you choose to purchase the product, there is no need for a reinstall. Just input a new license code, and you are good to go.

There are multiple installation scenarios for ScreenConnect—basically, you need to install the server component on a system, which could be a Windows machine, a virtual machine, a cloud hosted server, a virtual appliance or even an enterprise server. The ScreenConnect server runs like a Web application and interfaces with a browser for access to the management console. The product works with all the major browsers and supports multiple OSes, including pretty much any flavor of Windows, Macintosh OS X, Linux, iOS and Android.

For testing, I installed ScreenConnect on a Windows Server2012 system and I chose to use Google Chrome as the primary browser for the ScreenConnect management application. Once installed, I also added a Chrome Plug In called ClickOnce, which is used to join sessions instantly, eliminating a few steps and speeding up connections.

The system running ScreenConnect acts as the central access point for facilitating connections and managing sessions. No additional software needed and no changes need to be made to firewalls or other infrastructure elements. Once it is running, everything that's needed to make a session happen is delivered from the ScreenConnect host.

For example, to start a support session with a remote user all I had to do was click on 'Create Session' and then choose how I wanted to deliver an invitation to the guest. The invitation can be delivered via email, published to a list hosted by the ScreenConnect server, or you can forward a link to the remote guest, which the user can access through a browser.

 

ScreenConnect Shifts Remote Support From the Cloud Back to the Desktop


Security can be enhanced by choosing to use a unique code number or even by setting the session to work on invitations only.

Once the remote system connects, the ScreenConnect client application launches, which allowed me to take over the remote system. You can pull down a handy toolbar, which allowed me to control nearly anything on the remote system, transfer files, and even reboot and reconnect to the remote system.

Once the connection is initialized, the remote user did not even have to be present for me to perform any management task on the remote system. I particularly like the ability to record the session so that a support session could become a future educational video for other help desk operators.

Other remote options include blanking the screen of the remote system, locking out the remote user to prevent interference, rebooting to safe mode, and several other helpful tools. I was even able to switch the screen-sharing relationship, giving the remote user control of my system instead.

Creating a meeting was just as easy. All it took was clicking on the "new meeting" link, and I was able to create a session for a meeting, I was able to send out an invitation via email and others were able to join the meeting by simply clicking on the link. The product offers the typical meeting tools, such as the ability to share desktops, push presentations, chat, multicast and so on.

However, the meeting application does not offer voice over IP (VOIP) or video conferencing at this time. They would be most welcome features in the future, allowing ScreenConnect to transform into a voice and video meeting platform.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the product's more unique features, remote control. Much like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn or PCanywhere, ScreenConnect offers the ability to remotely use other systems.

The way it works is ScreenConnect installs a small client application on the target (host) system. Then users are able to locate that system on a list on the ScreenConnect server. All they need to do is click on the appropriate system and viola, they are able to remotely control that system.

I found it to be a great tool for managing some servers and other systems remotely from my laptop. This eliminated the need to set up virtual networking or pay for a service to remotely access machines during travel, or if I am just too lazy to get up from my desk and walk down to the server room.

Of course, there is really nothing overly unique about ScreenConnect. There are plenty of products and services on the market that can do what the package does. However, ScreenConnect does stand out when one realizes it is not a subscription service and that the product can be completely contained within a LAN, eliminating many of the security worries associated with hosted services.

What's more, the product combines the primary elements that remote users and help desks look for—remote support, virtual meetings and remote control—all for a single, affordable price that makes sense for businesses both large and small.

ScreenConnect is only bound to get better. Elsinore Technologies continually adds new features and capabilities, and improves the code and provides frequent updates to registered customers. If the company chooses to add VOIP and video conferencing capabilities, ScreenConnect will be able to take on the likes of GoToMeeting, and even Google Hangouts, making it a one-stop solution for most any business looking to move away from expensive subscriptions services.

 

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