Citrix Remote Control Service Is Nimble But Pricey

Review: GoToAssist 8.0 offers new team collaboration tools, but organizations will pay for its seamless performance.

Citrix GoToAssist 8.0 is a remote control service that allows support departments of any size to provide live assistance to remote Windows users without having to preinstall agent software on those users systems.

eWEEK Labs test showed, however, that organizations that have adopted restricted rights configurations for user desktops must ensure that the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) needed by the GoToAssist 8.0 temporary agent is already installed for the Mozilla Foundations Firefox browser. Microsofts Internet Explorer, which already includes a JRE runtime, worked without any special considerations on restricted rights machines.

The lightening fast screen sharing technology in GoToAssist 8.0 made remote control support sessions with a representative in San Francisco and a user in Woburn, Mass., perform as if the support representative and the user were actually sitting in front of the machine and not separated by the public Internet, a firewall and 3,000 miles. There was also almost no perceptible delay between keyboard and mouse actions between the two systems.

But organizations will pay for GoToAssist 8.0s nimble performance. Released on April 30, the service costs between $115 and $300 per representative seat per month with no limit on the number of sessions a representative can handle per year. The price per seat varies based on the number of licenses purchased and integration options that include the ability to launch support sessions from an organizations web site or for representatives to accept incoming sessions in trouble ticketing systems including Remedy.

By comparison, Bomgars appliance-based Bomgar B200 is $3,690 plus $1,690 for a single representative license with no recurring license charges, and the hosted WebEx Support Center costs $149 per month per agent for a one-year contract. The gap between WebEx Support Center and Citrix GoToAssist is closing. WebEx offers similar collaboration tools that allow multiple support representatives to join a session and senior representatives can monitor calls. The products also share an ability to restrict representatives actions such as allowing level one support to only view user systems but not transfer files.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Ciscos acquisition of WebEx.

We remain disappointed that GoToAssist 8.0 still does not support Linux, Unix or Apple Mac OS X operating systems. Representatives must be using Microsoft Windows 2000 or higher (including Vista) and user systems must be running Windows 95 or higher. Most common browser programs are supported and a browser is required to use the service.

Collaboration Tools

The new team collaboration tools in GoToAssist 8.0 allow first-tier representatives to invite an advanced support staffer to join the remote control session. The additional representative can appear to the user alongside the initial support representative or can be added in silent mode, communicating only with the initial support representative. In our tests we were able to add an additional representative to our support calls with no perceptible impact on performance.

The advantages of adding advanced representatives to ongoing calls are legion. Among the most important, however, are that users calls can more likely be resolved in one session without the appearance of having to hand off the call to "someone who can help you with your problem." In the process, we believe there is a high likelihood that first line support staff will receive valuable training that could, over time, reduce call escalation.

One nice feature on team collaboration is that the joining representative can easily look back through the session history to see any live chat that has transpired and see the results of machine diagnostics that have collected from the client system.

Related to the support team tools, Citrix also added management oversight tools. When logged into the system as a manager we were able to silently observe any live sessions. Silent managers, similar to added support representatives, can see all activity in the session including chat and diagnostics. The chief difference is that neither the support representative nor the user is aware of the managers presence.

Much of GoToAssist 8.0 fundamental operations remain unchanged from when we reviewed GoToAssist 7.0 in December 2005. When a user needs assistance they access a help Web page. Help desk representatives pick up requests from a centralized queue. Communication between the representative and the user is passed through one of six Citrix worldwide data centers and secured using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to encrypt the communication channel.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

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