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Any recommendations for Remote Assistance software that does not require firewall modification for clients?

To assist client with software problems and perform training, we currently use a tool called Remote Helpdesk to connect to their computers and guide them through the process. This tool was pretty cheap (~$400 onetime for 3 support staff), and worked great - the client's PC actually initiates the connection to us, so there's never any firewall issues (vs. Remote Desktop, VNC software, or many other similar tools).

Unfortunately, the product doesn't work well with 64-bit O/S's and Vista in general (slows down by a factor of 10 or so). I am looking for alternatives that provide the same reverse connection capabilities to avoid firewall issues. The only solution I've found is WebEx's Remote Support, which is WAY too expensive ($449/month for us).

Thanks for all the assistance!


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I've been thinking about implementing this for my startup PC support business, but the biggest problem I have is cost (as I have no collateral at all). So: 1) set up a VPN server. 2) have clients VPN into you (should get through most firewalls and will sort out routing). 3) use standard RDP/VNC to remote connect. -any thoughts? –  BuildTheRobots Jan 6 '10 at 22:00
Are you after something that will work across any OS (Windows/Linux/Mac) or just a particular one? –  John Gardeniers Jan 6 '10 at 23:00
MidnighToker - many clients will block VPN connections across their firewall. Remote Helpdesk gets around this somehow. –  Jess Jan 6 '10 at 23:15
Just Windows. We support typical corporate desktop users, where both Linux and Mac are extremely rare (a single user at a single of our ~3200 clients has a linux desktop box, none have Mac). –  Jess Jan 6 '10 at 23:26
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11 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Single Click (UltraVNC)

  • Open-Source
  • Easy to configure/customize
  • Easy to launch (connect to)
  • Supports 64-bit clients (according to them at least)

Ultra VNC's 'Single Click' might be what you're looking for. It let's your client (user) launch an executable (no install needed) that opens up a connection (out) to a listening server on your end. It's been pretty flawless for us for connecting to remote users. Here's some info about it: http://lifehacker.com/198532/geek-to-live--tech-support-with-ultravnc-singleclick

We use UltraVNC for some internal support, but it doesn't correctly show DOS-based graphics. Unfortunately we have legacy software used by clients utilizing DOS, but we'll check out UltraVNC again. –  Jess Jan 6 '10 at 23:24
The only gotcha here is that it isn't always firewall friendly. I dream for the day it gets HTTP proxy support. That being said, this is my go-to app for remote support. –  Goyuix Jan 7 '10 at 3:23
We have had success with circumventing troublesome firewalls by having Single Click use port 443, you would be amazed at how well this works... –  faultyserver Jan 10 '10 at 19:17
<@faultyserver> Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. We have two options on our 'single-click' application, one for 5900 and another one for port 443. –  l0c0b0x Jan 10 '10 at 19:28
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You can look at Netgotiator's AlterEGO that works with WIndows Vista and Windows 7 and does not need installation or Admin rights. It also works from inside a Terminal Server or Citrix session.

See http://alterego.netgotiator.com

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A couple of years ago in my previous job we used NetSupport Manager (I think it was v8 or v9). It had a "gateway" function that could bypass firewalls. Actually it worked in this way:

  • the employees has their client installed on the notebook
  • on IT staff's computers there was a "control" software that could be used to remotely control che employees' computers
  • on a server hosted in the employer datacenter a specific gateway version was installed (this server was exposed on the internet)

So when the notebook was in our LAN we could reach the computer using the native control protocol while when it was outside our network its client automatically connected to our gateway and we could see and control it via internet just like it was inside. AFAIK it used HTTP protocol.

Unfortunately I dont remember how much this software costed (they bought it before i joined their team) but i think it was not so cheap. PS I think that NetSupport created an online control of its software like LogMeIn, but i couldnt find it, maybe they've stopped.

Actually it worked well but I understand that it's a more complicated solution than teamviewer, logmein etc.. (that could be used easily also for one-time-assistance)

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Try RHUB's TurboSupport appliance. It does not need firewall modification and is comparable to WebEx, except offered at a much lower price.

Its easy to set-up and it offers three deployment methods depending on your firewall setting needs. TurboSupport also come with remote access function. Their other product groups remote support, remote access, web conferencing functions into one product. A pretty good value in my opinion.

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CrossLoop is free, works on PCs and Macs (no Linux), is built on VNC and is as easy as falling down stairs to use. I use it all the time for remote family/friend support as well as for small clients. It uses a CrossLoop mediation server to facilitate a quick handshake between the helper and the helpee over, I think, port 443. No firewall modifications necessary, unless port 443 is blocked. Even then I think holding "control" down while clicking the "connect" button will cause the traffic to go out over port 80.

HINT: when you first start it up, it will say "Please create a crossloop account". Don't. You don't have to. There's a link in the bottom right of that dialog box that says "skip". Just tell whomever is using it to click "skip" so they don't create a CrossLoop account.

EDIT: It also supports remote file transfers.

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LogMeIn Express is new and free -- and rather slick.

Can you control the other person's computer, or just share the screen? –  Jess Jan 7 '10 at 2:31
By default it is view, but the host can grant access easily enough and then you're driving. –  Chris_K Jan 7 '10 at 4:21
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Personally, rather than using specific software, I've used both WebEx and GoTo Meeting to help remote clients.

At various times the company I was working for already owned either or both, and leveraging for support was simple. It doesn't require firewall changes, doesn't require custom software, and even the more security conscious clients were generally allowed to run it without issue.

Add to that that multiple people can join the call and share the screen at once, and it becomes a pretty powerful tool. I could switch between demonstrating from my desktop to troubleshooting the remote one.

I know you mention WebEx RemoteSupport as being too expensive, but we used the basic WebEx package initially, before upgrading to a corporate solution.

The sales force used it too - it was a truly global, and cross discipline tool. That might help you sell it to management :)

Can you take control of a user's desktop with the regular WebEx or GoTo Meeting software? That is a definite requirement for our teams ... my understanding is that WebEx is view only for presentations and conferencing (our sales team already uses it, but our tech team needs to take control). –  Jess Jan 7 '10 at 2:31
Yes, you can make the remote person the presenter, so you can see their screen, and then they can offer you control. –  Alex Jan 7 '10 at 4:06
Interesting, thanks. –  Jess Jan 7 '10 at 17:44
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Check out www.mikogo.com. We use it all the time for remote assitance. It is more of a desktop sharing software but can be modified to be used as a remote assistance tool. Check out the form and search for remote assitance.

I have tried VNC/SingleClick, and others and haven't been as satisfied as I have been with the service Mikogo provides. It even works well with working with Vista and 7 clients that have Aero turned on. It also will allow you to interact with UAC remotely.

The best part.... it is free! The user is prompted to join at the end of the session, but they can just cancel out of the join request.

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A lot of people and my self saying best abaut UltraVNC

One problem is that this requires quite a bit of configuration on the part of the client. (which may be ok depending on the setup used by the OP) Also, I believe the OP mentioned VNC as an undesirable solution. –  Michael Mior Jan 6 '10 at 22:04
@michaelmior What about uvnc.com/addons/singleclick.html –  adopilot Jan 6 '10 at 22:06
I'm starting to like the Single Click option –  Jess Jan 7 '10 at 2:32
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Check out Fog Creek Copilot. It gets around firewalls and implements a custom VNC-based system. Their pricing is very reasonable and I've never had any trouble with it.

Great software. Never had trouble explaining the steps to get people online compared to the other options out there. Only downside is that is runs in usermode, so UAC prompts need to be clicked by the user. –  Ryaner Jan 6 '10 at 23:03
I use Copilot on the weekends when it's free to help family and friends. Good stuff. And yeah, you do need the user present to handle the UAC. –  Bratch Feb 3 '10 at 23:32
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I've used TeamViewer in the past without any issues on Vista clients or 64 bit.

I second the TeamViewer recommendation (teamviewer.com). One small app the user needs to start and then they just provide an ID you can use to connect. –  Michael Mior Jan 6 '10 at 21:55
It's what we use to allow a software vendor to provide remote support. Defnitely has clients for windows and Mac but doesn't appear to support Linux. –  John Gardeniers Jan 6 '10 at 23:03
Interesting, I didn't realize you could set it up to punch through any firewall. –  Jess Jan 6 '10 at 23:27
TeamViewer supports Linux as well –  Jamess Jan 29 '12 at 12:40
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