Take Remote Control of Tech Support

by Lauren Simonds

When it comes to providing remote tech support, NetworkStreaming says it's better to own than it is to rent. The company offers SMBs an appliance-based alternative to online, subscription-based support services.

Small businesses with more than 50 employees, more than one physical location or that need to frequently support their customers face challenges when it comes to providing effective, cost-conscious technical support. Options include outsourcing, telephone support or relying on online companies such as WebEx, GoToAssist, LogMeIn and a host of others.

NetworkStreaming, a company based out of Ridgeland, Miss., takes a different approach, and claims that it can reduce your cost of ownership and eliminate phone support while improving customer satisfaction.

The company offers a combination hardware and software solution called the SupportDesk — a 1U rack-mounted appliance that plugs into your network. The big difference between SupportDesk and online tech support services is that you buy the network infrastructure outright.

Joel Bomgaars, the company's CEO and founder, says NetworkStreaming developed the product because, "We wanted to give customers a product they could own with no monthly subscription fees."

Each appliance comes with a unique IP address (URL), which lets employees or customers type the URL into a browser to access tech support. Any time a person requests support, he downloads and runs a small utility that connects him (through the SupportDesk appliance) to a tech support representative. Once the support session is over, Bomgaars says, the utility automatically uninstalls itself from the remote computer.

Serving Up Support
The appliance is designed to let companies support a variety of tasks including computer hardware (i.e., your soundcard fails), software applications (including the operating system) or end users looking for information (how to fill out insurance forms or accounting questions, for example).

Online support services work as long as the remote computer is up and running or — at the very least — that there's another person at hand to restart the PC. Bomgaars points out that the appliance lets a support rep reboot and reconnect to any remote PC without physical intervention. "SupportDesk lets you provide tech support for employees, customers, telecommuters or remote offices from anywhere without on-site assistance," he said. The company claims other benefits as well, including the following:

  • Eliminate monthly fees
  • Lower your total cost of ownership
  • Login through any Web browser
  • Control multiple desktops simultaneously
  • Eliminate phone support
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Decrease travel time and expense

Symantec Secure
At NetworkStreaming's behest, Symantec conducted a Product Penetration Assessment to compare SupportDesk against "established security best practices." The basic gist of the report said that SupportDesk offers controls that allow customers to "sufficiently restrict access to their workstation" and that they could retain control of the PC and end the remote connection at any time.

The report's bottom line indicates that the product was "designed and implemented with security best practices in mind and observed various aspects of the application to facilitate secure application deployment and management for NetworkStreaming's customers."

Rent or Own — NetworkStreaming's SupportDesk facilitates remote tech support without monthly fees.

You can read the full report at NetStreaming's Web site.

NetworkStreaming offers two pricing structures: you can buy a perpetual license, or you can buy the device up front.

A perpetual license costs $3,490 for the appliance and one support rep license. Additional licenses cost a flat, one-time charge of $1,695 each. You own the appliance and the licenses forever.

When you buy the appliance upfront, it costs $1,795 — you own it forever — and that includes a one-year support rep license. You then pay an annual $945 fee for each additional license (or re-subscription).

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jan 4th 2006
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