I’ve recently been talking to Danila Kukarsky of Techinline Ltd., the developer of the FixMe.IT remote support service, about changes in the market for remote support technologies.
Delivering end user support services has long been the exclusive domain of the Service Desk. Either delivered in-house or increasingly via outsourced service providers, it can be a deeply frustrating experience for client and support staff alike: Visualize the client’s inevitably imperfect description of their issue, identify a likely solution, and then laboriously walk the client through the steps to address whatever problem is at hand. It’s a process that can be painfully slow, and overrun with errors and missteps. The obvious way to eradicate this torture is through an endpoint management system which as well as providing configuration management, usually offer virtual deskside support services to deliver remote viewing and remote desktop control. These tools enable the Service Desk to see their client’s problem first-hand, shortening time to repair, and eliminating the frustrations of telephone support.
As good as today’s enterprise endpoint management systems are, there are an increasing number of situations where they cannot be used. The rapid growth of the consumerization of IT over the last five years has seen individual employees and departments bypass centralized IT services in favor of SaaS providers to plug the gaps in the enterprise supported application portfolio. Getting effective support for SaaS apps takes a little more work. Lacking any onsite presence, If SaaS venders want to provide virtual deskside support they can’t rely on their customer’s remote support systems, nor are they able to install large footprint endpoint management tools of their own. Instead they have to use lighter, small or zero footprint remote support apps, that can be run on demand without prior installation and without needing elevated privileges.
FixMe.IT straddles the boundary between being a lightweight web-based remote support app ideal for SaaS providers, and a not quite enterprise-class product. Its lightweight client makes it a good fit for SaaS providers, but at the same time it’s far more than just a remote control app and has enough advanced features to make of interest to SME customers looking for a richer remote support tool. As well as being able to either shadow or control the client’s desktop, support staff get both a virtual laser pointer and pen to annotate the remote display, tools that can be very helpful when it comes to supporting busy apps with complex user interfaces. There’s a well thought out admin console that enables support staff to manage multiple concurrent support sessions as well as a basic logging tool to keep track of time spent on support sessions. Support staff also have the option of recording support sessions for audit or training purposes, and can also share their own desktop with the customer, useful for one on one training, or for customer’s whose data security concerns make them unwilling to share their own desktop while still looking to benefit from visual hand holding. While admins might find FixMe.IT’s rich remote support features provide the biggest benefit from their customers’ perspective, it also provides great value as a flexible, easy to use alternative to Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection tool. Admins can create a list of remote physical or virtual systems authorized for unattended access. Once created, the FixMe.IT admin console makes it simple to switch between a client’s desktop and any remote systems needed to troubleshoot and resolve issues. And knowing that FixMe.IT is always available for ad hoc connections can bring peace of mind to those who need remote access to their workstations on the go.
FixMe.IT is offered as service; customers can choose either to buy a fixed number of support sessions, that can be consumed any way they wish, or buy a flexible use license limited only by the number of concurrent users on the service desk – there’s no license cost for the client-side component. And it’s well priced, at less than $1 per day for the subscription license, it’s the kind of product that is worth having around even if you only use it once or twice a month.
I particularly like how FixMe.IT maintains remote support sessions through client reboots. Making it possible for support personnel to install updates, reboot and reconnect without the customer having to do anything to reinstate the connection. It’s not a unique feature by any means, but it’s the kind of detail that is essential for anyone with an eye of good user experience. This persistence can also be maintained when restarting in Safe Mode and when switching user accounts. The one thing I didn’t like, was the lack of any obvious tell-tale to remind the client that their desktop was being shadowed, controlled, or recorded. The app does provide the client with a log showing that their desktop is being shadowed or controlled, but visible tell-tale in the foreground would be preferable. As it is, this won’t be to be an issue for much longer, Techinline already has plans to incorporate this in a future release.
What FixMe.IT doesn’t have today is support for Apple OS X or Chrome OS. With PC sales in steady global decline, the only growth markets today are for Chromebooks and iMacs, especially in K-12 education where Chromebook sales have exploded in the last 18 months. This is a deficit that Techinline is working to address. Kukarsky tells me that support for both OS X and Chrome are in the pipeline for delivery in 2017 but isn’t yet ready to share exactly when they will be available.