Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Offer Remote Assistance

We do a lot of remote support for clients and the ability to see what the user sees is essential when troubleshooting. There are a few third party tools out there that allow remote control such as Mikogo and Team Viewer, but most of these have a cost associated with them for commercial use.

If you have remote access to a Windows server, you can use that server to connect to users within the site. The standard Remote Desktop works great for you to log on, but does not allow you to collaborate with the user. For that you need Windows Remote Assistance.Windows Remote Assistance allows you connect to a remote computer while the user is logged on and see exactly what they see. You can also take control if the user lets you.

In Windows Server 2008 R2, you need to install the Remote Assistance feature. In SBS 2011, it is automatically installed. After it is installed, you can run it from the Start menu or by running msra.exe. I tend to use the command-line. The options in the graphic below are for Windows Server 2008 R2.

Depending on the version of Windows that you are running, the graphical interface offers different options. Most of the same options are there between versions. Here are the ways you can use it:
  • User initiated - Invitation file. This method requires the user to create an invitation from remote assistance on their computer and then deliver it to you, typically via email. Generally, too complex for users to understand.
  • Helper initiated - Offer remote assistance. This method requires you to enter the IP address of the remote computer. It is also dependent on DCOM. Make sure that the firewall of the remote computer is configured correctly. SBS creates a Group Policy that opens up these ports. In a non-SBS environment, you'll need to do that manually. This is the option we use most often because the user does not need to initiate it.
  • User initiated - Easy Connect. This method generates a password when the user request is made. This password is entered in by the help to access the system. Unlike the above options, this method works over the Internet. However, it requires the firewalls on both sides to support Peer Name Resolution Protocol. This method also requires Windows 7 on both computers. Test your router support by using the Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/tools/igd/default.mspx.
Additional Remote Assistance information, including firewall configuration:

1 comment:

  1. I use Windows remote assistant on my LAN. But there are some limits in that I can't access my remote clients or diagnose issues on Linux or Mac systems. So for that it is nice to have a 3rd party software when issues arise. I see you mentioned Teamviewer and Mikogo. I used a combination of a older Teamviewer and just recently shelled out $275 for ScreenConnect. Anyways just my two cents!