There have been some big changes recently in the world of Remote Support Software. Until earlier this year, I had used and recommended Crossloop as my remote support software of choice. I liked it because it was affordable, easy to use, and was geared specifically for computer repair technicians.
However Crossloop recently, and abruptly, shut the service down after being acquired by AVG. On top of that, you may have heard that LogMeIn recently got rid of the free version of their remote support software, to the dismay of much of the tech community who used it as a quick and easy means of connecting to their client’s machines.
As a result of these changes, I’ve received quite a few emails from readers asking what remote connection software I would now recommend. Since I am in the position of looking for a new solution, I decided to do some research and personally test out some of the leading choices in remote desktop support.
The Playing Field
I was looking for remote connection software that met a few criteria for my own personal needs:
- Easy for just a one-man shop to use and manage
- Not free (so I could take advantage of support if needed)
- Popular enough to be mentioned or recommended by other techs
With that criteria in mind, I found 4 remote connection services that seemed to meet these basic needs of mine:
- LogMeIn Rescue
- Instant Housecall
I understand that this is not a comprehensive list of remote connection software. For example, a popular remote connect solution among many technicians is ScreenConnect. However, ScreenConnect is a self-hosted solution that requires your computer to act as a server. I personally didn’t want to deal with that extra burden of making sure my computer was up and running with a good connection before I could help someone else. I prefer to have the solution run by the provider on a presumably more reliable connection.
Another solution that I use and love is join.me (which is actually an offshoot of LogMeIn), but because it’s free, it doesn’t have the amount of features or support that the premium remote connection services do. For this reason, I’ve left out the free solutions.
There are probably still many solutions that I passed over. Honestly, I just didn’t have the time to try out more than four, so I tried to pick the four that had the best reputations among my peers.
After choosing the contenders, I signed up for a trial account of each service (lucky for us, they ALL offer some sort of free trial) and put them through the paces.
One thing I must note is that I am rating these services on the features that were available to me in the basic trial version. Some services have other, more premium services that weren’t available in the trial offering.
I had a netbook, connected via WiFi and running Windows 7 Starter, sitting next to me that I used as the “client computer”. That way I could test performance on an under-powered machine. My “technician” machine was a desktop running Windows 7 Professional. With my computers connected, I simply ran through the process of connecting the technician computer to the client computer and looked at all the features available both from the view of the tech and the client.
Below, you’ll find a chart with the results of my comparisons. The chart is basically split into three sections. At the top is the pricing. I break the pricing down into monthly, yearly, and 5 year cost so you can get an idea of the cost of the product over time. As you can see, a small difference in the monthly fees add up over time.
Under the pricing rows are a few items in which I award up to three stars. These are features that all four services offer, but some provide a better experience than others. Connection latency is probably the most subjective to my experience, so your experience with connection speed may vary greatly. However, since I was connecting to the same computer over the same connection every time, I feel the latency differences between the different services are fair.
Finally, I list a bunch of features that are only available with certain services, using a green check if it’s available and a red ‘x’ if it is not. This is not a comprehensive list, but it does cover many popular features and those in which I think most computer technicians would be interested.
Lets see how these services compare…
Remote Connection Service Comparison Chart
As you can see, there is not one service that is the clear winner. Therefore, I recommend using this chart to find the service that fits your business needs the best.
Individual Remote Support Product Reviews
Now I’ll review in more detail my experiences with each service.
GoToAssist is the grand-daddy of remote connection software. They are brought to us by Citrix, a company that is firmly established as the leader in remote solutions like GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar for remote meetings, and XenApp and XenDesktop for IT virtualization. With the depth of so many similar offerings behind it, I expected big things from GoToAssist….and unfortunately I was left a bit disappointed. While it did what it did fairly well, it didn’t do as much as the others in this lineup.
Pricing and Options
At $69 a month for one technician, it’s not the cheapest on the list, especially when looking at lifetime cost….but it’s not the most expensive either. More technicians mean higher cost, but each technician can have access to up to 100 unattended machines, and multiple techs can access one machine.
You can also add-on the Service Desk offering for an additional $49/mo. This adds features like incident tracking, change and configuration management, and a knowledge base. This is great for larger help desk operations, but definitely not needed for a one-man-shop like myself.
The connection process is fairly slick and easy to manage. The customer installs the client by visiting FastSupport.com and entering a code that you provide. Or you can have GTA send them an email with the code in it. The client can then reconnect for subsequent sessions by using a GoToAssist icon on their desktop or by visiting fastsupport.com again. Everything works well and is intuitive on both ends.
Once connected, I did notice a bit of latency between actions I made on my screen and those actions being executed on the remote machine. Of all the services I tested, GTA had the most noticeable latency.
- This is a very mature product and you can tell. Everything works well and the presentation is slick and professional.
- One of the coolest features is that GTA comes with mobile support standard. So you can connect to your client’s smartphone quickly and easily without needing to upgrade your account to a higher tier.
- GTA was one of the few services that offered reverse screen sharing, which is a cool tool if you need to give a quick demo or show your client something on your screen.
- The GoToAssist logo is plastered everywhere. I didn’t see any obvious way to brand the software to my company.
- Unless you purchase the Service Desk add-on, GTA provides limited ability to reconnect previous sessions, even after a reboot.
- Not as feature-rich as other solutions.
LogMeIn Rescue Review
LogMeIn started off as a solution to access your own computer from anywhere, and has since added to that the Rescue brand service which is designed for computer support folks like us. LogMeIn Rescue is the most expensive offering on the list, but that shows through the quality of their offering.
Pricing and Options
At $129/mo, LMIR is not cheap. Add to that their optional mobile support solution (Something GTA includes in their default offering) and the price jumps up to $219/mo! However, you are getting a very full-featured help desk solution for the price.
The customer installs the client by visiting logmein123.com and entering a 6 digit code you provide. The customer can also get an email, link or SMS text message with connection info. Quite a few messages go back and forth between the technician and client before access is finally granted, a few more steps than the other services. This is great for clients that may be suspicious of remote connection software, or those that want full accountability by expressly giving you access to different features like unattended installs. However, that means it takes a little bit longer to get things set up initially.
However, once things are set-up, the connection speed is quite fast. I almost didn’t notice any lag at all. Definitely the shortest latency of the bunch. On the down side, there wasn’t any obvious way for the client to reconnect with me after the session was over, other than asking them to return to the logmein123.com website.
- Quick connection speed.
- Feature-rich file transfer with file explorer and full access to client’s file system.
- Nice assortment of on-screen drawing tools, which actually comes in quite handy when attempting to lead a client through some actions.
- You can request the user’s credentials so that you can reboot and reconnect without asking the customer to log in multiple times.
- Detailed session logs available to both you and the client.
- No obvious way to reconnect to the tech from the client’s side, no icon.
- No white-label branding option (though not as self-promotion heavy as GTA).
Instant Housecall Review
While Instant Housecall doesn’t have the major branding behind it like the last two services, it does seem to do many things better that it’s competition. Namely, it’s very much geared toward computer technicians, providing a plethora of diagnostic and repair tools thanks to its integration with D7, the popular computer repair multi-tool. On top of that, Corey Fruitman, the owner of Instant Housecall, is very active in the tech community and will often personally interact with his customers. That kind of personal touch is hard to find from software companies these days.
Pricing and Options
As far as monthly costs, this is the most affordable on the list. The price for the express edition starts at $41/mo and gets cheaper if you purchase yearly or lifetime subscriptions. You get a lot with the Express edition, including support for 3 concurrent sessions and 20 unattended installations. Move up to the professional edition and those numbers shoot up, plus you get seamless white-label branding and pager and SMS notifications.
You can create a customized login URL at yourcompany.instanthousecall.com that you will direct your clients to connect, or you can embed a unique link on your website. Even the file your client downloads is given a filename that matches your business name. Once connected, the speed is pretty good…only a slight latency is present.
- The integration of D7 is a huge pro….it gives you tons of diagnostic and repair tools at your disposal to use on the client machine.
- Some amount of co-branding, even at the express level, means that you can truly make IHC look like it’s a part of your business. I’m a big fan of the customized URL.
- This is the only solution in this list that allows you to accept payments from your client directly through the app….making accepting payment from your clients seamless.
- Tons of other features make this solution match the functionality of the more expensive options.
- The UI isn’t as polished as the other options on this list.
- Lack of on-screen drawing tools and reverse screen share are missed, but definitely not deal breakers.
Check out Instant Housecall (use offer code YFNCG at checkout for a 15 day trial)
Teamviewer is another more indie-style offering that I tried out. It offers a unique pricing model, which makes it more affordable over the long run. However, its lack of certain features make it less powerful than the other solutions above. The web management console provided by Teamviewer is very robust, allowing for multiple technician profiles. True to its name, “Team”viewer is best for use by larger teams of technicians.
Pricing and Options
You can purchase a Teamviewer license for a one-time cost of $749 for the Business edition, which is the cheapest option. This makes it more affordable over the long haul. However, there are some limitations to this edition, including allowing only 1 concurrent session, and it’s good for only one workstation (however you can purchase additional workstation licenses for only $139 each). Since Teamviewer shines as a solution for a team of technicians, it may be more prudent to go with the Premium or Corporate editions, which take the one-time cost over $1k. Still, it may be worth it for you since it is not a recurring cost.
You can also add-on a service called ITBrain, which is a remote monitoring and asset tracking service, at an additional cost of about $3 per device. This service can go a long way in helping you build a true Managed Services operation. You can learn more about it here.
UPDATE: After publishing this post it was brought to my attention that Teamviewer had some features that I reported that it didn’t have. Namely, unattended access and Screen Capture. I heard this from multiple people so I re-downloaded the trial version of Teamviewer and after some digging I was able to find those features. I’ve updated the chart and the props and cons below accordingly.
Your client must visit http://connect.teamviewer.com/v9 to download the connection client. It’s definitely the longest URL of all the services I’ve reviewed. In order to connect the client must be given a an ID number AND a 4-digit Password. I’m not sure why it’s necessary for there to be two numbers that must be given for a connection to occur.
You can also set-up a QuickSupport URL, which can be customized to your business name. Why there are two options for connection, I’m not sure. This is something I both like and dislike about Teamviewer. There are tons of options to choose from, but it can be difficult to figure out what option is best for you. I didn’t even realize there was a web console until halfway through my testing!
I sometimes had trouble reconnecting after a reboot. Luckily it allows you to reconnect by prompting the client to accept, though this could be a problem if your client stepped away from the system. Once connected, the speed is good, with minimal latency.
- A great web management back-end makes this the ideal solution for larger teams.
- ITBrain integration makes this a great candidate for MSPs.
- Pricing is great for long-term cost.
- Connection process can be a bit awkward and unreliable.
- The back-end web management console can be a bit complicated to learn at first.
- The system info offered about your client’s machine is the least detailed of the other solutions on this list.
And the Winner Is….
By “winner” I mean the remote service that I chose to use in my business. I chose this service because it fits my own business needs the best.
The service I chose is…..
I chose Instant Housecall because of a few key factors:
- It provides tons of built-in tools geared specifically for computer technicians like myself.
- It’s owner is very approachable and involved with his customers and the community.
- It’s affordable.
- It offers the best branding features.
I think Instant Housecall provides the best experience for solo computer techs who work from home, which is what I am.
I urge you to try out all of these services for yourself and choose the one that is right for you.
I personally reached out to Corey Fruitman to tell him that I chose his service as my preferred remote solution. He was kind enough to offer the readers of this blog a discount on the InstantHousecall services. If you’d like to purchase Instant Housecall, you can get 15 days for free by following this link and using the offer code YFNCG at checkout: Try Instant Housecall.
What remote connection software do you use, and why do you use it? Has this article made you possibly consider going with a different solution? I’d love to hear your experiences below in the comments.