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One day I found myself providing remote support to an Android user with an email application I've never used before. This is not an uncommon scenario. Users expect to work across a variety of platforms. Long gone are the days of tightly controlled workstations, locked down to IT-curated application and security controls.
IT staff are now expected to support a wide variety of technologies. With the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), IT staff learn new systems while troubleshooting them, often over the phone with no example to reference. This is next to impossible without clear communication or being able to see the device.
Another problem faced by IT is that systems are now more distributed than ever. Enterprise systems can have a mix of components both on-premises and in the cloud, made up of Windows and Linux platforms. Remote access for support and troubleshooting requires using multiple remote access solutions.
In the sections below, I describe the process of on-boarding a technician to Dameware Remote Everywhere, and I work through some common support and management scenarios. This is not an all-inclusive review. There are a lot of features with this product that will benefit many different environments.
Setting up the Dameware service is as easy as entering an email address and password. Dameware Remote Everywhere is cloud-based so no need to host it on your server. SolarWinds offers a free fully functioning two week trial so you can really kick the tires on this tool, and if you work with a few other people who will also be using the software, you can add three additional users to the same trial This makes is easy for everyone to try it out and compare notes. Once the trial is activated, log in and select Downloads on the left menu. Download and install the console. This installs the Technician Console, which is used to connect to remote support sessions.
There are two clients available in the Downloads section. One is an installable agent, and the other is a small applet. The agent is available for Windows, Mac, Linux RPM, and Linux DEB. This is a traditional installable agent used to access computers remotely. The applet is a small program for temporary remote assistance cases. It runs on the remote client and is available for Windows and Mac.
Remote support assistance
Remote Assistance, as the product name implies, is the remote support feature. Once the subscription is set up and the console is installed, go to the remote connection icon at the top of the portal. Notice the icon is light gray; this is because the user has not been enabled for remote control. Click the icon and enable the user for remote control. This consumes one technician license.
Once remote control is enabled, click Create session to start a new session. Clients can go to the URL www.startcontrol.com and enter a PIN. Windows clients have the option of going directly to the link provided. This link can be copied and emailed (it is short enough to enter manually). Going to the URL downloads a small applet executable. Running the executable starts the remote session.
Once the applet starts, the warning message below displays. The users must accept this before the session will connect.
A new support request pops up on the technician workstation, indicating the session is waiting. The session can also be found in the Sessions section of the portal.
Waiting for the support session
Click the waiting connection. The options to start or reject the session appear. Click Start session. This starts the remote support session.
Next, a verification prompt appears asking to open SolarWinds Take Control. Click that to launch the SolarWinds console.
The Technician Console starts with a connection to the desktops.
The technician has control of the client desktop at this point. SolarWinds Dameware provides additional features that are useful for remote troubleshooting, including a system shell, a file transfer tool, and system information. System information provides an extensive list of hardware and software information on the client computer. Information such as Last Booted is always helpful in troubleshooting.
There are many other features such as chat, reverse sharing, and emergency reboot. This is all expected in a remote assistance product.
Remote control for mobile devices requires an application called Take Control Applet to be installed on the remote mobile device. To get started, go to Sessions in the portal and click Create session. Once the session is created, give the client the PIN code to enter into the Take Control Applet.
Once the PIN is entered, the client starts by sending the request. The technician is prompted to accept the connection and a warning about allowing access to the screen is displayed on the client screen. Click OK to continue and start the session.
Once connected, the screen is displayed in the Technician Console.
It should be noted that remote access for iPhone was only viewable. I could not control the device from the Technician Console. Even so, that is much more helpful than guessing what a user sees on a mobile device when providing remote support.
The applet works well for ad-hoc support sessions; however, the agent offers a persistent option for computers under management, such as servers in different on-premises and cloud environments. To illustrate, I installed the agent on a Windows server both in Azure and on-premises.
The Windows agent is downloaded from the Download section of the Dameware Remote Everywhere portal. As noted, the Windows agent is a dynamically created installer that will expire in a month. Download the Windows agent and copy it to the computer that will be managed.
Run the Dameware Remote Everywhere Agent installation on the managed computer. Unlike the applet, the agent requires admin rights to install. After a language is selected, the install runs and starts the setup process. Enter a computer name and description at the first step.
The next step finalizes agent registration. There is an option to add a master password, or require a Windows account. Click Yes to define these settings or No to continue.
Remote management can start without user intervention now that the agent is installed. The managed servers are added under the Devices tab in the portal.
Click the name of a server in the device list and then click Connect to connect to the server with the technician console.
In addition to a remote desktop session, Dameware also provides a remote command and PowerShell session as well as the ability to access the registry.
Undoubtedly, remote support and management of systems raises security concerns. In addition to the user notification of remote assistance and the additional security of the agent, SolarWinds Dameware Remote Everywhere also provides a comprehensive audit report to track the technician's access to remote systems. The Session History report lists technician access and offers multiple charting options.
There are numerous other reports, including Missed Sessions, Session Reports, and more. The Tech Performancereport with session statistics per technician is shown below.
SolarWinds Dameware Remote Everywhere is a full-featured remote support and remote management tool that is easy to use and affordably priced. I was able to sign up quickly for the free 14-day trial and started my first remote support session within minutes. Dameware comes with a variety of other tools to support remote users. The list below includes additional features not covered in this article.
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- Custom surveys to track user feedback
- Two-factor authentication
- Calling cards, a version of the applet to initiate remote assistance
- Secrets vault for storing passwords and other secure values
- Panic button, a way to temporarily increase the number of technicians
- Script repository for storing custom scripts
Licensing for SolarWinds Dameware is subscription-based. One license supports one technician and up to 500 clients. Pricing is competitive compared to other similar products. Check the SolarWinds Dameware website for updated pricing.