Remote access: what you should know
In the prehistoric age of computers, when they took up entire rooms in tall buildings, remote support was just a twinkle in the eyes of early engineers. Fast-forward several decades to the 1980s and the advent of the World Wide Web and voila! Remotely servicing machines was no longer a wishful thought, but an actual possibility.
Today, with billions of smart devices around the globe to support, managed service providers (MSPs) have come to rely on remote access tools to troubleshoot technology issues wherever the end user is in the world.
As remote access solutions become more sophisticated, there are fewer reasons to send technicians on site to support devices. This not only adds to an MSP’s bottom line, it also makes technicians and engineers more effective at their jobs.
What is remote access?
In its simplest form, remote access is a process where a technician is able to access a machine (it could be a computer, smart phone, or a server) from another location.
Can you think of an industry that doesn’t use smart devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.)? Somewhere in the company’s infrastructure, there’s a machine - and those machines can malfunction. As glamorous as it would be to fly all over the globe to fix computers and phones in exotic locations, it’s not exactly cost-effective to send techs troubleshoot issues in person. So, when tech issues arise, it’s remote access to the rescue!
So, what’s the difference between remote access and remote support? Some in the IT community use those terms interchangeably. When you think about it, they’re not wrong. For the purposes of this article, the difference is this:
Remote access is the process where a technician remotely supports machines, mobile devices, servers, and systems that are unattended by the end-user.
Remote support is the same process essentially, with one key difference: the technician is assisting a person on the other end of the session while they address tech issues with the person’s device.
Choosing the best remote access software for business
There are dozens of solutions on the market, ranging as broadly in complexity and capability as they do in price. Some cater to home users and others to enterprises. Some split up the remote access and support functionality into different tools. Others are all-inclusive (meaning one software offers the option to both support end users AND access unattended machines).
Narrowing the options down to the right one for your business can be tricky. It might even be tempting to opt for the cheapest one and hope for the best. But not all remote access solutions are created equal. Here’s what you should consider.
Security is at the top of the feature list. Remote access without proper security exposes business data to cybercriminals. When data breaches happen, MSPs lose not only credibility, but money. MSPs can incur fines associated with data breaches, not to mention lost revenue due to poor reputation, lost clients, and remediation.
Look for a comprehensive security feature set that includes:
- Role-based permissions
- Password management
- Multiple authentication methods
MSPs that support industries like healthcare may require you to have specific security measures in place to comply with legal and ethical guidelines like PCI, DSS, and HIPAA. If these apply to you, make sure your choices include additional security features like:
- On-premises options
- Video auditing and recording
Another ding on an MSP’s credibility is slow, unreliable connectivity. Shaky remote access tools are bad for technician morale and can also leave your customers with a bad impression of your IT services. A remote access tool worth should let a technician connect to the device in seconds, temporarily install software for non-managed machines or break/fix scenarios, and will include options to install permanent agents as needed.
Cross-platform compatibility and mobile support
Companies that MSPs support will usually rely on an array of devices—both mobile and stationary—to run their day to day business functions. The thing is, many of these devices run off of different platforms, tasking MSPs with supporting Microsoft® Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and Chrome. Likewise, it’s important for technicians to be able to access machines while they’re away from their desktops.
Disparate systems are no good - that’s not a new idea. So, it’s crucial that the solution you choose integrates with the other systems you use (ticketing, billing, and business management). Otherwise, you could be creating more problems than you’re solving. When you’re researching remote access tools, ask yourself these questions:
Does this integrate with the solutions I already use?
Does this offer extensions and apps for enhanced capabilities?
How often are new solutions added to the integration roster?
A strong tech support team relies on collaboration to get the job done quickly and accurately. If your remote support solution doesn’t also offer remote meeting capabilities, you’re missing out on an easy way to promote team collaboration, and to share information quickly with your customers through screen-sharing and simple document sharing.
The right remote access solution allows your techs to help each other or request help easily, and gives them the capability to chat with end users, share screens with customers, and set up meetings to help explain issues quickly and directly.
White labeling is key for brand recognition and building trust. Remember that remote access can be daunting for end users. The more your customers see your MSP’s logo, colors, and messaging, the easier it’ll be to build your brand equity.
Beyond logos, colors, and custom URLs, consider which customizations would most benefit your team. The best remote access software will offer an array of editable settings, languages, designs, and workflows.
Setup and implementation
Something to find out about before choosing a remote access tool is how much time and education is required before you’re up and running with your new solution. With some solutions, it’s a very simple process that involves installing an access point onto the machine(s) or “endpoint” you want to support. Be careful to consider things like compatibility - if your endpoints run on Windows OS, for instance, you should check to make sure the remote access tool support it.
The Future of remote access
Cloud information management has drastically changed how companies share resources. The cloud has made it possible for even the smallest companies to distribute information and resources around the world, making it crucial for MSPs to be able to administer cloud management and monitoring.
An MSP’s systems need to be able to weather the storm of a constantly changing industry. A robust remote access solution—allowing you to work in multiple environments and continue to support new tools—is key to building a successful business. Evaluate your selections for remote access tools by considering which solutions offer the development support you’ll need for scalability.
A remote access solution that checks all the boxes
Every MSP and help desk needs a reliable and secure remote access tool that scales as the workforce needs change. Consider ConnectWise Control® for this task in your business. It comes with hundreds of customizations to allow technicians to with optimal productivity, and integrates with the top ticketing help desk solutions on the market. What’s more, ConnectWise Control offers access to a global community of IT professionals that work together to create a better working environment for technicians, stronger tools, and innovative ways to serve the end user better.