There's nothing like being there, especially when it comes to troubleshooting thorny desktop and PC issues. But being there is rarely possible for those charged with keeping enterprise networks humming along effectively. Austin, Texas-based DameWare aims to provide the next best thing to being there with DameWare Remote Support, an application that combines remote administration and remote control in a single console.
A closer look at Dameware Remote Support
SolarWinds positions DameWare Remote Support as a toolbox for network managers and helpdesk personnel to support desktops, servers, and endpoints remotely. Although the concept of remote control and administration is nothing new, DameWare puts a new spin on those elemental tasks. For example, Remote Support is an application that can be installed internally on a network server or PC, not a monthly service like gotomypc or logmein.
Local installation offers several benefits over those service-based solutions. First of all, there's the security advantage: with a local package, no data has to move over the web, effectively isolating support from external servers, hosts, traffic, and so on. Another major advantage comes in the form of lower cost. As an application, DameWare Remote Support requires no monthly “usage fees” or subscriptions. Elimination of those recurring fees can reduce operational costs for a busy IT department.
Beyond those obvious advantages, DameWare Remote Support offers some very specific technical benefits. For example, the product combines the two most critical support elements into a single, comprehensive management console for administrators, remote administration, and remote control.
With remote administration, network managers have full control over what’s going on behind the scenes of an endpoint, such as starting and stopping services, viewing event logs, and monitoring performance, without the need for end-user intervention. Simply put, remote administration allows support personnel to work on the “plumbing” of running PCs, solving problems or troubleshooting system issues, all without leaving their desks.
While that all sounds well and good, DameWare also adds a surprising capability to the concept of remote administration, which extends far beyond just desktops. DameWare’s remote administration also supports domain-level administration chores, such as management of active directory domains, user accounts, groups, or storage. Those capabilities give an administrator everything needed in a single console to address the relationships between PCs, users, and the domain, all without having to launch multiple management applications or dig through numerous menus.
When paired with the remote control aspect of the product, remote administration via DameWare’s Remote Support offers everything needed to set up, provision, and maintain users on the network.
The remote control aspect of the product works as one expects. An administrator can take control of the desktop PC and its peripherals and work on that PC just as if he were physically at the location. While the concept itself is nothing new, DameWare adds a few features that extend the value of the product. For example, Remote Support allows administrators to choose from either an RDP session or remote control via DameWare’s proprietary “Mini Console,” both of which offer a robust remote experience.
What’s more, Remote Support goes beyond Microsoft Windows and allows administrators to remote control Linux and Mac OS systems as well, giving administrators a central dashboard to manage all of the types of endpoints commonly found on a network. That said, remote control support for Android and iOS would be a nice addition to the product. It is important to note, however, that DameWare does offer DameWare Mobile, which allows administrators to use those mobile devices to administer and control network resources. DameWare’s remote control application also offers file transfer, screen capture, user chat, shared control, and most any other capability one would need to effectively control a remote endpoint.
Hands-on with DameWare Remote Support
I installed the product on a Windows Server 2012 system and on a few Windows desktops. I also tested the product with a Ubuntu Linux Distribution and on a Macbook Air. Installation was straightforward, consisting of launching two application installers contained in a zip file, which I downloaded from the SolarWinds web site. SolarWinds offers a fully functioning 30-day trial, which is what I used for testing.
The primary console offers a tiered view of the network environment. From the console, I was quickly able to expand elements from a list of available items and either initiate administrative tasks or launch remote control. I found the “wake on LAN” a welcome feature. It allowed me to remotely power up PCs which were configured properly.
The console and associated controls had a very familiar feel, probably because they were based on Microsoft’s MMC (Microsoft Management Console) ideologies. The typical Windows network administrator will feel right at home with the product.
Drilling down through the administrative controls proved logical and easy. I was able to quickly launch the administrative controls I wanted. I made changes to AD, created groups, and modified other settings with just a couple of mouse clicks.
Remote control also proved simple, taking just a couple of mouse clicks to launch a session. The remote control console offered a plethora of tools across the top for quick screen captures, file transfers, hard drive access, chat, and more. The shared control mode also proved handy for a user to demonstrate a problem or view an admin demonstrating the correct way to perform a task. In other words, the remote control session became an ad hoc hands-on training tool.
New to version 10 is enhanced mobile support, which enables administrators to connect to MRC agents with iOS devices, such as the iPad and iPhone. Remote control via those devices works well with the new DameWare Mobile Client app available from the Apple App Store. Setup is straightforward, and the client application does a good job of scaling screens and offering control of remote systems.
All things considered, DameWare gets the equation right with Remote Support, which brings together the most common elements of support into a single package, one that's easy to learn, use and afford.