I love my Mom very much. We’re very close and she’s my best girl friend. But when it comes to technology she is not adventurous at all. I definitely got that from Dad’s side. Everything she knows about working her home computer, she knows because I showed her exactly how to do it. If I didn’t click the button in my demo, she doesn’t click it either. She’ll call me and say “There’s a box on my screen that says I need to upgrade, it’s red with a blue border…what should I do?”
Suffice to say, remote control software so I can sit here 100 miles away and help her as if I was in the same room is an absolute must.
When Mom and I were both on Macs exclusively, we used Timbuktu Pro. Not cheap, but it was fast and got the job done. I know about things like VNC and Remote Desktop Connection, but we’re both behind routers and I didn’t want to have to talk her through setting it up on her end. It’s one thing to learn something on your own by doing, it’s another to try and talk someone through something over the phone that you don’t thoroughly understand yourself.
When I upgraded my PC, Mom got my old one. She was getting tired of being told that she needed Internet Explorer 5.5 or better to run web applications she needed. At first we looked at the Windows versions of Timbuktu Pro and Symantec PCAnywhere but those packages are very expensive, require a bit of configuring to get working through firewalls, routers and dynamic IP addresses and for our purposes were way more trouble and expense than they’re worth.
Then we started looking at the products that work through a subscription service over https (good ole web connection). They’re all similar…you pay a monthly (or yearly) fee and the services serves as a sort of “middle man” between the two computers eliminating the need to futz with IP addresses and ports. The more you pay, the more options you may have available such as file transfers, remote printing and the like.
There are soooo many of these out there, all with varying prices and features. We tried the best-known ones, and this is what we thought:
MyWebExPC – (now WebEx PCNow). It was free for a time, which is the main reason why we were using it. Very. Very. Slow. And we didn’t find it reliable. My mom would be online, she’d see the WebEx icon in her taskbar but when I logged in it would say she was offiline. She had to quit and restart the service to get it back online. Then she got an email that the free period was over and it was time to start paying around $10 a month. Um, no thanks. Disappointing considering how big a fan I am of WebEx’s WebOffice (formerly intranets.com).
GoToMyPC – Tried this one next. It’s the Citrix remote control solution. It worked fine. Resolution a little fuzzy but it was fast and worked every time we called it up. No complaints and we might have started paying the $20 a month for it, had I not on a whim decided to check out:
LogMeIn – I don’t remember where I heard about this one, but it’s a keeper. Like other products, they have a wide range of services including a free version that only allows remote control. I’ve been using their IT Reach product for C3 and I think it’s worth the $200 a year it will cost for me to support 3 PCs. We’ve got folks all over the country, and while they don’t quite need the hand-holding my Mom does, there are still times that the only way I’m going to figure out what is going on is to log in and see for myself and I wanted the flexibility of remote reboot and file sharing that only happens in one of the paid products.
It’s so easy to set up. I sent each user a link which walked them through installing the software. Sits unobtrusively in their taskbar, easy enough to disable when not needed. I really like that upon login, it gives me a nice “snapshot” of their systems…how much RAM, what are the active processes, etc. Very helpful.
For Mom, the free version has been wonderful. I don’t need all the bells & whistles of file sharing and dashboards. I just need to login and control her screen when I have to demonstrate or fix something for her. Period. I’m sure it has its issues, but for now I haven’t found any. I’m comfortable with the security they have in place to make sure that systems with the software installed are safe, and the reviews I’ve read online have been very good.
I liked it so much, I installed it on my own PC, and now I can even use my PocketPC to get to my home computer from anywhere. Sweet. Mind you, looking at only 240×320 pixels at a time of my 1920×1200 pixels available on my monitor isn’t something I’d want to spend my day doing, but if there’s an email saved on my computer that I have to get at when I’m away from home it’s a handy tool. Better yet, it doesn’t require ActiveX on the remote computer so it works just fine from Firefox. Spent 2 days at Mom’s house and was able to sneak off and check my mail. There’s a certain comfort in being away from home and being able to connect to your desktop…you know the place hasn’t burned down and the power’s still on.
Other companies need to learn from this…give away a stripped down version of your product. No nags, no time limits. Just give it away and do a good job. Make folks think they’re really getting somethin’ for nuthin’. These are the folks that will have the warm fuzzies for you so that when they’re ready to spend money, they’re going to think of you. You may end up with more from that customer in the log run than if you nickeled and dimed them to death from the start.