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The traditional break-fix support model is tried and true – a customer logs a problem and the solution provider sends a technician out into the field to resolve the issue. It works, but it’s also expensive and difficult to scale, which is why many solution providers are adopting managed services or remote management tools to cut down on truck rolls.

Many solution providers have used remote control applications in the past, but most had severe limitations – ranging from the need to preinstall software, setup VPNs, modify firewall settings and so on. Not so much a problem if the solution provider had setup the site for remote support, but what about new customers, or supporting PCs not sold by the solution provider? Add to that the need to support home office and mobile workers, and becomes clear why the traditional software remote control packages now fall short.

Thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, cloud computing and hosted services, the problems associated with remote support have all but disappeared. Citrix Online and LogMeIn have grasped the concept of hosted remote support and each have rolled out services geared towards the solution provider aiming to support end users no matter where they are. Today, all that’s needed is a broadband connection.

For solution providers, the services boil down to Citrix Online’s GoToAssist  Corporate and LogMeIn’s LogMeIn Rescue, both of which are aimed squarely at making remote support easy, affordable and accountable.  Each service allows technicians to e-mail a URL to a user that enables a remote connection to the affected client. These connections are made without heavy client software or a VPN.

Both Citrix Online’s GoToAssist  Corporate and LogMeIn’s LogMeIn Rescue allow technicians to track their time spent, record sessions, elevate calls to other technicians and so on. Managers can use the services to monitor sessions and see how technicians are performing. While both services share much in common, there are some key differences that can make one more appealing than another.

It’s obvious that solution providers playing in the remote support world need a lot more than just remote control to succeed. Those solution providers need management tools, tracking tools, reporting, billing, escalation support , training and many other elements that it has become difficult to define what an all encompassing remote support tool should look like.

Both GotoAssist Corporate and LogMeIn Rescue have become products that try to be everything to everyone. That, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it does complicate selecting a service for the solution provider. Each product does have its particular strengths, and perhaps that is the best place to start when considering which product to adopt.

With GoToAssist Corporate, Citrix puts a lot of emphasis on ease of use, resolution speed and ROI. The product offers four distinct ways for customers to request support or start a support session:

  • Connection Code: Representatives can invite a customer to join a Web-based remote-support session by entering a unique code into a support Web site and initiating the support session.
  • Online Queue: Intelligent routing technology automatically sends customer inquiries to the appropriate support department and creates a queue for the next available representative.
  • Select a Representative: Customers can request help from a specific representative listed on a solution provider’s Web portal.
  • Broadcast to All: Customers can either click a button or type in a question and the request is sent to all representatives currently logged in to the system.

LogMeIn Rescue uses a somewhat similar method to initiate sessions, which is broken down into three methods:

  • E-mail or PIN: Technicians can provide the customer with a PIN or a Direct Link (URL) to initiate a support session.
  • Global  Support Queue: Technicians are able to pick customers waiting for support out of a Queue or be assigned a case from a supervisor from the queue.
  • Customer Applet: End users can self install a small applet which can be used to quickly request remote technician support. The applet is ideal for internal use in a corporation as part of the help desk offerings.

While LogMeIn Rescue and GotoAsisst Corporate handle support requests in a different fashion, the outcome is usually the same – customers quickly get remote support when needed. That said, LogMeIn Rescue’s applet approach is an innovative way for a help desk to manage internal support or ongoing support requests. GotoAsisst Corproate proves to be a little more innovative with its four connection methods and lends itself well to a support call center, which deals with new customers on a regular basis.

Connecting is only part of the story. What a technician can do once connected is the real meat and potatoes of any support product. Both services offer an impressive array of features that are geared directly towards a technician offering remote support and are more alike than different. In other words, technicians can expect all of the necessary features and controls on either product.

Beyond basic remote control, LogMeIn Rescue supports the following capabilities:

  • Point-to-Point Technology: Traffic is routed directly between the technician’s and the customer’s PCs, eliminating delays from third-party hosts.
  • Multi-Session Support: A single technician can control as many as 10 remote PCs concurrently.
  • Drag and Drop: Files can be copied from one system to another using a simple dual-plane interface that supports drag and drop copying.
  • Remote Reboot: Technicians can reboot and automatically reconnect to a remote PC, allowing unattended support.
  • Safe Mode: Technicians can connect to systems that are running in safe mode.
  • Pre- Operating System Support: Troubleshoot issues below the operating system, at the BIOS level.
  • Communications: Technicians can chat with customers, display whiteboards, use a virtual laser pointer, push Web pages, access the Task Manager in Windows, take system snapshots, and share screens with other technicians.
  • Session Transfer: Sessions can be transferred to other technicians.

GoToAsisst Corporate also piles on the capabilities and offers enhanced features such as:

  • Live Chat: Representatives can host as many as 8 concurrent chat sessions.
  • Two-Way Screen Sharing or Remote Control:  The representative can view or share control of the end user’s desktop — or vice versa — even in multi-monitor desktop environments.
  • Remote Diagnostics: Collect system information, including operating system details, total and available memory, applications and services currently running.
  • File Transfer: Technicians can launch a file transfer application to copy, delete and move files with ease.
  • Reboot/Reconnect: Technicians can restart/reboot remote systems and reconnect.
  • Annotation Tools: White board, highlighter and pointer features.
  • Session Transfer/Sharing: Sessions can be transferred or shared between technicians.

While many of those features are similar between the two products, LogMeIn Rescue does offer pre-boot support for BIOS access and better collaboration tools. On the other hand, GoToAssist Corporate offers more team orientated features, making support escalation easier, as well as technician monitoring.

One of the most important capabilities of a remote support product is the ability to track time spent and services performed. That can be critical for an IT department looking to prove their support value or for a solution provider looking to garner revenue from support services. Once again, both products take an aggressive approach to those needs.

LogMeIn Rescue offers full recording of support sessions, as well as in-depth reporting. Reports can be generated that track technician activity, customer satisfaction and collaborative problem solving. The company provides APIs to connect session information to CRM solutions or other applications. LogMeIn Rescue starts at $129 per user per month. Support for Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry devices is available at extra cost.

GoToAssist Corporate offers all of that, along with enhanced integration with CRM, Service Desk Applications, Knowledge Bases and several other applications. The product’s reports are more comprehensive than LogMeIn Rescue. GoToAssist Corporate seems to be the better choice, when it comes to tracking, reporting and integration. Basic pricing for GotoAssist Corporate starts at $180 per user (technician) per month.

For solution providers looking to support more than just PCs and MACs, LogMeIn Rescue proves to be the better choice, while those looking for in depth reporting and better integration with other support tools, it’s pretty hard to beat what Citrix Online’s GoToAssist Corporate offers.