Does this kind of conversation ring any bells? "It says it's connecting now…oh hang on…are you in yet? No? I'm sure it said it was connecting…let me try this, wait a second…are you in?"
Support picture from Shutterstock
If this reminds you of an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of a user's PC, you're not alone! There are few things more frustrating than knowing that you could solve a problem in minutes but are struggling to do so because you (or, perhaps more frequently, the user) can't make the remote connection work.
Thankfully, remote support tools are getting much better, especially when it comes to minimising user interaction and avoiding the kind of frustrating moments mentioned above.
Even so, there's plenty you can do to make your interactions with remote users more straightforward.
Let's try to put this tactfully: some users are easier to support than others. Some individuals just aren't that tech-savvy, and they're the ones that often make you want to bang your head on the desk, especially when they keep trying to steal the mouse pointer from you once you actually have established a remote session!
Now the end user is not to blame. They are probably very good at their own jobs! So how do you help them help you? When you hand a PC over to a remote user, explain how your remote access tool works, giving a demo if possible. Teach them about the things that could land them in trouble, like inadvertently accessing phishing sites and leaking data.
Also, try to gently tell them not to let their kids use their company laptop for games, or allow it to be used as a comfortable, warm seat for a cat (and yes, these things have both happened in real life, more than once).
Choosing the right remote support tool will go a long way to removing your stress, especially if you can gain quick PC access and perform reboots without having to get the user involved.
Sometimes, however, you will still come unstuck and wish you were there in front of the PC.
If you look after branch offices, it's a good plan to identify someone who's reasonably technical in each one. Then, be really nice to them! You can then make use of this person in tricky situations, instead of having to spend five minutes explaining what a USB port looks like. By doing this, you really can make trekking to a remote site a last-resort option.
For more tips and tricks to make remote support easier, follow these tips:
1. Train your end users – even those that work remotely
The problems of system exploits are more severe with remote workers, so these employees need to be especially well versed in how to protect their own systems. This could include proper password setup, good firewall protection, knowing how to spot phishing, to not leak data, and keeping anti-malware up to date and properly configured.
Creating screen grabs/snapshots and step by step guides may also save you explaining how to set up a printer every day!
2. Divide and conquer
Figure out which jobs can be achieved remotely, to reduce the back and forth between you and the end-user. Some jobs will still need face-to-face contact with your employees, but others can be handled more efficiently over the phone or via remote control.
3. The right tool for the job
Travel time is dead time, but with remote control tools, you can reduce this significantly and get more time back. To get the right tool for you, think about the time you will need in the set-up, configuration and ongoing maintenance. Ease of use, security and speed of responses are key areas to look into. Remember, the one with the most features may slow down your systems so take time to understand what's best for you.
4. 'Free' isn't always best
Free remote control tools can come with unadvertised features, such as connections that cut out unexpectedly. If you don't want to spend your time reconnecting and lengthening support calls, look at all the available options.
5. Security essentials
You know you need tools that protect against malware, handle remote troubleshooting, support proper system and web content monitoring as well as keep systems patched. When choosing a remote control tool, it's worth considering how all these systems will work together.
6. Find a friend
Where you have remote offices, there is likely to be at least one tech savvy employee who can work with you. It could be a simple as installing a printer on a new laptop or being your main point of contact for anything trickier. Making contact and building that relationship could save you more time in the long run.
7. Crafting a Plan B
Everyone needs a backup plan when you can't fix it remotely and can't get on site quickly. Is there a local contractor that can come to the rescue? Does it make sense to have onsite spares? Whatever works best for your business, stay a step ahead with a plan ready to roll.
Jackie Wake is a product manager for GFI Software. Connect with her on LinkedIn.