NetSupport Manager 10 review
Manager version 10 builds on the strengths of the previous release, and keeps its remote access crown
NetSupport Manager has been reviewed before in these pages (see issue 128, p189), and version 9 has been on PC Pro's A List for some time. For the new version, along with enhancements to most features, there's a new Vista-style interface and several new capabilities that extend its ability to work on large networks and with a mixture of clients. Some of the new features are designed to address the difficulties involved in keeping track of large numbers of systems. For example, the Gateway Redundancy feature can help continuity of service, even when the primary gateway system is unavailable.
Client support for Windows CE and Pocket PC systems has been improved, and offers similar levels of control to that available for other clients. It's now possible to power off or reboot these devices, start and stop processes, execute scripts and obtain detailed inventory information in the same way as other Windows clients. Device-specific information, such as battery level and Wi-Fi signal strength, can also be provided. Linux and Mac clients aren't neglected, with new support tools and graphical configuration programs, and you can now obtain an inventory listing from Linux systems. Thumbnail display support for Linux and Mac systems is also available, providing the same overview monitoring features as those for Windows systems.
NetSupport Manager continues to offer the same remote support options as before, with chat sessions, file transfer and three remote-session operating modes available. User support and training can be further enhanced by using the Show option to display a support screen to a client. When used in conjunction with the record and playback functions, and the video player software, complete remote-training sessions can be carried out using this mode.
File distribution is a routine (if tedious) support function, and NetSupport Manager makes life easier with its file-handling options. Using the software's simple three-pane interface to select items and destinations in a similar way to Windows Explorer, the technician can locate and transfer files and directories to multiple clients in one operation. Sadly, neither this nor the single file transfer feature is available for Linux systems. File transfer speeds remain superb, however, achieving 329KB/sec on a 10/100 network.
A remote support system needs to be secure. All communications can be encrypted using 56-bit DES, 64-bit Blowfish, 128-bit Twofish, or 256-bit AES schemes as required, which should be adequate protection against unauthorised packet-sniffing software. Passwords and security keys can also be set to ensure that only authorised copies of NetSupport Manager can access the organisation's client computers, an essential precaution if remote support is carried out over the internet. Connections can be restricted, so that only known users or IP addresses are allowed to connect to clients to carry out remote support functions. Comprehensive logging and recording features provide important audit-trail data, while clients can be configured to use Active Directory to validate connections.
NetSupport Manager has always provided features that support departments need, and this latest release has even more tools to cope with today's complex networks.