XLAB ISL Light 2.1 review
ISL Light offers an unusual and potentially more flexible alternative to mainstream support software. It provides Desk and Client utilities that communicate via a Conference Proxy (CP) service. Whenever a user or customer requires support, they call up their helpdesk and are given a unique session code supplied by the Desk component. Once the correct code has been entered at the Client, the two can connect, potentially giving the Desk full access with tools such as remote control, chat, file transfer and whiteboards.
This modus operandi allows the company to offer three business models and a range of pricing structures. The first and simplest option is to use the CP service hosted by XLAB itself. You can either purchase a licence based on the number of concurrent connections required or buy a PayPerUse coupon that allows you to have unlimited access for so many minutes. For example, a coupon for 500 minutes with unlimited connections costs £70.
For testing, we opted to run the CP on our own Windows Server 2003 system. Your first job is to register on the ISL Light website and provide the IP address of the host system. Unique packets for the CP, Desk and Client are then created and presented for download. The CP Windows service is installed from the command line and then manually started. Next, you move over to the CP’s browser management interface where you secure administrative access, define private networks and, if required, modify the port numbers the Desks and Clients will use to communicate. Performance can be improved by grouping multiple CP servers into a Grid. Most SPI firewalls will work happily with ISL Light, as it’s the Client that initiates an outgoing connection first, so any communication from the Desk isn’t deemed to be unsolicited.
With all components preconfigured, there’s no more work to do. A user calls the support member who loads their Desk and asks it to generate a unique six-digit code. They tell the user to enter it in the Client window and a connection between the two is then generated. Security is tight, as all streaming and file transfer is over SSL. When a connection is terminated, the session becomes obsolete. Furthermore, on first contact all the Desk can do is chat and only the Client can give it permission to view its Desktop. Pressing F12 allows remote control and F11 permits file transfer; these can be revoked instantly by pressing the relevant key again. Files are copied to the client’s Desktop simply by dragging and dropping them onto the Desk interface. We found performance to be comparatively good. Copying a 690MB video file to a Client over gigabit Ethernet took three minutes, 32seconds. A new whiteboard feature allows the Desk to draw red lines on the client’s screen and a bonus for multinationals is the extensive language support that can be changed on-the-fly.
With ISL Light, XLAB is providing a unique network support tool that works equally well within a business LAN or for companies wishing to extend customer support over the Internet. It’s a cinch to install and set up, provides good client security and is offered in a range of cost-effective packages.
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