SoThin ThinPackage review
As we mentioned in this month’s review of NetSupport Manager 11, there’s a huge range of remote control products now available. This is good news for users but bad news for network administrators already struggling to secure remote access to the LAN.
SoThin’s ThinPackage comes to the rescue as it’s designed to let users swiftly connect remotely to servers and PCs in the office but ensure administrators retain control over what they can see and do. It creates packages for users to run on their remote systems that determine what they can connect to and what resources they may use.
Packages are created with the ThinPackage Manager, but to use it you first need to download and install the free SoThin Management Console. This is a universal tool for centrally managing the entire range of SoThin’s products. The ThinPackage Manager has no user limits, although SoThin recommends from experience it’s suitable for handling around fifty users.
You then install the ThinPackage Manager, which snaps into the Console and appears under its Deployment Tool menu. The Console and ThinPackage Manager cannot currently run on Windows 7 or Server 2008 systems, but you can create packages to allow remote users to connect to systems with these OSes.
Package creation is deftly handled by a wizard offering connection choices for Citrix ICA, Microsoft RDP, RealVNC, SoThin’s own remote client and the old Tarantella Secure Global Desktop Connection.
You provide a name for the package executable, add the hostname or address of the host system and define access privileges. The latter will be determined by the connection type, so for ICA and RDP you can decide whether to allow access to the host’s hard disks, printers, serial ports and smart cards.
For RealVNC and the SoThin client you can let users control the host, or passively view it and disable the local clipboard. Their experience can also be enhanced by enabling features such as bitmap caching and local sound.
Access permissions will be determined by the user account on the host system, the protocol selected and any authentication systems such as AD that may be in force. Using ICA and RDP also allows you to decide whether the user is presented with a single application.
Each package is a small executable that you can copy to a user’s PC, email to them or post on the company web site. Either way, once run it fires up the appropriate connection to the specified system and provides remote access.
We tested with RDP, RealVNC and SoThin packages, and found them very easy to create and deploy. We used various packages that allowed full access, view only or restrictions for a single application. For the latter we found that when the client accessed the host only the specified application was loaded, and when they closed it the session was terminated.
Groups would be a useful feature in the console to allow package types to be sorted for easier management. However, along with console support for Windows 7 and Server 2008, this feature won’t be available until the next release.
Compared with hosted remote access services, ThinPackage looks good value since you’re not paying a monthly fee based on the number of users supported. The documentation is all too brief, but otherwise it makes light work of provisioning remote access.
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