Review of two remote control tools I frequently use

I regularly provide remote control support to clients and need to be able to easily do that without worrying about firewalls. The two I like to use are Zolved Remote Control from http://www.zolved.com and Adobe’s ConnectNow web conference tool from https://na2.connectnow.acrobat.com/chromilo.

In order for this to work however, the client’s internet connection and their internet browser has to be functioning. This can’t be the reason they are calling for support because if it is, it’s an onsite visit.

I like Zolved Remote Control for it’s simplicity. It’s free, easy for the clients to follow, and only requires running a very small executable. This executable can be saved on their desktops and it’s self-contained which means it does not install anything additional to the computer. I haven’t had any situation where it fails to run. My two complaints are that:
1) I couldn’t use it to connect to a computer running Windows 7 Pro 64bit. Program runs but remote control session will not establish.
2) Clients on slower internet links like satellite connections in Vancouver island, are a little sluggish to remote control. Refresh rates are unbearable at times.

Using Adobe’s Connectnow web conference software was also nice and easy to use. It’s free, installs one browser plugin once, and product comes with feature-rich web conferencing addons like chat, whiteboard, and more importantly, remote control. My only complaint here is that:
1) Client computer has to be fairly new running newer and faster hardware. Legacy systems tend to be sluggish with Adobe Connectnow.
2) Refresh rates also suffer with slower internet connections specially if there latency caused by distance between client and yourself , e.g. remote control of clients in Ontario was slow.
3) URL is a mouthful but this can be fixed by offering a shortenned, redirected page from our website.
4) Right-mouse click on remote control console reacts differently and brings up Adobe Macromedia or Flash popup instead of the standard Windows context-sensitive menu. Annoying but I’m sure its a configuration setting.

Of the two products I’m reviewing, I pick Adobe’s Connectnow Acrobat software for it’s slick professional interface. What’s your take on this?

Great strategy for installing printer drivers to a few workstations quickly and easily

I had to install Brother printers recently, onto workstations running Windows XP Pro, Windows 7 Business Edition (both 32/64bit), and Vista Ultimate OSes. Use of printer redirection was necessary using Terminal Services/Remote Desktop services, so it was important to have the OS-specific drivers pre-installed.

I know there are multiple way of pushing drivers from networkerd print servers but I found the following steps below worked best for me.

1) Download your printer driver specific to your Operating system version.
http://welcome.solutions.brother.com/bsc/public/CountryTop.aspx?reg=us&c=ca&lang=en

2) Click Search. 

3) Scroll down to the very end where it says “Add Printer Wizard Driver” and download that to your c:\temp folder.

4) After download, run the EXE from the c:\temp folder.

5) When prompted, extract/decompress it to c:\temp.
 
6) Go to Control Panel | Printers.

7) Click Add Printer.

8) Add a local Printer.

9) Use an existing port LPT1:. Click Next. This is a bogus printer object as the printer does not really plug in to LPT1.

10) Click Have Disk.

11) Browse to c:\temp\32 folder, which is the folder the printer drivers were decompressed/extracted to from step #5. Click Ok.

12) Select Brother Printer from the list of printers. Click Next.

13) Type a printer name. Keep the default.  Click Next. 
The drivers are now installed to this workstation. You can delete this printer now because it is bogus (no printer is in LPT1 port).  we just did steps 1-13 to install the printer drivers. The next steps actually install the actual network printer to this workstation.
 
14) After printer is installed, go to Start | Run and type UNC
\\printserver\printershare 

15) Printer is installed. Don’t forget to print a test page.

These steps are great for a small number of workstations and I have used it for a while now. However for an enterprise installation, it is too time consuming. Have you used this strategy before because I’m curious if I’m the only one that does this?

Co-existing with another IT support company and my top 4 advice for making it work

Those of us in the computer support and services industry will likely be in this situation. It is very rare for any business to have one contact for their IT support needs and will find themselves jungling a few IT staff from different companies in order to run their business.

Unless the company is a startup, they would already have worked with previous IT companies and you would be taking over support from the last one. Most times, the tie or relationship with the last IT company is not completely severed and they continue to provide expertise in some areas until you get up to speed. This is the situation we are in at aminsolutions.com with a couple of our clients and learning to cope with this reality is key to keeping our business relationships healthy.

If you are the sole computer support company for your clients then it is easy for you. However, IT Generalists will find it difficult to be experts at all things and will likely evolve to subcontracting others or the business will do it for you. This is what happened to us with our other client and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Some things to keep in mind when co-existing with other IT support companies:

1) Don’t take it personal. It’s a business relationship and is not a reflection of your IT technical prowess or lack thereof;
2) Learn to rely on others’ expertise. It’s all for helping grow the business that you support so learn to feed off the other IT company’s strenghts and weeknesses.
3) Be humble. Check your ego at the door and treat everyone with respect. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you because you are dispensable.
4) Share. Consultants tend to do very little documentation in order to keep job security but it goes against #2 where your mission is to help the business grow. Providing documentation and cross-training the competition is ok.

These are some of the advice I try to follow myself and which hopefully makes sense to you. Others are quick to step up if you don’t.

Making sure an IT relocation project is successful

The move to the new office was successful for our client two weeks ago. They have now settled in and are now adjusting to their new offices, desks, and coffee shops in the vicinity. Many thanks go out to the team at e-fusiontech.com for sending a group of people to help with the IT relocation.

We at aminsolutions.com couldn’t commit to doing the move because of prior commitments with another client. To set the correct expectations, I let the owner know well in advance of this fact and to engage/subcontract another tech company to do the actual move. I believe being honest, upfront, and setting realistic expectations with the client helped make this a successful move.

A second key piece to a successful move is getting professional advice from another local tech company that has done many IT relocations in the past. This is where netarchitechs.ca helped out. They said that PLANNING is at the top of the list.

With this advice,

1) We offered a Project Coordinator to help with this project (which owner kindly declined this time).
2) We made sure the owner made a spreadsheet that lists all the tasks necessary from start to finish, who the assigned resources are for those items, and who to contact if ythings go wrong.
3) We asked the owner to confirm in advance with the ISP that the public IP addresses will be moved to the new office.
4) Helped ensure correct electrical circuits were put in place to match the UPS.
5) Asked for printouts of network diagrams, passwords, and server build documentation.
6) Re-scheduled full system backups to complete before power shutdown.
7) And finally, helped with shutdown script to ensure all servers were gracefully powered off.

The only thing we could have done better was plan for better server room cooling. We under-estimated cooling requirements and have had to power off some systems until more cooling is purchased.

Overall, the owner was very pleased with the whole move. Moves are often unpleasant but I believe this couldn’t have gone any better.

How to get rid of an annoying scareware/virus?

I was helping a friend with his infected Dell computer running Windows XP Home Edition. He stopped by and was in a mild panic because his son Ricky clicked on a popup by accident and that installed this scareware application called MS Removal Tool.

This tool is a hoax and works by scaring you into thinking your computer is infected and the only way to remove those viruses is to pay them $60 for the antivirus signatures. It’s a scareware and the only way to remove this is to go into Safe Mode to manually extract it out.

I give kudos to blogger at http://deletemalware.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-to-remove-ms-removal-tool-uninstall.html for the steps to remove this virus.

Delete the executable in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\\.exe. When this is deleted, go the temp folders for the user profiles and delete the temporary contents. If you can’t delete then, take ownership and continue clearing and contents. Do the same for the \windows\temp folder. After this is done, run MSCONFIG and make sure you understand what services are starting up automatically when Windows starts up. If you don’t recognize it, uncheck it to keep from starting.

I suggested to my friend the MS Security Essentials suite (free downloadable) and uninstall AVG Antivirus, Zone Alarm firewall software, Malware, Ad-Aware, etc. Having one suite from Microsoft do all the work was better than having all these other products from different vendors. Keeps it easy to update.

He was so happy and so were his two school-going kids Ricky and Chrissie. Just be careful about what you click on the internet next time.