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NetSupport Manager

By James E. Gaskin, Network World Lab Alliance, Network World
January 22, 2007 12:06 AM ET

Network World - Companies with multiple client operating systems to support will appreciate NetSupport Manager from NetSupport. The NetSupport console can control remote Windows, Linux and Macintosh computers.

Only Symantec offers similar range, and its Linux remote client didn't install nearly as smoothly. The Windows software offers a choice of running the full system or just the client version, an unusual but intelligent option.

NetSupport wins the best console display race, especially for its thumbnail view showing as many as 16 remote clients at once. Put your cursor on a client, and it pops up about five times larger than the thumbnail and adjusts the resolution so well that you can almost read the screen information.

Click on the inventory button under the thumbnail, and you get a hardware inventory list down to the serial number of the BIOS chip.

Equally detailed inventory listings of system software, applications, hot fixes, processes and patches appear with one click and a slight pause for the remote system to gather and report the information. This is the only system with an IM client that includes a whiteboard function.

Other support tools include a Windows Explorer-style file-transfer utility between the console and remote clients, directory file synchronization and audio chat to go with IM. Unlike all the other client applications tested, the NetSupport software can't be turned off unless the service is stopped. Your situation will determine whether that's a good feature or invasion of privacy.

Performance over a local network is so high you can easily forget which machine is your real computer and which is running through the NetSupport link. Even over Internet asymmetrical broadband links of 3Mbps downstream and 0.5Mbps upstream, NetSupport works well enough that you can play Solitaire, the preferred corporate time waster, with minimal latency to distract you while dragging cards around the screen.

Windows and applications pop open, making remote tasks feel like they are local. Even DOS box typing works fast.

The electronic manual has 336 pages, with PDF links activated from the table of contents to the correct manual page. Trainers can use NetSupport to capture screen activity, including audio narration, when performed on a client and captured by the console.

Scripting and log support round out the management feature list, which is extensive enough to make this a major player in computer management, not just remote control.

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