Ask an IT support pro: When and how to do a screen share session

Some considerations for screen sharing when resolving IT support problems.

Among the valuable tools I use to help clients troubleshoot technical problems is screen sharing. It’s great because it allows me to not only get right into your machine and fix the problem; it also makes it possible to easily demonstrate how I fixed the problem. This way, customers can learn how to fix the problems themselves, saving them time in the future.

But before you decide to share your screen with a support technician, ask yourself if this is necessary. You will know screen sharing is the right move if the device you are trying to get support for is not public facing and/or you don’t have an external route to the machine. In this case, your options are pretty much 1) share the screen or 2) have the support tech walk you through the steps yourself. This can be very time consuming and needlessly difficult.

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Another instance when screen sharing is the best option is if you have a secure environment and you need to watch as the support tech makes changes or accesses the system.

Once you and the support technician have decided to do a screen share, there are a few things you should avoid to make the session go smoothly.

First, realize that if you start opening documents, moving the mouse or typing an email, we can see it. And not only can we see it, but you are actually preventing us from fixing the problem. Only one person can control the machine at a time, so if you start using the device while the support tech is working on it, you are essentially preventing them from doing the job you asked them to do.

If you are going to share your screen with anyone, make sure to close any sensitive information you don’t want others to see. For the most part, the support tech isn’t going to start looking through all your open documents, but it is possible for a document or program fill the screen when another program is closed.

It isn’t uncommon for a client to ask for a screen share so they can watch what I am doing to fix the problem. I am happy to help the client learn more about the product and how to solve issues on their own. However, on several occasions, I’ve begun a screen share so the client can learn only to discover they walked away from the screen and aren’t paying attention. In some cases I could have fixed the problem without doing a screen share, so this negates the entire purpose of the session.

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