Windows 7 makes Remote Assistance easier to use

Since Windows XP every new version of Windows has included a version of Remote Assistance.  Remote Assistance is an RDP-based application that allows Windows users who are having difficulty with their computers to request help from an expert. The request would be in the form of an invitation file that would be transmitted to the helper by various means.  The invitation would be password protected and could be sent by Windows Messenger, Outlook or Outlook Express, or as a simple file that can be attached to an email or placed on a network share. The invitation contains connection information needed to traverse the Internet and any NAT devices or routers between the computers. Once connected, a helper can see the Desktop of the problem computer.  Using the Remote Assistance interface the helper can request to take control of the problem computer and then access the Control Panel, registry or any other part of the operating system needed to correct the problem.

Remote Assistance in simple, and relatively easy to use, yet it is often overlooked as a troubleshooting tool. Many Enterprise networks purchase a third-party solution even though RA can be customized for use in an Active Directory Environment. The invitation requirement can be removed through Group Policy and an “Unsolicited Remote Assistance” capability enabled, which allows help desk personnel to offer Remote Assistance to any computer on a network .

In non-domain environments the most likely reason relatively few people are using Remote Assistance is the somewhat cumbersome process of conveying the Invitation and associated password from novice to expert. Windows 7 has a new way of sending the invitation called Easy Connect. Easy Connect uses PNRP (Peer Name Resolution Protocol) to publish “peer names” and IP addresses across the Internet. Two Windows 7 computers using Easy Connect can connect to each other without an Invitation file, only a password needs to be shared, presumably by phone.

With Easy Connect the last barrier to widespread use of Remote Assistance has been removed.  Check it out soon to see if it is a good fit for your support needs.

-Mark

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