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How do you do....it? Thread, IT Help desk / asset management / remote support solution in Technical; ...
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    IT Help desk / asset management / remote support solution

    I have been tasked with researching/proposing a new solution that includes a help desk, asset management, and the ability to remote support (e.g. VNC) to users on site. We currently have none of these.

    I'm just looking to get a feel for what sort of solution others may be using (this is for an independent school), and get some feedback on what I'm currently looking at.

    Help desk

    For the help desk/ticketing component, I am currently considering:

    • Spiceworks
    • SysAid (On-premise)
    • OSTicket
    • Kayako (Download)
    • Web Help Desk (SolarWinds).


    Spiceworks is probably my favourite pick right now, simply because it is so easy to use + customise/brand, and generally seems geared specifically for IT. Having a good experience for our end users is very important, and the fact that Spiceworks seems to supports Active Directory SSO for the user portal with very little fuss is great. Dragging and dropping to design the portal, and being able to create custom ticket forms + attributes/fields is also quite nice. As for e-mail queues, this seems to be quite robust as well, and taking a look at the E-mail templates/variables I think some very professional looking notifications could be created.

    I'm also quite fond of OSTicket, having used it in another project. I'm glad to see the newest versions are getting better. This could be customized to our hearts' content, considering it is open-source.

    I am a little concerned about the help desk aspects of SysAid and Web Help Desk; the whole category soup that users would click through to identify their problem seems designed to help route a much larger ticket volume than we would anticipating and would likely confuse our end users. One advantage SysAid has is that it integrates the ticketing, asset management, and the remote support into a single product.

    Kayako is certainly a solid solution for ticketing, although like SysAid and Web Help Desk, if you want to customise the look and feel it seems all you can do is download a pack of HTML + CSS and make your changes to that.

    Asset Management

    On the asset management side of things I'm looking at:

    • Parago
    • School Asset Manager
    • Spiceworks
    • SysAid
    • Web Help Desk (SolarWinds).
    • Kayako "Advanced Assets Module"


    The first two, Parago and School Asset Manager, are not really "IT Focused". These would certainly be very useful to the school as a whole, but probably aren't the best place to start since our project is IT specific, especially considering the pricing structure. We have had on-site demonstrations for both and were particularly impressed with Parago, with the way it organized assets and provided a virtual representation of the school.

    Spiceworks again seems to handle asset management quite well (I only tested it in inside a virtual environment so far, so haven't inventoried things like switches or printers). I have seen other spiceworks users complain about performance/impact of scanning on the network so I'm a little concerned about how well this would work in production. The tools you get in Spiceworks for assets are a bonus too (WOL, one click-VNC, etc.)

    I did have a few issues getting SysAid to properly WMI scan and deploy its agent to assets. This seems to have been eventually resolved when I pushed out some firewall exceptions (though I had been trying with the client firewalls disabled at one point).

    I haven't played too much with Web Help Desk's asset management so far, although I can see it does include a WMI scanner alongside its integration with 3rd party network discovery tools.

    Remote support

    Products I've looked at for remote support:

    • VNC (RealVNC Enterprise, UltraVNC, TightVNC)
    • ABTutor
    • Impero
    • SysAid
    • Dameware Mini-Remote Control (SolarWinds)


    VNC is an obvious choice, although unfortunately the open-source versions are a little flaky with encryption/AD integration which would be nice to have. UltraVNC does have a screen blanking feature however, which not even RealVNC Enterprise fully supports (you would need to toggle the blanking on the server settings and then reconnect for this).

    I have used ABTutor v6 quite a bit in a past role, and generally found it to be quite a nice solution. I did encounter issues with the mirror driver on Windows 7 however, preventing Aero from working and more importantly breaking some D&T designing software. Hopefully the situation is better in v7. It's also a shame that AB doesn't seem support any form of authentication other than the connection password.. though perhaps we could configure the windows firewall to only allow connections from a management subnet/VLAN etc. It would also be nice if AB supported a command like argument to directly connect & watch a client; this way we could integrate for example Spiceworks using CustomURL to do a one click from ticket/asset to remote support (the best AB can do right now seems to be the -g flag to bring up a specific group).

    Impero is quite popular and seems to be packed with a lot of features. Unfortunately as some others on the forum have pointed out, it does come with a premium price tag.

    SysAid does come with a remote support aspect, however it appears to be licensed per channel, and isn't cheap. After getting it working, I discovered that it is merely a customized UltraVNC plus a more limited HTML5 client. Paying £100s more just so we can run more than one UltraVNC session at a time doesn't sound great.

    The Dameware remote control solution seems nice, including its own enhanced protocol as well as being able to connect to VNC/RDP.

    ---

    Bit of a long post I know, but if anyone currently has such a solution, is working on one, or has any experience with any of these products it would be useful to hear from you.

    Thanks,

    Karl

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    GeekyPete's Avatar
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    I've said it before I;ll say it again. At least look at Centrastage for remote support. You can script anything you like to run remotely. And still have all the remote access you need. It will also give you a complete audit of your PC hardware and software. You can set it to flag up any changes. You can auto deploy apps to your entire estate without logging on to each computer.... You can even set up alerts that will trigger an email and raise calls automatically when certain contitions are met.

    Edit: and one particularly good feature I like is it will log all your activity on any given system so you can print out a report showing you have done 1.2 hr at this time, 2 hours at that time. Great for billing!
    Last edited by GeekyPete; 30th January 2014 at 11:25 AM.

  3. Thanks to GeekyPete from:

    karlr (3rd February 2014)

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    Centrastage sounds a tiny bit like Spiceworks. Do you know if they offer an on-premise version or is it just cloud-based? What is the remote support tool like (I've read that they include VNC in their agent)? Does it includes things like remote screen blanking? Also any rough ideas on the pricing or licensing front - I've seen things around on the web suggesting its something like £1/month/managed device for the "business" package. What would count as a managed device, just something you can install the agent on? (I'm assuming it can pick up things like switches, printers etc. via SNMP and the like).

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    In a previous job I implemented Web Help Desk. The ticket side is pretty good, as is the asset management. Didn't use the remote support as part of it then but in my current role I do use dameware which is pretty good. The big issue with Web Help Desk is the reporting - its appalling.

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    GeekyPete's Avatar
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    @Karir You have the choice to use either VNC o RDP. The main difference between managed and unmanaged is that you can access a managed station while it's un-attended. I generally have one of these per client network. The unmanaged stations (you get 500 free) can still audit, run scripts, email alerts and you can connect to as long as there is someone there to accept the session. It tracks your licences and adds it to the invoice. It doesn't really do much for printers and switches. But you can script it to.

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    Any other recommendations for remote support? We have looked at the VNC variants (TightVNC, UltraVNC, RealVNC Enterprise) as well as classroom management software like Impero, ABTutor, NetSupport. Just given "RAdmin" a spin too, but unfortunately none of these seem to deliver quite what we want by themselves.

    Core features for us would be decent performance (something UltraVNC doesn't seem capable of), proper authentication (not just a single connect password), ability to lockout the remote input, and the ability to blank the remote screen of the client. The latter two seem to be quite difficult to get right, and many implementation fall a bit short (you can get around the lockout using ctrl-alt-del, or the screen blanking doesn't work if also using the mirror driver).

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    For our helpdesk and asset management, we use GLPI which is open source and very comprehensive. Really ties everything together well. LDAP also works well for SSO.

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    Check out remote utilities for remote desktop. It's good on price and the feature set is pretty good also. It allows you to do remote admin tasks without pulling up a desktop if you need. We use zenoss for our network/systems management, its a little difficult to setup if you haven't ever used it before, but works flawlessly once running.

  10. Thanks to iberium from:

    karlr (24th February 2014)

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    Don't get Sysaid, In general it's clunky and over priced.

    They don't seem to understand the principles of standard GUI design

    Kb system is good, ticket system is okay, user ticket submission can be good - we don't use it. asset management is a dinosaur and will drive you nuts in about a day, remote support is painful just use some flavour of Vnc.

    But my main gripe is that its just trying to sucker you in to buying modules for extras, want an extra admin logon? £300 quid, want two techs to use remote support? That's £100 quid, etc etc...

    That's better and cheaper solutions out there. We have it and I don't intend to keep it.

  12. Thanks to jbailey from:

    karlr (24th February 2014)

  13. #10

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    Asset Management : OCS-inventory NG / GLPI - tends to capture everything - oh and it's free!
    Helpdesk - WebhelpDesk - This was a great but of software - Used it before SolarWinds got their mitts on it so dunno what improvements they've made to it (if any!)
    Remote support - I tend to use the SCCM Client for this.

  14. #11
    zag
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    Spiceworks + Abtutor are "best ofs" if you want commercial stuff.

    I also have some opensource stuff on my github

    https://github.com/zag2me/php-inventory
    https://github.com/zag2me/PHP-Server-Monitor

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    @iberium Thanks for that, Remote Utilities seems like a strong option. Only little niggles I have with it right now are the screen blanking/lock remote input can be a little flaky (although this seems to be the case with the majority of remote control apps sadly..).

    @zag We have given Abtutor 7 a spin and found the remote control to be virtually unusable across Windows Xp/7 desktops - mirror driver doesn't seem to make much differences. This is a bit odd as I have used version 6 at a previous school and gotten on reasonably well with it..

    @jbailey Think you're quite right on SysAid.. just overall a bit clunky and some nasty suprises in the invoice if you want to have for example more than one remote support connection at once! (Using little more than a customized UltraVNC of all things)


    Any OPSmartDesk users out there by the way? If so how are you getting on with it?
    Last edited by karlr; 24th February 2014 at 05:56 PM.

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    zag
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    Quote Originally Posted by karlr View Post
    @zag We have given Abtutor 7 a spin and found the remote control to be virtually unusable across Windows Xp/7 desktops - mirror driver doesn't seem to make much differences. This is a bit odd as I have used version 6 at a previous school and gotten on reasonably well with it..
    Then something is wrong with your setup. Works perfectly here. The mirror driver has nothing to do with remote control, its just a visual driver.



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