NetSupport Manager 9 review

18 Apr 2005

One of the best remote-access products on the market, delivering good performance. This latest version offers even more features, making it a top choice for remote support duties.

Price when reviewed: 
34100 usersmore
5

Along with LapLink, NetSupport Manager (NSM) is one of those remote-control products that seems to have been with us forever. Nevertheless, since its introduction more than ten years ago it's stood out from the crowd, as it has always targeted support departments rather than being just a handy tool for homeworkers to access their workplace PC.

NSM 9 offers a top range of features and a few enhancements. Remote control, file transfer and chat facilities are at the top of the list, but detailed hardware and software inventory are also on the menu. The main Control interface sees some improvements, offering even easier access to all the functions. The new Monitor mode displays thumbnail views in the Control window of all connected clients so you can easily see what they're up to. Client aids have been improved as well, with a new Whiteboard tool that allows support staff to use drawing tools within a chat session to multiple users. A system running the Control component can also use the additional Command Prompt window in NSM 9 to run command-line instructions on a client.

Along with a client for Pocket PCs, another new feature is long overdue: support for Linux clients. Previously, NSM could connect only to those systems that had the open-source VNC client loaded. To test NSM 9, we used a system installed with Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES. To install the NSM client, just copy the Tar Ball file across, extract it and run the installation shell script that loads a new nsmclient daemon. The system now appears in the NSM Control client list with an icon indicating it's running Linux. We found the client worked well enough with good overall performance, although features are limited. You can only remotely control a Linux system, chat, reboot or power it off and include it in a client scan. Also, a Linux client's screen won't display in the thumbnail view.

Installation of both the Windows Control and Client components doesn't take long. For the latter, you can create administrative installation points, use the configuration utility for customised silent installations or take advantage of the Deploy utility. The main interface is even easier to use and allows you to view all clients or only those that are connected. You can also browse the network for specific systems and place them in different groups. Just double-click on a client to fire up a remote-control session or you can use the drop-down menu to passively view user activity, start a file transfer session, have a chat or send a message. Remote web access is also available with the bundled ActiveX controls, so you can remotely control a client over the Internet directly from a browser. File-transfer performance is another of this product's strengths. Copying a 690MB video file to a Windows Server 2003 client over gigabit Ethernet took a mere 49 seconds - Netopia's Timbuktu 7 completed this in a pedestrian four minutes, 55 seconds.

There may be plenty of remote-control products on the market, but few come close to NSM 9. File-transfer performance is unbeatable and this latest version brings some new and welcome features to the table, making it an ideal partner for busy support departments.