This chapter covers
What is Remote Assistance?
Requirements for Remote Assistance
Sending a Remote Assistance call
Accepting a Remote Assistance call
Security issues surrounding Remote Assistance
Common errors that may occur when using Remote Assistance
As a network administrator, technical support can often take up a lot of your time. Until now, supporting users usually meant purchasing multiple copies of Symantec's very expensive PC-Anywhere software. Microsoft has changed all this with its new Remote Assistance feature. Remote Assistance allows support technicians to provide visual, remote technical support. By adding features that you have always wanted and expected in an operating system, Microsoft has tried to create the total operating system "experience" as they like to call it. More importantly, since Windows XP introduces several free software applications that formerly required you to purchase expensive third-party utilities, it can pay for itself when upgrading your network from older operating systems.
The addition of Windows XP Remote Assistance revolutionizes the technical support field. With a few simple commands, the technician has full access to the user's computer and sees a poorly configured Internet Explorer. However, remote access does have the potential for frightful security breaches. Though designed as an administration tool, the Remote Assistance program acts like Trojan horses used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to a computer. All it takes is one misconfigured 'Invitation' to fall into the wrong hands and the hacker owns the originating computer.
Not to be confused with Remote Desktop, which only allows one active session at a time per computer (or license), Remote Assistance will allow both the owner and the remote user to control the computer at the same time. Options such as chatting via keyboard or microphone show that Remote Assistance was designed more for technical support than for remote administration. The ability for the local user and remote user to communicate while viewing the same desktop makes technical support easy, and even pleasurable if you are like the majority of network administrators who enjoy taking the time to help their users.
During the remainder of this chapter, the requesting party will be the 'Novice' and the assisting party will be the 'Helper'. We adopt the terms used by Microsoft in the Remote Assistance program.