Problem solve Get help with specific problems with your technologies, process and projects.

Network troubleshooting: Choosing a remote access mechanism

Troubleshooting your customers' network via a remote access mechanism saves you time and money, and improves your customer service. Learn how to choose a remote access mechanism that suits you both.

You've no doubt heard the old cliché that time is money. Nowhere is this more true than in the consulting business. If you're busy helping customers with trivial issues, then you're wasting time that could be better spent looking for new business or working on higher-paying projects. While it's tough to completely get away from performing the occasional support task, there are steps you can take to minimize the amount of time they require.

One of the most effective things you can do to reduce the number of hours you spend on technical support issues is to perform remote troubleshooting. Remote troubleshooting has the obvious advantage of eliminating travel time, but it's also a time saver in other ways. We've all had clients that like to spend a lot of time chitchatting. Performing troubleshooting or maintenance tasks remotely keeps you from having to set foot in the client's office, thus making you more productive.

There are many ways to configure a client's network to enable remote access. For example, you can configure a virtual private network or a direct dial link. Once connected, you can perform the remote session by using the Windows Terminal Services or a third-party product such as PC Anywhere. I could write a book on the subject of remote access, but the actual methods you use for connectivity are irrelevant. More important are the underlying issues you need to consider when choosing a remote access method.

By far the most important aspect of choosing a remote access method is your customer's comfort with that method. Remember, by implementing remote access you are opening a doorway to your customer's network through which you can do anything you want. Your customer needs to feel comfortable enough with your remote access method of choice that they can rest assured it isn't going to be exploited by hackers and that you're not going to use it for purposes other than those intended.

In other words, the remote access mechanism that you choose needs to be secure. You may even want to consider putting some kind of logging mechanism in place so that your customers can see exactly when you (or someone else) use the connection.

Your customer must also be comfortable with the cost of the remote access mechanism. I'm not just talking about the initial costs of purchasing remote access hardware. More often, the ongoing costs outweigh the initial costs. For example, if you use a VPN for remote connectivity, your customer may have to purchase additional bandwidth, depending on how often you're performing remote access sessions. If you decide to take the dial-in approach, then your customer will find themselves paying for an additional phone line each month.

Regardless of the initial and ongoing costs, you may make your customer more comfortable by showing them how much remote support will save them. For example, if you typically bill your customers for travel time and travel expenses, then you can show them that the costs associated with remote access are less than what it would cost them to have service a problem in person.

Another factor you should consider when deciding on a remote troubleshooting mechanism is reliability. Unless you have a crystal ball, it's impossible for you to predict the exact nature of the problems you'll be remotely troubleshooting. Even so, you need to think about what types of problems could prevent your remote access mechanism from working and how you could circumvent those particular issues.

Think about it from your customer's perspective. Your customer has invested good money to make sure that when a problem occurs, you can promptly log into their network remotely and fix the problem. Because time is usually of the essence when fixing network problems, and because your client has already invested money in a remote access solution, your customer will be understandably upset if the remote access mechanism does not work during times of crisis.

Establishing a remote connectivity mechanism between you and your customers is a great way to improve efficiency and ensure that your customers are serviced as promptly as possible. However, deciding on a remote access mechanism is not a task to be taken lightly. The customer needs to be comfortable with the mechanism of choice in terms of security and cost, and you need to be comfortable with the mechanism from a reliability standpoint.

About the author:
Brien Posey is an award winning author who has written over 3,000 articles and written or contributed to 27 books. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at


Dig Deeper on Managed network services technology