SimpleHelp Community

Offering Remote Work through SimpleHelp


#1

The coronavirus pandemic has been a once in a lifetime global event that has created repercussions all around the world.

Aside from the obviously severe health issues it has created it is also having a huge and ongoing economic impact and severely disrupting jobs in affected countries.

Although not everyone can work from home many more people are, and at SimpleHelp we’ve seen a lot of requests from customers recently for changes or additions to our software and our licensing model to accomodate this.

We have been listening, and although we are not a large company we still want to do whatever we can to help our customers and the people they support during this difficult time.

Starting today we are prioritising the development of remote work features within SimpleHelp. The details of this are as follows:

  • We plan to create a simple low cost method to allow our customers to provide remote work as an option to companies they support, allowing end users to gain access to their work machine

  • We will be prioritising development of this feature and intend to release it as an update to 5.2. Our goal is to have the first version out within 1-2 weeks.

  • The design of this is not final and may change but you can read about the details of how we intend this to work below

  • Anyone with an up to date license of any size or tier, new or old, will be able to offer remote work sessions via their server, with no limit, at no cost for at least the next three months to help people work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. We may extend this free period beyond three months.

  • In the future, for anyone wishing to continue offering this as a service to their users from their SimpleHelp server, we anticipate offering remote work as a per-machine cost of under $10 per month. This is entirely independent from any technician licenses, it does not consume any technician licenses and does not affect your normal session limit, meaning this cost maps directly and easily to the way you would bill end users for remote work access.

Remote Work Overview

Please Note: The description below is how we intend remote work to operate within SimpleHelp, but we will be listening to customer feedback on this and adjusting our plans as development progresses. As such please expect changes to the below description in the final released product.

The first step to enabling remote working is to have the Remote Access Service installed on the target systems, and shared with your SimpleHelp server. This can be achieve via the normal methods of having the user install the software or using Mass Deploy. Existing remote access deployments will automatically have the option to allow remote working.

Next, in the same way that you would flip the switch to enable monitoring on the target machines, another switch will be available to enable remote work. This can be enabled on single machines or on larger groups of machines.

Once enabled, a shortcut will appear in the start menu of the target systems for setting up remote work. The user can be instructed to run this.

The remote work setup app, launched by the end user, will allow them to enter their email address to receive a link to work from home on their dedicated machine.

When at home, they can click the link to download an app which will launch a simplified version of the technician session app directly to their machine, through your SimpleHelp server.

We are still considering the details of authenticating users but at the moment we plan on implementing the following:

  • OS-level authentication when a remote worker logs on to their machine via SimpleHelp, in conjunction with a two-factor authentication code emailed to them (the benefit of this system being there is no user management at all)

  • Technician group style authentication via LDAP/AD (to allow for support of existing authentication systems in companies)

In Summary

We hope all our customers businesses are managing during this time, and we hope that these changes will allow many of you to more effectively support the businesses that depend on you.

We will be pushing to have these developments available to everyone as soon as possible, if you have any suggestions or comments please leave a comment below.

Update 7th April 2020

We’ve been hard at work building the remote working feature set and have made a lot of progress so far. Here’s a quick rundown on how it will all work:

To start with, a machine can be marked to allow remote working. This is done just like the enabling monitoring. A single switch for one or more machines:

Once enabled, when the user next logs on to the machine the remote work setup window will automatically pop up and prompt them to set up remote working:

The remote work setup app can also be launched on one or more machines immediately by a technician, or an elevated user on the remote machine can run the setup app whenever they like (assuming remote working is enabled):

To get set up, a user simply enters their email address. They then get a link with a download to the Remote Work app, and can copy the link directly from the app.

By default, users will be able to log in with their operating system login, but from the Admin tab you can disable this for groups of machines and specify that certain Technician groups are to be used to authenticate remote work users. This allows you to use the LDAP/AD authentication for groups of customers to authenticate them for their own machines.

The user can then simply click on the link in their email from their home machine or laptop, install the app and log in, and they are automatically patched through directly to the destination machine:

Remote work enabled machines are highlighted in the access tab so you can easily filter for them, as are remote work sessions. We also have a new view which shows you the email associated with a particular machine so you can easily keep track of remote work users.

We have some work left to do on authentication and some other tidying up but the core of the system is now working and we hope to have a build out by the end of the week.

Remote Work is now available in 5.2.8

If you would like to use the new remote work features take a look at our guide and the 5.2.8 download here:

https://simple-help.com/remote-work-guide


Remote Employee Login
#2

Antony,

This sounds great! I have a question.

When the end user sets up the remote work app will it be managed only by the server it is registered to or will there be some type of hybrid cloud functionally that SimpleHelp will be managing to accomplish this offering? Thanks!


#3

Hi Mike :slight_smile:

The entire setup and management of the remote work app and the user will be within the SimpleHelp server it was set up from. The session will still go through your SimpleHelp server and you will be able to manage it, terminate the session, revoke the remote work access if you want to.

Essentially your SimpleHelp server will be keeping track of who has set up what and what is allowed, and making the necessary restrictions and serving the appropriate preconfigured session apps.

Currently our thinking is that the Access tab will have a second section (similar to the Alerts / Server Events sections) where you will be able to see all machines marked for remote working, filter by online/offline and active remote work sessions etc and see what email addresses are set up for remote work on a particular machine.

This won’t prevent you from seeing and accessing the machines as a normal technician with full access but it simplifies management of the remote work machines and allows you to keep track of them more easily.

thanks

Antony


#4

Thanks Antony! That’s great to hear. I have already mentioned this new feature to several clients and they are asking if there will be a mobile app available that can be used on a iOS or Android device. Thanks for your teams hard work!


#5

Firstly my thanks to George, Antony and the SimpleHelp Team for this initiative. This feature will be greatly appreciated in the coming months.
From security perspective, will we be able to track in History Tab the usage from end users like we can for technicians?
Now more than ever, I would love to see the originating IP address making the connection request, and the destination IP and possibly the initial login to the device if possible. This will give us a little tracking ability to verify usage and end user remote access activities that I am sure our Client owners will want to see in a report.
Would we be able to limit the IP address (address, IP List or Address range) originating request for this type of connection?
Would we be able to schedule expiry of the link given out to ensure it is not left available for long periods of time exposing workstation from possible compromised attacks of old link
Not urgent for first release given time frame but will MFA be able to be implemented on this type of remote worker connection?
Once again, many thanks. Take care
Warmest Regards
Rod


#6

Thanks for the positive comments everyone :slight_smile:

Not completely sure about how mobile access could work. In theory it could work via the existing mobile support - https://simple-help.com/mobile-vnc-guide - but that might be a bit complicated for home ipad etc users and would require more development so I doubt it would be there in the first version or two.

Sessions will be basically working in quite a similar way to the normal sessions aside from authentication so I think should appear in the history as normal.

Not entirely sure about authentication yet but I think in both cases we have mentioned above MFA would be a part of authentication. If using OS authentication MFA would be done by email and if using LDAP/AD then MFA could be a part of the LDAP/AD setup.

The link is unique to a particular user remote work request, is not guessable and doesn’t give access to the remote machine as authentication is still performed either by tech group authentication or OS level authentication. You will be able to view machines with remote work enabled and turn that off at any time to block all links and access to the machine.

Not sure about IP limiting, probably won’t be a part of the initial releases. Generally I would expect that wouldn’t be a very useful feature in this case as a lot of users working from home might be on a dynamic IP allocated by their ISP?

To be clear also, this does not become automatically available to any machine with Remote Access installed on it, it is something that has to be switched on via the Tech app, the same as monitoring, so it will only be offered on machines you specifically want to offer it.

cheers

Antony


#7

Will it be possible to allow the remote workers access via a web browser? Makes it so much easier then loading programs, which maybe restricted etc.


#8

Hey Jerry,

Easiest thing to do here is to create a VM with the SH “lite” technician client on it and then purchase a program called “Winflector” (WF) - purchase based on user count. Target the lite client as an application and the WF client will publish it as a virtual application. Open and forward the ports you set for WF to your server. Then you can create links on your support page for this landing page directly.

The web page will prompt for a user ID and password to log in. There are ways to configure SSO for it using shibboleth, but I haven’t gotten that far down the road yet (assuming you’re utilizing a cloud IdP). I figured once SSO’d there could be a way to SSO into the SH “lite” technician console and based on username, the client could see their desktop.

I’ve been running the Technician console like this for a couple of years and it works well.

Jarred


#9

First - I want to say that it is great that you guys are looking into helping somehow. I think I can say that we all appreciate that.

Second - just a comment on your suggested pricing after the free period. $10/mnth is way more expensive then some other options out there that already provide the same thing, but also with remote printing and mobile apps and multiple users (thinking of Splashtop as an example). Also with the price already being over similar products out there that doesn’t allow for much if any profit for the businesses looking to offer this as a service. Some may disagree, but we already offer much more usability and only charge $60/year and make a healthy profit using Splashtop. I just thought I’d offer some feedback on suggested price.


#10

Hi everyone,

Development has been progressing well, we should have an update on where we are and what we have next week.

Browser based access is something we could look into in the future but initially this would work via an app similar to the tech app.

Andy - thanks for the feedback on price. $10 per month is really an upper bound to avoid anyone setting up remote work and later being surprised by the cost. We haven’t decided yet on what the actual price will be. As far as I can see though Splashtop is around $4.50-$5 per month per machine/user so this wouldn’t seem to leave much room for profit at $60 per year?


#11

I would agree on the pricing. We would have a lot of customers that this would appeal too that already use other products at a much cheaper cost per month. We need room to add our margin onto top too. £3-4 per user per month would sound alright


#12

@Antony It’s more like $.50 a month cost to us per computer (we use “Splashtop Remote Support Plus” product), but that doesn’t matter. It’s unfair to compare you guys to them, the primary purpose for you guys is to sell to IT companies. I just wanted to give you an idea of what others are charging for remote access to end-user’s computers for the end users.


#13

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to point out that we have an update to the main post now showing more info on how everything will work. We plan to get a build out by the end of the week.

Thanks everyone for the feedback on pricing, if anyone has any more feedback to give on the features or on what pricing would work for them then do let us know :slight_smile:


#14

Question: For those users who just want to use RDP to their desktop will there be an RDP to desktop option? I ask this because some users are redirecting audio and printer functions. Using the SH client will have some limitations out of the box I think.

Kind Regards,
Ted


#15

Will we have the ability to record the remote work session for review at a later date?


#16

Any update on progress? Thanks!


#17

Hi Everyone,

We are just in the testing stage now and fixing some obvious bugs. We should have a build up in the next day or two.

@Chris_Thim not sure about this, remote workers won’t have recording controls but will have an associated technician group so in theory you could mandate permissions for the group that specify the session must be recorded and uploaded but it’s not something we have tested at this point and may fail due to UI conflicts.

@Ted_G_Freitas Not in the initial iteration though we might support RDP as a primary method of connecting at a later point. If they were essentially doing secure tunneling through SimpleHelp then they would miss out on file transfer though so it’s probably something we would want to think about a bit more to see if we can do anything about that.

thanks

Antony


#18

Thanks everyone for your patience. The new version 5.2.8 with remote work is now available on the website:

https://simple-help.com/remote-work-guide

We are leaving the main stable build as 5.2.7 while this build and the remote work features are tested more thoroughly, then at a later date we’ll put out a new build including remote work as the main public build.

Let us know if you use it and if you have any feedback!

thanks

Antony


#19

Really good of you guys to offering this for free for 3 months. Good call!

One feature request and it’s probably a big one - remote printing onto a local printer, like printer redirection on RDP.


#20

Nice work guys! Thank you for all your hard work!