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Requesting Remote Assistance - an introduction

Getting help when you need it - ideal for learning too!

Everyone learns best when they have an urgent need to achieve something and an expert can help them 'there and then' to make it happen. Remote assistance is a safe and secure PC technology to get PC help from an expert whether it is for learning or simply to fix a problem.

What do you need to know?

You need to know an expert and because you are reading this article of mine then I am assuming that you are a customer of mine (or a prospect!) and want me to help.

There are two ways of requesting remote assistance - one uses the 'Messenger' products to set up the session and the other uses an e-mail request that is created using the Microsoft Help and Support Centre. Both have their good and bad points and that is explained below these two choices:

  • If you use 'Messenger' products and are NOT connected to the Internet through a router or wireless network then click on Assistance by Messenger & online to initiate a remote assistance session that way.
  • If any of the following apply to you:
    • connected to the Internet via a router or a wireless network
    • have tried to use Remote Assistance before and it failed

    then please click on Assistance by e-mail & online which will give you a method of requesting remote assistance that MIGHT work for you!

If you want to know more before you attempt either of the above - carry on reading

Remote assistance technology is built-in to Windows XP™ to allow users who are less experienced in using PCs to be assisted by people who are more experienced whether that is on a casual, no-fee basis or professional, chargeable support.

There are many obvious security exposures and many that are more esoteric or deeply technical but with appropriate safeguards and usage there is no significant exposure AND they can simply be 'turned off' - see below.

When using Remote Assistance for learning the most effective way of working is to operate in 'View only' mode with a telephone discussion to guide you through what needs to be done at a pace that suits you and your familiarity with the tasks, tools and technologies. It allows you to stop when the tasks are faster than you can assimilate them or you simply have a question. Similarly - if there are parts of the task that ARE familiar then those can be performed at a natural and faster pace.

When you need help to fix a problem or other task that you DON'T want to be a part of executing then there is an option for us to TAKE OVER your PC keyboard and mouse temporarily BUT only WITH your CONSENT. There are also safeguards which allow you to terminate the session with a single keystroke so as said before - all of the obvious security exposures have been thought through and the tools have the features to remain safe and secure.

Appendices - stop reading here unless you see something of real interest!

Security of remote access - increased security when not needed

It is sufficiently simple to switch remote technology options off when not needed that it is good practice to do so. Simply go into Control Panel, System and there is a tab marked 'Remote' which has two options - the BOTTOM ONE (Remote Desktop = RDP) must only ever be enabled when you have set strong passwords on all User accounts (including any hidden Administrator accounts!) OR there are no passwords on those accounts at all - that is because RDP will not allow any connection to a user that hasn't got a password.

The Advanced option of Remote Assistance allows you to specify that remote users never have the option to 'Take Control' and that MAY be an option that you want to select for more peace of mind.

The 'Select Remote Users' option of Remote Desktop is not something that I would rely upon to restrict access because Administrator-level accounts - which are obviously THE MOST RISKY - always have access unless you do some deeply technical 'stuff' to stop them. So the basic 'good practice' is that UNLESS your PC is MAINTAINED BY A TRUE I.T. EXPERT and you adopt 'safe computing' guidelines while using it then you turn off Remote Desktop.

Note that there ARE ways that you can restrict access to the PC from the Internet and only allow RDP sessions to operate over a secure VPN but that is far, far beyond the scope of this 'DIY' page!

I hope the information above has been useful, let me know if not! Any Comments, suggestions or corrections to: Contact us please. This would be especially useful if the software environment you have is different to mine and the headings, text or prompts are different.

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