NetSupport Manager 12.10 review
A combination of sophisticated and easy to use support tools packaged into a well-designed console
NetSupport Manager - NSM for short - must be doing something right: remarkably, it's now into its third decade. And since we first came across it way back in 1995, we've watched it mature into one of the finest remote support tools on the market.
NSM offers a wealth of features, including top-notch remote control, file transfer, text or two-way audio chat and recording facilities, as well as detailed hardware and software inventory capabilities. The NSM Control console provides easy access to all systems, with a nifty active thumbnail view that makes it easy to keep an eye on multiple systems at once and see what users are doing in real time.
This latest version brings some minor enhancements over the last major release. These include support for macOS Sierra and an option to automatically apply bandwidth restrictions over wireless connections. Forthcoming updates promise to add Windows PowerShell integration, video enhancements for Windows 8 clients and performance improvements for file transfer over gigabit Ethernet.
Installation and deployment are a piece of cake. The standalone Deploy tool handles network discovery for Active Directory domains, workgroups and IP address ranges, and can push the NSM client to each system, using profiles to determine how it will function on each managed system.
Once you're set up, the Control console makes light work of locating and connecting to a system. It can display all that are available, filter by machine name if you're after one in particular, or list only those that are requesting help. It also offers a dynamic grouping feature that automatically sorts systems into groups running Windows, OS X, Linux and Chrome OS. You can also create your own custom groups - perhaps to organise clients by business unit or by location - and simply drag and drop selected systems into them.
When it's time to connect, remote control sessions are initiated by double-clicking the client's icon in the main Control pane. You can choose to control, share or passively view their screen. Each icon also has a quick access toolbar underneath which provides one-click access to file transfer, registry edit, chat or inventory tools.
Other tools are just as easy to access, via a menu ribbon along the top of the remote control viewer. Along with selecting viewing screen modes, you can launch a local app, take a screen capture, have text and audio chats, share clipboards and reboot the client.
Interestingly, you can also show your Control screen to single or multiple clients - useful, perhaps, for training. You can even make recordings of Control system activity, save them locally and replay them to clients.
Security shouldn't be a worry, as NSM can integrate with Active Directory policies, password protect client machines, enforce encryption and even use smart cards. User profiles determine what support staff can do on remote systems and for distributed networks, the Gateway component creates secure, AES-256 encrypted connections over the internet. The PIN Connect server also offers a quick and easy security model, requiring the technician and user to enter the same unique PIN to create a connection.
NSM also supports the SMB and enterprise versions of Intel's vPro, and its hardware and software inventory goes into impressive detail, including lists of hot fixes, apps, processes and services - which can be remotely stopped, started or paused.
In short, NetSupport Manager delivers everything your support department is likely to want and more, with tight connection security and a slick central console. Best of all is the flexible pricing structure, with 1-500 endpoints costing a very reasonable 25 each for a perpetual licence.
This review originally appeared in PC Pro issue 269
NetSupport Manager delivers everything your support department is likely to want and more, with tight connection security and a slick central console. Best of all is the flexible pricing structure, with 1-500 endpoints costing a very reasonable £25 each for a perpetual licence.