PC Remote Assistance Made Easy: The New Citrix GoToAssist Express Launches - Review
If you thought remote computer support has to be something slow, frustrating and doable only with tech-savvy users, think again. I am very happy to be the first site to announce that Citrix, the company behind the highly successful GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar and GoToMyPC (first reviewed in 2001!) online collaboration products is right now launching a new supercool PC remote assistance service that has left me more than impressed. The new service called GoToAssist Express will be completely free for everyone to try and test during all of its beta test period.
GoToAssist Express provides one-click screen-sharing, text chat, file-sharing as well as diagnostic tools and remote system control tools.
If you want to provide professional PC remote assistance to your customers, manage a remote unattended computer, do technical support and troubleshooting to distant client, GoToAssist, which I have tried for the first time a few hours ago, is an outstanding solution that will have next to no competitors in its price range (and well beyond).
If I had to say what I really think I'd say that GoToAssist, is slick, fast, easy and very reliable.
Honestly, I love it.
Overview of Remote PC Assistance With GoToAssist
Citrix, which already offers a remote tech assistance service called GoToAssist Corporate, introduces now a new service called GoToAssistExpress specifically targeted to individuals and small business users.
Here are the key differences between the two services:
- purpose-built for individuals and small businesses
- feature set geared for the single-user (vs a team in a call center)
- streamlined for the individual user
- integrated unattended support
- mac support
- ability to try and buy online (once we launch 1.0)
- purpose-built for medium and large businesses
- comprehensive feature set geared for the team-based call center
Examples of features that GoToAssist has that GoToAssist Express doesn't have:
- customer surveys
- management center (to manage employees and productivity)
- team collaboration (for escalation and training)
- sold offline and assigned a dedicated account manager
Notwithstanding GoToAssist Express is the newest kid on the block when it comes to providing online PC (and Mac) remote assistance and technical support to remote computer users, it may be one of the most competitive and effective ones to use you may have seen until now.
Installation and use are a snap and the supporting toolset provides most everything you may need to run an effective remote technical support session.
GoToAssist Express is capable of providing highly detailed diagnostic reporting on the remote computer and allows you to save and access different reports very easily.
Up to eight remote assistance sessions can be open at any one time and with GoToAssist Express switching from one to the next is as easy as clicking on the thumbnail of the client you want to help out next.
GoToAssist Express beta phase will last probably a few months and just like for the launch of other Citrix products everyone will be able to freely sign up (without having to provide any credit card data) and use GoToAssist Express to its limits will all its features enabled at cost zero.
Citrix expects also to release a new upgrade to GoToAssist Express approximately every month and you as a user will not have to worry about anything as updates will be completely transparent to the user. As new features and fixes will become available they will be automatically added to your GoToAssist installation.
Worth a special note is the introduction of a customer support forum open to all registered users. This is a first in Citrix history and one that I particularly welcome nonetheless ironically this tool will have very little need for it.
Interface and Usability
The GoToAssist Express product and development team has really done a nice job on this front. The interface is in full Web 2.0 style, with a black background muting down any possible visual distraction and a simple and uncrowded visual toolbar providing instant access to each and every command feature.
To the untrained eye this may even look just as a simple and clean implementation, but to me it shows a great deal of design and analysis work done ahead of time to make things that are normally complex easy and fast to use. In this effort the GoToAssist Express really shows all of its talent, by offering in line with other recent breakthrough screen sharing solutions a tool that is immediately ready to use and which requires zero learning time to be put to good use.
Remote PC and Mac Control and Screen Viewing
Invite any remote customer to a GoToAssist Express session and the moment he has accepted your invitation you have immediate access to your customer computer screen while being able to control and utilize also her mouse and keyboard. That is you are in full control of the remote machine as soon as the session starts. Nothing more to ask, nothing extra to click.
But sometimes peeking and using your remote customer PC is not enough. You need to show them something on your PC and demonstrate to them how to do it themselves next time they need it. So, while GoToAssist Express defaults to viewing your remote client computer screen you can share your screen to her any time you want.
Just like for its remote viewing facility, screen-sharing is good, fast and reliable as only Citrix has shown to be capable of. Quality of screen replication, refresh times and overall performance of the screen-sharing is just the best you can find around the market today. Having tested every single one of these tools I can tell you that the screen-sharing engine Citrix has refined over the years has so far no competitor.
Additional controls allow the host of the session to easily stop, resize or zoom the screen-sharing view.
GoToAssist Express integrates a very easy-to-use file-sharing facility. I have not encountered any difficulty in using and it seems to have no limitations in the size and number of files that you can send to your connected customer. Just click select the file to send and sit back.
A simple text chat facility is also integrated inside GoToAssist Express. Once called up by clicking on the main toolbar (host side) or on the hyper-simple floating control panel available to the connected user, a small chat window appears on the screen and can be moved to any position. The chat tool is bare bones and for now it doesn't even support auto-URL (allowing typed URLs to be clicked) but it is likely that the GoToAssist Express team will refine this in upcoming releases.
The diagnostic reporting tools will make tech support specialists very happy as it provides a very easy means to collect all kind of useful information about the remote PC you are accessing. Machine configuration, devices, drives connected to it, running applications, memory usage, browser version, installed applications are just some among the multiple diagnostic reports that are immediately available to you at the click of a button.
All diagnostic reports can be easily saved and exported to other applications.
GoToAssist Express integrates also a few additional controls which are critical components of any skilled PC remote tech specialist. One is the ability to issue a Ctrl-Alt-Del command to the remote machine, giving you access to login or technical reporting data otherwise inaccessible at a distance. Another one is the ability to do a "warm reboot" or more simply to "restart" the remote machine in case you have just installed some new software or plugin and need a full restart for your changes to go into effect.
GoToAssist Express takes also care of your privacy by encrypting all sessions using 128-bit AES secure protocols.
One last feature worth mentioning is the ability to set-up, with the consent of the user, an unattended remote control setup, allowing you to access your customer computer at any time without requesting each time your customer to login into a new remote session. But it gets better. The customer can set even the specific time ranges in which you can access his computer as to facilitate for example tech support access during off working hours.
Up to eight concurrent remote assistance sessions can be run at anyone time with each one session appearing as a new thumbnail on the top left part of the GoToAssist Express toolbar. Switching from one session to the another is as simple as clicking on the desired thumbnail and you are immediately immersed and in control of the remote computer you have just clicked on.
Terminating a remote support session is just as easy. Right-click o any of the thumbnails representing active remote sessions and select "end session".
GoToAssist Express provides you with two ways to easily invite your customer to join your remote tech assistance session. Click and copy in memory a unique URL and paste it into your preferred instant messenger or click invite and send an email invitation containing already a unique URL to join in to your selected client.
Also, once GoToAssist Express is installed and a customer requires remote support, right-click the GoToAssist Express icon in your system tray to begin a support session automatically. A numeric support key will appear in the center of your screen.
Another unique cool feature is that you can communicate a session number to your customer via telephone or voice and have them login at http://www.fastsupport.com/
Though I haven't yet been able to verify this I have been reported by the Citrix product development team that GoToAssist Express can also be used to assist users on Mac. Mac users cannot act as tech remote assistance specialists and I don't know whether this is a feature that will come down the road or not. (Let's hope someone from Citrix will provide more info on this here below in the comments area).
To Be Improved
This is a tough one. I am usually never short handed on this front but today GoToAssist Express really impressed me with its effectiveness and solid usefulness.
As I told the Citrix product development and marketing team I would very hard-pressed in finding something to be improved in this tool, and only more use of it will help me find where its present limitations and idiosyncrasies are.
Missing from this release are annotation and mark-up tools, but they are officially coming up in a future release. This is not a major handicap as tech specialists rarely utilize visual communication tools to help out themselves and their customers, but who knows... maybe this offers them an opportunity to start getting better on this front too.
Summary - Editor's Comments
GoToAssist Express is a remote computer assistance service that does not requires your remote client to explicitly install or configure any software.
Again Citrix has designed a product for which I have little or no criticism and which I openly endorse without hesitation. Why?
GoToAssist Express is ready to be used from the first second you open it. It is designed like very few other tools in this space, and with the user in mind. Commands and controls are less than the fingers of your hands and they are all in immediate view the moment you land inside GoToAssist Express.
The tools are performing and reliable thanks to an engine that has been used to develop and refine three already very successful tools such as GoToMyPC, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. I mean, this is not a new tool with a new engine. This is a new Ferrari with the latest engine, if you know what I mean.
Functionalities are simple, immediate and relevant. Nothing redundant, nothing major missing.
Novices and tech savvy people can both use this tool in a matter of seconds and provide a user experience to their customers that is certainly above the average.
Notable also the immediate availability of a full tech support forum available to all registered users.
Try it yourself and let me know what you think of it.
GoToAssist Express is ready to be used now. Go to http://express.gotoassist.com/ and sign-up for it at zero cost right now. GoToAssist Express will remain free to use for everyone throughout all of its beta phase. (The official first version of GoToAssist Express will launch within the half quarter of 2008)
GoToAssist Express Quick Start Guide:
GoToAssist Express blog:
GoToAssist Express User Forum (Note: requires login):
GoToAssist Express Documentation:
Disclosure: Although Citrix GoToMeeting has been a past major advertiser and sponsor of multiple Robin Good's sites between 2005 and 2006 Master New Media has no present commercial or advertising relationship with Citrix.
blog comments powered by Disqus