Remote-control offerings aren't exactly thin on the ground – XP Pro has one as standard, and there's always free VNC (virtual network computing). But these are one-to-one tools, not perfectly suited to the larger task of administering and supporting networks. For this, you need a product along the lines of NSM (NetSupport Manager).

NSM 9.1 offers a list of support features. As well as remote control, you get file transfer, chat and a hardware/software inventory. The Monitor mode allows you to shrink desktops down to thumbnail views so you can keep an eye on a number of workstations at once. Or you can 'channel surf', displaying each desktop in turn. It's also possible to share control of a remote desktop, so you can walk a user through a problematic task, and there's a record/playback feature that can be useful as a teaching tool.

Remote web access is available via the bundled ActiveX controls, so you can remotely control a client over the internet direct from a browser. NSM 9.1 works best with Windows clients but more limited support for Pocket PC, Linux and Mac is available.

Reassuringly, NSM 9.1 worked right out of the box. Installation is a snap – you install the whole package on the 'monitoring' PC and just the client on the ones to be monitored. This can be done remotely via a 'deploy' feature.

The well-thought-out Explorer-like interface makes using NSM 9.1 a very intuitive experience, and for most tasks we found no need to refer to the extensive manual. This is a major plus, considering the program's wide-ranging and complex functionality.

NetSupport Manager 9.1: Specs

  • IBM-compatible 486 or higher
  • DOS/Windows 95/98/NT/Me/2000/XP/2003/Linux/Mac OS X
  • 4MB RAM
  • 10MB hard disk space
  • IPX/SPX/NetBios/TCP/IP (under Windows Sockets)
  • IBM-compatible 486 or higher
  • DOS/Windows 95/98/NT/Me/2000/XP/2003/Linux/Mac OS X
  • 4MB RAM
  • 10MB hard disk space
  • IPX/SPX/NetBios/TCP/IP (under Windows Sockets)

OUR VERDICT

Reasonably priced, very easy to use and with a wide range of features, NetSupport Manager is the answer to every network-admin's prayer. Highly recommended.

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