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Cover Story

Shed the Tedious Commute,

Be There Now With GoToMyPC 

 

By Don Hamilton (wiz@wwwiz.com)

 

Do you hate trying to figure out what your client or friend has done while you are trying to help him through a computer problem? What button did he click? Where did she click on her screen? What did he do to totally screw up his system? I've had these conversations too many times and I'm not paid for tech support. On the other side, there have been times when I'm the one with the blank look after a tech-support person asks me to check what IP address my computer is set to. I usually snap out of it pretty quickly, but a less experienced person might sit there with no clue what the technician is talking about and feel totally stupid.

            GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc.com) has the solution to this problem and several others. It allows you to run a computer remotely through a Web browser. It gives you access to the entire screen of the remote computer and allows you to click, enter data or do whatever you could do if you were there.

            We talked to Klaus Schauser, founder and chief technology officer of Santa Barbara-based Expertcity.com and GoToMyPC.com. GoToMyPC.com is the latest expansion of the company's capabilities, replacing Buddyhelp.com. Schauser started putting together the company in 1998 and hit the ground running in January, 1999, with VC funding from Bertelsmann Ventures. Schauser said Bertelsmann also provided Andreas von Blottnitz, who became president and chief executive officer.

``This was great for the company," Schauser said in his thick German accent, ``because of Von Blottnitz's experience." He had launched AOL Germany and in two years made it into a $150-million company.

``It is just an odd coincidence that we are both German," Schauser said. Bertelsmann Ventures was the first of many VC companies to come forward with money. Other investors include Sun Microsystems, ZDNet and Wit SoundView Ventures.

 

Expertcity Explained

           

Expertcity.com (www.expertcity.com) allows you to bid on expert help from an international team of experts. You can join their affiliate program and be an expert yourself or as a visitor you can ask questions and experts will bid to help you solve your problem. The system allows you to input the problem you are experiencing and several certified experts around the world bid to solve your problem. If they fix it you pay with credit card the amount of the bid. If not you don't have to pay. When you go to the site, you can see how many experts are waiting to bid at any given time. The experts can be from any part of the world. An Indian engineer can be at your beck and call for what is a small amount for you and a large fee for him or her.

            The second part of the business is the trademarked DesktopStreaming system that uses a very small java applet download to allow you to share your computer with help-desk personnel.  After downloading the applet, your provider or whoever is helping you can take over your desktop and solve your problem. You can see what they are doing as they manipulate your PC while you watch. If you don't interfere by trying to do things on your computer at the same time, the process can be very quick. With this tool a certified technician can resolve your problems in real time. It is a valuable program for hosting companies, Web providers and even IT managers within organizations. Expertcity licenses this technology to companies for whatever purpose they need.

 

Go to GoToMyPC.com

 

GoToMyPC.com allows you to connect to your PC remotely over the Web. If you are out of town, you can connect to your office or home PC and for example, e-mail an attachment with your PowerPoint presentation. For that matter, you could connect to your PC at home and finish or edit your PowerPoint presentation and then mail it to yourself at the remote location.

            GoToMyPC.com has three levels: personal, premium and corporate. The personal has the ability to operate two computers that have the remote control software on them. You can connect to these from any Web browser on any machine. You will have to download a small driver that works like any other browser plug-in to allow you to connect. Once you connect you will be able to run your computer just like you were sitting in front of it. The screen you see will be the same as the one you have at home or work. GoToMyPC.com works very quickly because the only thing that is transmitted is the part of the screen that changes. The personal version is priced at $9.95 per month. The beta version is currently free and hopefully they will retain that introductory version so that everyone can try it.

            With the premium package you will be able to add more PCs to control. This works great for system administrators or consultants who want or need to work on multiple remote systems. With this program you don't need to know the IP address of the connecting computers, and because it is using a TCP connection that they initiated, no firewall changes are required. This alone is a huge savings in time and energy.   The premium package will cost about $12 per PC per month.

            The corporate package is designed for larger organizations and still is reasonably priced at about $125 a month for four or five people.

            These prices may be subject to change because the service hasn't gone online yet and the initial response could determine what the company believes the market will bear. The service is free until May 1 when the full paid service will become available.

 

Steady Growth

 

With strong ideas and powerful products it's no surprise that Schauser's company is doing well.  ``The company has enjoyed steady growth from five people in the beginning to about 80 people today," he said. DesktopStreaming is use by companies such as CompUSA, Sun Microsystems, Cox Communications and Allied Mortgage.

 

The site is packed with quotes from satisfied customers. This one from Akhil Dhungana, a help-desk supervisor for Allied Mortgage, is typical:  ``Spending more than an hour per call over the phone has been reduced to just a few minutes online. DesktopStreaming has reduced our support-call volume by 50 percent as more of our employees go online for live help."

            Schauser was first schooled in computers in Karlsruhe, Germany. He got a doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. Most of the programming of the company's software was done by two of his PhD students at UC Santa Barbara while he concentrated on going after funding. From the beginning, companies contacted him because of Expertcity, asking to use the system for technical support. A lot of consultants are using the premium service to support their clients. One of the consultants says that the system saved him from having to drive 400 miles to work on installations.

            DesktopStreaming.com and GoToMyPC.com replaced Buddyhelp.com after 100,000 free sessions, Schauser says.

           

Is It Safe?

 

GoToMyPC uses encrypted password user authentication and challenge/response desktop authentication to protect its users. Strong 128-bit AES encryption of highly compressed data streams ensures data confidentiality without degradation in performance.

            For a comparison of virtual private networks (VPNs) to GoToMyPC, see https://www.gotomypc.com/downloads/pdf/Go_Comparison_VPN.pdf.

There it's explained that many of the hassles of penetrating a firewall and difficult complex tasks required to create a VPN are not necessary and are easy to achieve with the GoToMyPC solution. With GoToMyPC you do not have to take your computer with you when traveling. You just need to find a computer that will connect to the Internet and download a small java applet and you are quickly connected to your home or office computer. Even with a slow connection, it is just like sitting in front of your own machine.

            GoToMyPC can provide information systems management with a way to provide secure remote access to corporate computing resources with no downside in terms of extra management, loss of security or loss of performance. Because of the need for special hardware, software and configuration, VPNs can be very time-consuming and expensive to implement and support. In contrast, GoToMyPC is a completely Web-based solution that can be implemented in minutes. VPNs are still the best solution for connecting different LANs over untrusted networks, but for remote users, GoToMyPC offers an easy, and secure, solution.

            If you are familiar with pcAnywhere, you will find GoToMyPC is easier to use.  To connect to a computer via pcAnywhere, it is necessary to install approximately 20 megabytes of software on the computer that will be controlling the remote host. This in itself can lead to management and licensing issues and can force mobile users to carry a laptop to have access to the pcAnywhere client instead of relying on systems available at their destination. The installed software includes extra device drivers, which is significant in two respects. Firstly, the presence of device drivers requires that the computer be rebooted before it can be used as a client computer; and secondly, these components can give rise to software conflicts with other device drivers that attempt to use the same system resources, in some cases rendering the system unusable.

            The bottom line is GoToMyPC is a powerful solution to remote connection and control issues. It is a wonderful tool for tech support for providers and hosting companies. It is also good tool for consultants who want to travel less.

This is another example of how the Internet is shrinking the world. Collaborators thousands of miles apart can now be more than just connected; they can be in the same room.

 

horiline

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