Throughout my IT career I have seen a considerable change in how user support is provided, from the dark distant past of enduring the physical walk to the user’s desk, lumbering overweight computers on to their desks and monitors that would require a full risk assessment for a simple relocation.  While it certainly had its merits for the IT team’s physical fitness it was certainly not the most effective way to support end users, thankfully this quickly evolved to some excellent support tools that enabled controlling computers remotely, facilitating the potential to fix most issues without breaking a sweat.

In todays IT world there are a multitude of tools that provide this functionality…which of course includes significant licensing costs which add to the cost of ownership.   Virtually every company is trying to jump on the band wagon with their own IT management solution with untold wonders that are largely nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The reality of these third-party tools is often you are paying twice for something that can be easily achieved with tools already available in windows.

All it takes is a modicum of knowledge, good design, a small amount of time and the correct tools.   All too frequently we see companies flying the common corporate flags for Gold partners of Cisco, Microsoft and other dominating technical forces in the world of IT…while not without their merits it provides far more financial benefits to these large corporate technical entities than it does to companies and service providers.  For the moment we are focusing on getting remote control to the end users’ equipment.

First and foremost is having the correct router/firewall, yes everyone and their sister heralds Cisco as the be all and end all of network products.   While they are certainly fantastic systems they are prohibitively expensive, costs quickly soar with licensing costs for additional VPN’s and other services.   This will no doubt have cries of horror from the Cisco brigade who have sunk thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours in to achieving a few letters that must be maintained by ongoing tests and recertification…at times it does not feel a million miles from blackmail.   Sorry I am off on tangents again…back to the point. A couple of years back I discovered the merits of a remarkable router/firewall solution called PFSense, this is an open source solution that is increasingly replacing the common corporate solutions in the large enterprise…not only for the significant savings (50k+ compared to 5k – or free if you use your own hardware and inhouse support) but the fact it can offer superior performance.

PFsense at the very least offers the same level of security, you also have a host of additional features that puts the “big boys” to shame…I realise now that I need to expand on these in a different post (watch this page for more).   The main features that PFSense offers in this article is the firewall/routing functionality and the VPN connectivity.

Stage 1

Replace your clients existing router with a PFSense one, this could be installed on an old desktop or even a virtual machine. This should be an easy sell to you client once they realise they can have unlimited numbers VPN clients for no additional cost.

Stage 2

Establish a site to site VPN with your client or set yourself up with a remote VPN connection…which ever works best for your client.

Stage 3

Use Group Policy to enable the use of Microsoft’s remote assistance for all client computers.  Server access via Remote Desktop.

You have now created a secure connection to your client’s site, have remote access to all client computers and have saved yourself and your client a considerable amount of money.  Welcome to a more profitable business.

Of course, remote access to computer devices is only one piece of the puzzle and most 3rd party support tools provide some excellent reporting functionality…now I am not saying you can’t do the same with existing tools...but…well I am. Again, it leads back to the right knowledge, good design, time and the correct open source tool…details will be provided in a future post.  😊

At Plan2IT we can provide a complete end to end solution to implement a PFSense router, enable VPN connectivity and apply the required configurations to client machines. To find out further information contact us at enquiries@plan2it.co.uk.