I appreciate your remote administration articles and have used the tools you describe on different platforms. However, Microsoft Windows NetMeeting can perform the same functions within a secure session and lets you send and receive files. Windows XP and Windows 2000 systems come with NetMeeting installed. For earlier versions of Windows, you can download NetMeeting for free from Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/netmeeting).

To use NetMeeting during a support call, I tell the customer to start NetMeeting and give me the system's IP address. (To find the system's IP address, the customer selects About Windows NetMeeting from NetMeeting's Help menu.) Next, I make a call to the IP address and ask the customer to share the desktop and accept my request for control. At this point, I can transfer files to and from the customer's workstation and whatever actions I might take while sitting at their system.

To use NetMeeting on an unmanned system, install Remote Desktop Sharing. Select Remote Desktop Sharing from the Tools menu, enable the option, and run the installation wizard. After installation, you can right-click the taskbar icon to activate or deactivate the service. While using Remote Desktop Sharing, you can make a secure call to a system, take full control of the desktop, and transfer files in either direction. To transfer files from the remote system to your workstation, you must right-click the remote system's Remote Desktop Sharing taskbar icon and launch the file transfer screen.

Using NetMeeting with firewalls and Network Address Translation (NAT) connections can be problematic and will depend on how and whether the firewalls or routers can be configured to support incoming and outgoing H.323 traffic. For a list of IP ports that must be enabled to support a NetMeeting connection, see the Microsoft Windows NetMeeting Resource Kit, "Chapter 4: Firewall Configuration" (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/corp/reskit/chapter4/default.asp). At sites in which outgoing calls are supported and incoming calls are blocked, clients can call your IP address to initiate a session. After the session is established, clients can share their desktop and let you manage it.

You must consider several factors when configuring NetMeeting. First, avoid setting up NetMeeting to use the Microsoft Internet Directory options unless your organization has its own Microsoft Internet Locator Service (ILS) server. Within your organization, an ILS server can provide a directory of people to call to help establish sessions for collaborative meetings. If you don't have access to a secure ILS server in your organization, using someone else's server can unnecessarily expose your systems to strangers and lengthen the time necessary to start a session. Second, never set a machine to automatically accept incoming calls, and always insist on secure incoming and outgoing calls. Third, be aware that using Remote Desktop Sharing can create a security hole if your systems aren't well secured. Fourth, you might run into desktop control problems if an XP, Win2K, or Windows NT customer doesn't have Administrator access on a system. Finally, like most remote-management tools, NetMeeting works better with more bandwidth.