It is kind of humorous—doctors are never called by their patients and asked, "Hey, can you walk me through this open-heart surgery over the phone?" Yet as IT professionals, we are asked to provide this kind of support every day to our users. How many times have you tried to assist a user over the phone with a Microsoft Word problem, only to learn later that the user wasn't even using that program? Not being able to actually see a user's desktop, let alone control it, can really hinder your ability to get your job done.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you need a product like PJ Technologies' Goverlan Remote Control. It lets you quickly and easily take control of a remote computer. You can either walk the user through the problem's resolution or take total control of the computer and solve the problem yourself. Let's take a look under the hood.

Licensing

Goverlan's licensing is on a "per technician/computer" count and not a "per user" count. In other words, if you have five computer technicians who support 1,000 users, you need to purchase five licenses, not 1,000. If you have 20 technicians, but not all of them support users at the same time, you still need to purchase 20 licenses. Keep this in mind when comparing Goverlan with products that have a concurrent licensing scheme.

Each time you activate a license, your count is decremented by one. Activation can be done by Internet, email, or phone. Because the licenses are so tightly tied to the technicians' workstations, you need to remember to use the Activation Transfer Wizard (found under the Help menu) before rebuilding a technician's workstation.

Installation

The Goverlan Remote Control software is supported on Windows 2000 Professional and later (including Windows 8) and Windows 2000 Server through Windows Server 2008 R2. Installation is accomplished by a simple setup.exe routine. It packages a Windows Installer (.msi) file, so you can install Goverlan through Group Policy, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or another automated installation platform. If you need to install Goverlan through a script, you can install it silently using the following command:

GoverLANv7_Setup.exe /s /v/qn Only one port (443) is used, so firewall configuration is kept to a minimum.

After the product is installed on your computer, the next step is to install the Goverlan Agent on each remote computer that you want to remotely control. If desired, you can install it on all the computers in your network through the command line or your company's software distribution method (e.g., Group Policy or SCCM). The Goverlan Client Agent Installer directory, which is located where you installed Goverlan (C:\Program Files\Goverlan v7 by default), contains a prebuilt .msi file containing the agent. It also contains two files you can use to configure client-side settings: an .exe file if you're installing the agent from the command line and an .ini file if you're using Group Policy or SCCM to install the agent.

Alternatively, you can install the agent on an as-needed basis (i.e., as you need to support a user). Using the Goverlan Management Console, you simply right-click the client that you want to remotely control and choose Remote Control. If the agent isn't installed, you'll be prompted to install it at this time. When I tried this on my test network, I was able to install the agent on a Windows 2008 server and remotely control the server in under a minute.

Features

After working with Goverlan for a while, I soon realized that this product is much more than classic remote-control software. In addition to being able to take control of remote computers, Goverlan lets you perform advanced administrative tasks. Some that caught my eye were displaying system information, adding software, managing Windows Automatic Updates, administering printers, opening a remote console, sending a popup message, opening a chat session, using Wake on LAN (WOL), and more. Two features that particularly stood out were Scope Action and WMIX.

Scope Action. The Scope Action feature lets you control the computers on your network. For example, if you need all your client computers to update Group Policy, you can use a Scope Action to run a gpupdate /force command on each computer. Other examples include using a Scope Action to add or remove registry keys or file system objects (e.g., files, folders) from one or more computers. What you can do is limited only by your creativity.

The Scope Action feature is equally handy for reporting purposes. In just a few clicks, I was able to gather information about the computers on my network, such as each computer's name and system description, whether the computer is pingable and has Windows Firewall enabled, and who is currently logged on to that computer.

WMIX. Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) has been around since Windows 2000. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to use if you're not versed in scripting. Goverlan's WMIX feature lets you use WMI within a GUI interface, without the need to learn a scripting language. After you define all the parameters of the WMI properties you want to query or edit, you click the Generate Script button to create a VBScript script that you can use.

Tight Active Directory Integration

I've seen quite a few administration applications in my years in IT. Many of them attempt to come up with their own management tool to group and manage computers and users. Goverlan doesn't do that—it uses your Active Directory (AD) organizational unit (OU) structure, which makes sense. You've (hopefully) organized your AD objects logically into a structure that works for your company. Goverlan does a great job of leveraging this structure, as Figure 1 shows. You can even add new computer, user, or group object right from this console instead of having to open up the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.

Figure 1: Goverlan's Integration Into the Existing AD OU Structure
Figure 1: Goverlan's Integration Into the Existing AD OU Structure

This integration doesn't stop at the management console. Configuring how the Goverlan agent behaves is controlled by a Group Policy Administrative Template (provided in both .adm and .admx files).

Support

Support is provided through a link on the Goverlan main page. Technical forums, white papers, user guides, training materials, and a knowledge base are all provided for free. Post-sales technical support requires that you have an active maintenance agreement. I found the support page to be logically laid out. The user guide was extremely helpful and was instrumental in setting up and understanding the product.

Remote-Control Capabilities and More

If you need simple remote-control software so that you can support your clients more effectively, then Goverlan is for you. If you need a complete client management solution that just happens to include remote-control capabilities, then Goverlan is definitely for you. The only "gotcha" I found with this product is the licensing model. If you have many technicians, the licensing might be an issue. However, if you only have a few people who need to use a tool like this, the licensing might not be a hurdle for you.

Goverlan Remote Control
PROS: Tight integration with AD OUs and Group Policy; easy to navigate the administrative console
CONS: Licensed per physical installation instead of a concurrent licensing model
RATING: 4 out of 5
PRICE: $299 per license or $119 per upgrade
RECOMMENDATION: If you have just a few technicians, the licensing model will probably work for you. If you need robust remote control and in-depth systems management, you owe it to yourself to give Goverlan a try.
CONTACT: PJ Technologies • 888-330-4188 or 786-268-3517