IDrive RemotePC Team review: Driven to success

Dave Mitchell

30 Oct, 2020

Simple, secure and effective cloud-hosted remote support at an unbeatably low price

£145 exc VAT

NetSupport Manager is a complete support system that you host on your own network. That doesn’t mean it’s limited to local connections, however: it’s fully capable of supporting remote workers over the internet, and on private wide-area connections. The remote access features are included in the price, and let you link remote offices and homeworkers to the main site with a choice of encryption options, including 256-bit AES.

Deployment is inevitably a little more complex than with a cloud-hosted support solution, but it’s still straightforward. To handle off-site connections, the gateway server component needs to be installed on a Windows PC that’s accessible over the internet, which you can achieve by port forwarding or by placing the host in your DMZ. You then just need to send the NetSupport client installer to remote users, along with a configuration file containing the details of the gateway server. 

Once the software is set up, it’s very secure, as the main server, gateway and clients must all possess the same security key, and an integrated firewall ensures that no unauthorised connection attempts can get through to your internal network. Session encryption is fully supported, and you can optionally restrict which technicians are able to access which remote systems.

Installation on local Windows clients is even easier: the Deploy tool can scan the local network and push the software to selected systems for automatic installation. macOS clients require manual installation, but NetSupport tells us it’s looking into ways of streamlining the process. 

All clients can be browsed from the Control console, whether they’re connected locally or over the internet. Systems are sorted into a tree view in the left pane, with dynamic grouping allowing you to sort clients by criteria such as operating system, hardware class and geographical location. Selecting a group shows all members in the opposite pane, and a monitor mode displays scalable thumbnails of each one’s screen, so you can watch user activity in real-time.

Connecting to a client is a cinch: double-clicking on its icon initiates a desktop session, while specific functions (such as file transfer) can be accessed from the dropdown menu, a row of shortcut icons or directly from the Control host’s Explorer view.

Once you’re in, the main View app shows you the client’s screen, with a ribbon bar at the top for fast access to a wealth of support tools. You can switch between controlling, sharing or passively viewing the screen, launch local apps, have text and audio chats, share clipboards, take screen captures and reboot the client.

There’s also a selection of useful extras. The free PIN Connect server allows a technician and user to instantly start a support session by entering the same unique PIN, meaning there’s no need for support staff to hunt through a long list of clients to find the right one.

Then there’s the file-distribution tool, which allows the operator to send a set of files to multiple clients in one go. The software also includes the facility to show your own screen to single or multiple clients – potentially useful for training. You can even capture recordings of control system activity, save them locally and replay them to clients.

A final welcome feature is an extensive inventory tool, which captures hardware details along with lists of hot-fixes, installed applications, processes and services – even allowing you to remotely stop, start and pause the latter.

SMBs that want the full spectrum of support options for both on-premises and remote users will find NetSupport Manager more than meets their needs. It offers a wealth of secure and versatile support features, and its perpetual licensing model takes away any worries about ongoing costs.

Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud review: Merciless against malware

Dave Mitchell

30 Sep, 2020

Easily managed and good value, Kaspersky is a great choice for small businesses

£405 exc VAT

Kaspersky offers an endpoint protection answer for every business. Large firms that want total control can choose its on-site Endpoint Security for Business products, while smaller companies that don’t want to run their own host server have two cloud-managed solutions to choose from.

We tested Kaspersky’s Endpoint Security Cloud, which is managed entirely from a cloud portal and protects ten to 150 Windows systems and Macs. Licensing is flexible, with each user licence supporting one workstation, laptop or server, plus two iOS or Android mobile devices.

The standard service includes protection against all types of malware and ransomware, a client firewall, a network attack blocker and vulnerability scanning. There’s also a new cloud discovery feature that lets you keep an eye on email, file-sharing, messaging and social networking services being accessed by users.

If you need more, you can move up to the Plus version, which adds Office 365 protection, URL-based web filtering, endpoint device controls, encryption and patch management. The Plus service lets you block specific cloud services too, while the regular tier only monitors them.

We found deployment pleasingly simple: the agent can be downloaded and installed directly from the web portal, or you can email a download link to users. Either way, it takes around five minutes to set up, with a further 15-minute wait while the client registers its licence.

Once that’s done, protection starts immediately with a default security policy that enables everything Kaspersky has to offer. If you want to customise your coverage, it’s easy to create your own policies, organise clients into groups and grant admin rights to specific users. For Windows systems there are three levels of file and web threat protection on offer, and you can choose whether to scan emails for dodgy content and enable network threat protection. If you have the Plus version, you can browse all detected cloud services and decide whether to block any. Macs get file, web and network threat protection, but mail and cloud discovery are off the menu.

It’s a varied offering for mobile users too. Android devices benefit from antivirus protection plus web and app controls, while for iOS it’s more about access security: the portal lets you create APNs certificates, allowing you to choose what device features are accessible, set a screen lock and password policy, apply simple website keyword blocking and restrict which networks can be joined.

As you’d hope, the whole system is highly responsive to threats. When we tried introducing malware to some of our test Windows 10 systems, the local client blocked them immediately, with email alerts landing in our administrative mailbox barely ten seconds later.

The web portal is very informative. A graph displays the top five categories of cloud services in use and lets you drill down to see exactly who’s using what; our only slight niggle is that this took several hours to populate with details on detected services. Below, more graphs show device protection status, the OS spread, detected threats and the results of daily vulnerability scans. There’s a good set of predefined reports too, covering protection status, threats, database updates and cloud discovery, which can be exported in CSV and PDF formats.

If your business is of a suitable size, Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud is great value, especially since each licence includes protection for two mobile devices. The cloud discovery component can be a little slow, but endpoint protection doesn’t get any stronger than this and the cloud portal is very easy to work with.

Netop Remote Control 12.82 review: The best of both worlds

Dave Mitchell

31 Aug, 2020

A flexible hybrid remote support suite that will suit businesses seeking a comprehensive solution

£625 exc VAT, perpetual (one guest, ten hosts)

Torn between cloud-hosted and on-premises support? With Netop’s Remote Control you don’t need to choose one or the other. An annual subscription enables cloud-based support, which can be easily combined with on-premises services by adding a perpetual licence. 

If you’ve encountered the software before, you’ll note some new features in this latest version, including email notifications for connection attempts, 64-bit macOS and Linux agents, plus improved screen scaling for the browser-based client. There’s also a new optional add-on called Netop OnDemand, which supports on-demand connections and makes it possible to access iOS devices.

What hasn’t changed is Netop’s tough security measures. All sessions are 256-bit AES encrypted, and host installation packages can also be customised to only allow specific features, with multi-factor authentication optionally enforced. Once a connection is made, there are strict limits to what technicians can do: permissions can be granted on a per-user and per-group basis, or you can define and assign roles to restrict activities such as keyboard and mouse control, chat and file transfer.

Getting the agent onto Windows systems is a breeze. The web portal allows you to download the client installer directly or email a link to selected users; once the client has loaded, it provides always-on remote access, asking the user to explicitly permit connections when their device is unattended.

Mac users can be supported too, but setting this up involves some extra legwork, as the Netop host DMG package must be manually installed on each host. We also had to manually edit the host configuration file to add the Netop portal web address and account enrolment key. With this done, everything worked as expected.

When it’s time to start a remote session, support staff have the option of using a simple browser-based console, which provides basic remote control plus options to lock, restart or shut down the host. However, it’s the work of a few moments to download and install the full Netop Guest app: this can then be launched directly from the portal, giving you access to the complete range of features. Along with remote control, its ribbon menu offers file transfer, messaging, text and audio chat, remote command and application execution, Registry editing, plus keyboard and mouse controls. There’s also a Demonstrate tool that lets technicians share their screen with the host.

Since the Guest app connects to your portal account, you can also see and access all registered hosts from within its interface. If you’ve paid for an on-site installation, you’ll see a LAN connection profile within the Guest app too, allowing you to access hosts on the same network without going through the web portal.

While on-demand support isn’t included as standard, you can add it via the Netop OnDemand service, which costs £187 per technician per year. This snaps neatly into the web portal and lets you set up quick remote sessions with users who don’t have the Netop host software installed, protecting each session with a unique nine-digit code.

OnDemand also allows technicians to connect to iOS devices, once the user has installed the iOS app and entered the requisite security code. As usual, Apple’s strict security model means you can’t take remote control of an iOS device, but the app allows a technician to view its entire screen and guide the user through problem-solving steps. 

Businesses with evolving needs will appreciate how Netop Remote Control gives you the freedom to choose cloud-based, local and hybrid support. It would be nice if Mac deployment were slicker, but once everything’s in place, the software is easy to use, well stocked with features, and reassuringly secure.

BackupVault Cloud Backup review: Back(up) to reality

Dave Mitchell

30 Jul, 2020

A great choice for SMB data protection, with simple cloud storage costs and fast, slick restore features

£24 exc VAT

There’s no shortage of online backup solutions for SMBs to choose from, but BackupVault stands out thanks to its simple pricing scheme. The price is based solely on how much data you want backed up to the cloud, so you pay a predictable monthly fee with no nasty surprises.

Don’t confuse this with competing services that charge according to how much storage your data takes up once compressed. That can be good value, but compression ratios are dependent on the type of data you’re working with, and the provider is under no obligation to use the most efficient algorithms – so your outgoings could fluctuate significantly from month to month as your backup needs evolve.

Prices for BackupVault start at £24 per month for 50GB, and you can add capacity at any time in increments of 100GB, which get cheaper as you move up the scale. The standard service includes round-the-clock UK telephone support and a rolling 30 to 60-day retention period for all file versions, with backups older than 31 days automatically deleted on the first day of the following month. If you need more than this, you can pay a 10% supplement to upgrade to a 12-month retention period.

For small offices with one server and a few PCs, the BackupVault client can be installed on each system and configured locally. For larger deployments, BackupVault also offers a free central management console app that provides remote client access, system recovery and bare-metal restore services. To get set up you just need to enter your host name, account password and encryption key. It’s imperative that you keep a record of this key, as it’s needed to restore your data and BackupVault has no access to it.

The client interface is easy to use, showing you both local and network storage and allowing you to choose what you want to protect. You can back up individual files and folders, entire drives or complete systems, and extra options become available if certain apps or services are installed. On our Hyper-V host, an additional tab appeared for VM backups, while our Exchange and SQL Server hosts had tabs for the relevant apps. The software let us click to select individual SQL databases for backup, although when it came to Exchange we were only able to select entire data stores because BackupVault doesn’t support message-level backups.

Backups can be run on demand or scheduled at regular intervals, and for hybrid strategies you can copy data to a secondary location – such as a local NAS appliance – as well as your cloud storage. If you have a large amount of data to protect, you can hit the ground running with a free vault-seeding service, which lets you send in your first set of backups on encrypted USB media, rather than waiting for it all to upload over the internet.

BackupVault passed our restore tests with flying colours. The recovery procedures are easy to use and we’re big fans of the InstantData feature, which uses a combination of sparse files and a proprietary kernel driver to greatly reduce the wait time to access files stored in the cloud: we found that this allowed us to start working on recovered files just a few seconds after the restore process had started. We also tried restoring a 2.4GB MP4 video file from the cloud using InstantData and, while playback was quite jerky, we were able to skip to any part of the video and view it within 20 seconds of starting the restore. With conventional restore methods over our fibre broadband connection, we’d have been looking at a wait of around 90 minutes before being able to open the file. 

Lastly, there’s a handy option to restore your files to a local virtual drive, meaning you can check back on older versions without replacing current ones or creating potentially confusing duplicates.

BackupVault Cloud Backup is a fine choice for SMBs, providing easily managed data protection services and almost instant access to your backed-up data – and its simple pricing structure keeps storage costs under control as well.

SolarWinds Dameware Remote Everywhere review: An excellent offering Add to Default shortcuts

Dave Mitchell

30 Jun, 2020

Bags of features make this a great web-hosted choice, although pricing isn’t a good fit for smaller businesses

£355 exc VAT

Solarwinds’ Dameware Remote Everywhere lives up to its name, with a hosted design that allows technicians to reach out to users no matter where they are. Its pricing model is simple too: a £355 annual licence lets one technician support up to 500 endpoints, with additional licences enabling more concurrent sessions. That makes it great value for companies of a certain size, although those with smaller headcounts will very likely find other options more cost-effective.

Deployment starts at the web portal, where you create accounts for your technicians and set privileges for each one, determining which tools they’re allowed to use. Technicians can also be assigned to particular departments, which allows support requests to be automatically routed to the right person.

The web portal also hosts the client software for Windows, Mac and Linux endpoints, to which you can apply profiles determining what features are available. A master password option lets you restrict access to the agent, and endpoints can be set to automatically lock when unattended sessions finish.

Technicians, meanwhile, get their own personal console app. From here, they can browse and connect to any endpoint that has the agent installed, and launch on-demand support sessions for systems that don’t have the software. Note that there’s no way for end users to initiate an on-demand session themselves: the technician has to make the first move. 

After that it’s plain sailing. Once the correct six-digit PIN is provided, the on-demand applet fires up and opens the remote access session, automatically removing itself when either party disconnects.

In both on-demand and always-on sessions, technicians get access to the fully featured desktop console, with tools for file transfer, remote Registry editing and the option to switch between the desktop view and a command prompt. Support staff can also share their own screen with the user, start audio or video calls and tell the endpoint to reboot, restart or shut down. Sessions can be recorded too, with video uploaded to the web portal’s reports section.

While the Dameware control software is richly featured, there’s no browser-based alternative, as offered by most other products. However, technicians can use a mobile device to provide support when away from their desks, via the iOS and Android apps. We tried this on an iPad and had no problem logging into a technician account, browsing endpoints, connecting for remote control and creating on-demand sessions. 

You can provide support to users on iOS devices via the Dameware Remote Support app – although, as expected, this provides only remote viewing, and doesn’t let support staff take control of the device.

Alongside all of this, Dameware lets technicians extract detailed system inventories from connected devices, including hardware configuration and serial numbers, network addresses, installed applications and Windows updates, both pending and installed. Reporting options are extensive too, with the portal showing session histories that can be filtered for details such as session IDs and user names. And if you want to check on technician performance, you can even send out surveys to ask end users about their experience.

Dameware Remote Everywhere’s pricing won’t work for every business. However, for larger organisations with a few hundred endpoints to look after it’s an excellent package, delivering an impressive range of secure support features that are easy to manage and use. 

BT ditches Yammer in favour of Facebook Workplace

Sabina Weston

27 Oct, 2020

BT has rolled out Facebook Workplace to enable enterprise-wide internal communications for 80,000 employees, as businesses put emphasis on new ways of interaction due to lockdown restrictions.

The telecoms giant told IT Pro that it previously used various social networking platforms, including Microsoft’s Yammer, before deciding to unify and simplify its communications channels. It started the deployment of Workplace in July 2019.

Facebook Workplace, which was launched in 2016, now connects 80% of BT employees through chats, Groups, and video across all parts of the organisation in 54 countries.

The B2B communications platform is being used to connect BT employees, including external employees at Openreach and engineers, enabling them to stay informed while working in the field. 

BT’s director of Internal Communications Helen Willett said that “Workplace was a simple choice for BT”, describing it as “mobile-friendly, easy to use and intuitive”.

“But more than that, it’s culture-enhancing. Leaders can talk to their teams in a matter of seconds and the peer-to-peer benefits include enabling a sense of belonging, instant access to news and a way to solve problems collaboratively.

“Perhaps most importantly, having Workplace has made it so much easier for us to stick to our principle of ‘inside out’ – letting our colleagues know what’s happening, increasing trust and, in turn, advocacy. Sometimes we have a matter of minutes to reach our people – Workplace allows us to do that, and to do it well,” she added.

So far, BT has seen an avalanche of involvement from its employees, with three million reactions and a further 970,000 comments on Workplace.

BT CEO Philip Jansen said that the platform is allowing the company to aim for a “fast-paced, inclusive and empowering” future. 

“We’ve seen many benefits including being able to share news instantly, gather feedback on subjects that our people care about, and enabling more authentic leadership communications,” he said, adding that the platform has also “strengthened” the company’s communities across BT and Openreach.

“Through Workplace, colleagues connect with each other on the things that matter, sharing ideas and problem-solving together in real time. That is hugely beneficial to our colleagues and customers, and therefore to BT as a whole.”

Microsoft partners with Adobe and to launch Salesforce rival

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

27 Oct, 2020

Microsoft has pledged to ‘re-invent’ customer relationship management (CRM) software after partnering with Adobe and enterprise AI company to launch a new platform to take on the market dominance of Salesforce. 

C3 AI CRM is powered by the core functionality of Dynamics 365 and is combined with Adobe’s real-time customer profiles and journey management, as well as’s industry-specific AI capabilities

The AI-driven CRM platform is purpose-built for specific industries and uses data from any source to produce meaningful business insights. The collective claims that conventional CRM is not sufficient for the modern age, given that AI can’t be used to analyse much of the data because they weren’t built with the appropriate architectures.

The three-way partnership represents a major challenge to Salesforce, which enjoys dominance in the CRM segment, and follows reports last week that Microsoft was making CRM a “priority”. SAP and Oracle are also big players in the CRM space, with Adobe and Microsoft following the pack with conventionally only a fraction of the market share.

“, Microsoft, and Adobe bring together the perfect combination of technology, industry, and domain expertise to address the requirements for a new generation of CRM,” said CEO Ed Abbo.

“Importantly, in addition to this combination of leading technologies and expertise, we share a common vision with our partners of an AI-first, industry-specific approach to delivering a new generation of AI CRM solutions.”

The announcement builds on a pre-existing partnership between the enterprise AI firm and Microsoft, with also contributing its technology to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams earlier this year.

The three companies claim that C3 AI CRM will allow clients to better anticipate their customers’ needs and deliver more satisfying and personalised user journeys. The level of intelligence brought on by AI functionality, for example, could allow for more accurate forecasts, for example. Massive amounts of data can also be analysed to augment human agents or trigger automated processes in the CRM platform.

Microsoft claims that its technology has an expansive and unmatched footprint, combining Dynamics 365 business applications with LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Microsoft Power Platform, powered by Azure. Microsoft hopes that when combined with Adobe’s speciality in the digital customer experience, and the AI capabilities of, the combined system will offer customers a powerful alternative to the biggest players. 

Zoom starts rolling out end-to-end encryption for all users

Carly Page

27 Oct, 2020

Zoom has started rolling out end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to both free and paying users. 

E2EE is now available in technical preview on the Zoom desktop client version for macOS and Windows, the Zoom Android app and Zoom Rooms, with the Zoom iOS app currently pending App Store approval. 

Zoom’s E2EE uses the same 256-bit AES-GCM encryption that secures Zoom meetings by default. Account administrators can enable the feature in the web dashboard at an account, group, and user level, and participants must also enable the feature to join a meeting with end-to-end encryption.

When E2EE is enabled, nobody except each participant – not even Zoom’s meeting servers – has access to the encryption keys that are used to secure the meeting.

However, the company has warned that at least in the first stage of the four-phase rollout, E2EE will block certain Zoom functions, including cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions.

“End-to-end encryption is another stride toward making Zoom the most secure communications platform in the world,” said Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan.

“This phase of our E2EE offering provides the same security as existing end-to-end-encrypted messaging platforms, but with the video quality and scale that has made Zoom the communications solution of choice for hundreds of millions of people and the world’s largest enterprises.”

Phase 2 of the E2EE rollout is “tentatively roadmapped” for 2021, according to Zoom. 

The rollout of end-to-end encryption comes five months after Zoom initially announced plans to add support for the security standard. However, at the time it said it would only be available for businesses and institutions that pay for a premium Zoom subscription. Following backlash from users and privacy activists, Zoom backtracked two week’s later and announced that it would make E2EE available to both free and paying users. 

SAP goes “all-in” on cloud as it abandons mid-term targets

Bobby Hellard

26 Oct, 2020

Software giant SAP saw its market valuation drop by €25 billion (£27.8bn) after it announced plans to go “all-in” on cloud computing during its third-quarter earnings call. 

The German firm is on track for its worst trading day in 12 years, according to CNBC, after slashing its revenue forecast for 2020.

Fearing that lockdown restrictions would affect demand for its business relations and customer management software into 2021, the tech giant has announced plans to go “all-in” on cloud computing. The announcement means that SAP is abandoning medium-term profitability targets which could take longer than expected to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the CEO of SAP, I have to be focused on the long-term value creation of this company,” SAP CEO Christian Klein told CNBC‘s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday. “So I cannot trade the success of our customers and the significant revenue potential of SAP against short-term margin optimisation.”

Investors reacted badly to the announcement, dumping shares and wiping €25 million off SAP’s market value. However, some will point to a year of turmoil following the exit of long-term CEO Bill McDermott and the less than successful ‘tandem’ leadership that ended in April when Klein became the company’s sole CEO. 

At that point, with the coronavirus pandemic starting to hit global operations, SAP had focused on medium-term “ambition” which was favoured by McDermott on the estimates that it would lead to profit margins growing by at least a percentage point up to 2023. 

The change, however, effectively means that profit margins will stagnate over the next three years. But cloud revenue, from subscription-based services, is now expected to triple to €22 billion by 2025. As such, total adjusted revenue is being forecast at €36 billion with an operating profit of €11.5 billion.

Oracle expands cloud availability for UK public sector

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

26 Oct, 2020

Oracle has launched its next-gen dual-region government cloud for use by UK public sector organisations and their partners, including a host of cloud-based services such as Oracle Cloud VMWare and Kubernetes.

The dual-region infrastructure, comprising two separate sites in London and Wales connected by Oracle Cloud’s high-speed network backbone, will allow public sector bodies to deploy cloud services in multiple regions with ease. 

Bodies can use Oracle’s infrastructure to deploy not just disaster recovery services, but cloud hosting and storage of data from within the region.

The company’s partnership with the public sector has expanded in recent times to service organisations such as the Home Office and NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), and local government organisations

The private dual-region cloud will also allow public sector customers to take up additional services, including Oracle Autonomous Database, Kubernetes, Oracle Cloud VMware Solution, and Oracle OCI services, as well as Oracle Fusion Cloud applications. 

“We’ve had a Government Cloud Region in the UK for several years, but today’s announcement really unlocks a completely new potential for all of our customers across the UK to take advantage of Oracle’s second-generation Cloud,” said Richard Petley, senior vice president with Oracle UK and Israel.

“This is a completely unique offering to the UK government – no other cloud provider offers the sovereignty and performance we are announcing today. We’ll be working with all aspects of government – both local and central – to help them understand how they make use of the cloud to deliver better services and value to the UK taxpayer.”

The platform has been designed in collaboration with several UK government and national defence organisations, and adheres to the security requirements set out by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Oracle claims. This allows various organisations to handle and transmit sensitive information through the private cloud network.

The company’s second-gen cloud is built specifically to help large organisations and enterprises run the most demanding workloads in a secure way and is built to run autonomous services. These include Oracle Autonomous Linux and oracle Autonomous Database.