Simplehelp Review – Self-Hosted Remote Support Software

Written by William Roush on October 20, 2015 at 1:50 am

Simplehelp is a self-hosted remote support solution that takes many different approaches to the various methods of administrating your access and server wrapped up in a cost-effective solution.

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Simplehelp is a self-hosted remote support software, similar to the likes of LogMeIn, GoToAssist or ScreenConnect. In the wake of the ScreenConnect pricing issue, I keep hearing about Simplehelp, so I’d figure I’d look into it and give it a go.

Installation

Obtaining a trail license is easy, you can sign up through their website and you’ll get an e-mail with a license as an attachment with instructions on how to set up the application, we’ll of course be using a Debian 8 box (as per my standard setup), and we’ll see how difficult this is…


wget http://backend.simple-help.com/releases/SimpleHelp-linux-amd64.tar.gz
tar zxvf SimpleHelp-linux-amd64.tar.gz
cd SimpleHelp
./serverstart.sh

2015-10-20 01_36_40-Welcome to SimpleHelp

Well shoot, that was easy.

However this isn’t a very good setup, I don’t have it autostarting, and I’ll have to manually set it up with it’s own user account, but to get me running it’s pretty easy.

Administrating your box

One major thing you’ll notice that is different is that the web server is pretty barren, all it provides are downloads to the on-demand system, the administration software and the remote access download. The awesome part is every section comes with code to embed on a website to add the functionality to your own sites. it appears everything is Java (it comes with the Java Runtime Environment 1.6.0U16), so the UI is kind of clunky looking:

2015-10-20 01_40_18-Program Manager

However this application has an almost mad amount of configuration options, it would be a bore for me to go over them all so let me touch on some of the basics. You have a pretty decent user/group management system, where you can grant access to customers via your groups. The only part I don’t like is that you’re building filters for your groups which can be somewhat clunky (you write queries like “customer name is ‘roushtech'” which I’ve never been a big fan of). LDAP auth is available and easy to configure which is always nice.

Security wise you can restrict where techs can connect from via IP address, you can enable a built-in “two tier auth” which will e-mail your tech an authentication code to log in with when they try to log in. You can require customers enter a password (however this is shared).

There is a wide array of branding you can do, you can add your own images, names, etc.

Remote Access (on-demand and always-on)

2015-10-20 01_36_58-SimpleHelp Remote Support - Technician

Customers are presented with this download link to download and run the application, this seems to be the more surefire way most applications are going being as various browser plugins keep getting killed (and rightfully so). The user is prompted for elevation when firing up the application (would rather this happen later), but if they cancel out of it you can request it later.

2015-10-20 01_46_21-Test - Windows 7 x64

Elevate with the admin account or prompt the user on the machine to elevate, sweet.

Multi-monitor support and easy swapping

Multi-monitor support and easy swapping

Lots of options

Lots of options

Lots of good features here (disabled due to keyboard input being disabled), remote commands are easy to run from here, or restarting the machine. A “calling card” allows you to put a shortcut on the user’s desktop to allow them to reconnect to your system easily. You can duplicate sessions allowing other techs to log into the same session with you, and you can easily install/uninstall the always on remote access service. I love the calling card idea, and the ease of installing the remote access service from here is great too.

Connection bandwidth options are quite tweakable

Connection bandwidth options are quite tweakable

You can tweak all different kinds of settings in regards to your connection, no simple “high/medium/low” settings here, which means you can give/take certain trade-offs… willing to have fewer updates but really need more colors? Tweak it! Maybe the ability to save some favorites and make it easily switchable would be nice.

Statistics and tools

Statistics and tools

There is a fairly strong suite of tools for monitoring performance, looking at the registry, running commands, tweaking services, testing ports, it’s pretty feature rich for what it is.

So many connection options

So many connection options

Additionally both the technician and the client have many connection options, they’ll try to UDP directly and circumvent your server entirely for the best connection, if that fails they’ll UDP to the server, if that fails they’ll attempt TCP, if that fails they’ll drop to SSL to the server, and if that fails they’ll drop to HTTP. It really does go all-out in an attempt to make things work and allows you to look at all the details.

Various Issues

Weak Diffie-Hellman key on install

It appears the software ships with using the default DH keys, whoops:

2015-10-20 02_03_31-https____customer failed to load

You can set up your own SSL keys via the administration tools, however it must be uploaded in the form of a Java Keystore ick!! I’m not 100% certain but I’m sure you can tack in your own DH key in there too… If anyone is really curious hit me up and maybe I’ll do a write-up on it.

Scroll wheel not (really) working in app

My scroll wheel barely moves any UI elements in the admin app, this is a common problem I’ve had with various Java apps though…

Final Opinions

Pros

  • Starting at $320/session, it’s a good starter system for many.
  • UI workflow is great (eg: figuring out how to install remote access service, or elevate to admin).
  • Server attempts to connect over various methods and provides details to the tech on method being used.
  • Presenting feature is literally embedded in the browser, a cool idea.
  • I like access management, easy, organized, detailed.
  • Supports Wake-On-Lan (must have another machine on the network powered on AFAIK, never tested it on this application).
  • Small web surface makes it easier to secure vs. other options.

Cons

  • UI look is a bit clunky looking, but for what it is, things are easy to access and find.
  • Default security setup is poor.
  • Presenting being in-browser however lacks some functionality, such as switching presenters.
  • System tray notifications don’t work on WIndows 7
  • Don’t make us play to Java Keystores for SSL certs please.
  • UPNP didn’t appear to fire up, may be a con for some of you other there depending on it.

Overall

I think Simplehelp is an excellent option for people looking for a budget system or something they want to self-host, it’s got a few rough spots but in my opinion much easier to administrate and tweak then ScreenConnect.

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