Traveling Software has unveiled a version of LapLink that lets network technicians, consultants, and other IT staff easily support and manage remote users. The company calls it LapLink Technical, but don't let the name fool you; this latest version of LapLink is the easiest to use yet.
The name reflects the fact that this release is more than just an upgrade to the popular LapLink remote-control software. LapLink Tech includes two additional tools useful to those responsible for maintaining and supporting smaller networks.
The software's only drawback is that it only supports Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 clients - many small and large networks still have DOS-based applications in use that demand technical support. You will have to use older LapLink versions to connect to or remotely control these DOS systems.
LapLink Tech's primary component is, of course, the LapLink remote-connection program that allows one computer to take control of, transfer files with, print to, or chat with another computer. You can connect these remote systems over whatever means available, including dial-up, direct, or Internet network connections.
Supporting LapLink is Binary Research's Ghost Special Edition disk-imaging tool, which provides a quick-and-easy method for support staff to push clean disk images to troublesome client systems. Ghost replicates Windows 95 into a disk image for easy mass deployment of software by copying a disk partition sector by sector. However, this scaled-down version can only copy a disk image to a server, another disk within the technician's computer or to a disk in another computer connected with LapLink via the parallel port.
Finally, Dr. Solomon's WinGuard antivirus program works with LapLink to scan files during file transfers. It also protects technicians' and clients' systems when LapLink isn't loaded.
Using these three components, network technicians and consultants can remotely handle the most common managerial tasks: perform file transfers, troubleshoot user problems via remote control, and set up new workstations using the disk-cloning software.
LapLink Tech also includes a number of features that make it easy for remote users to access the information they need on the road.
An Xchange Agent allows you to synchronise files between your remote and host computers. To set this up, you configure the Xchange Agent ahead of time by telling it what files or directories you want to synchronise. This is easily accomplished via a wizard.
One common example is synchronising your My Documents directories on both computers so the latest version of all your documents can always be accessed, whether you're travelling with your laptop or in the office on your desktop computer.
A Print Redirection feature allows a remote user to print to a printer connected to another workstation on the network. Although similar to Windows' networking printer-sharing feature, this function uses LapLink's connection - which might be across the Internet - to access the printer.
This Print Redirection feature may not sound very important, unless you've tried printing during a remote-control session before. Printing is one of the biggest problems with remote-control software, and LapLink makes it much easier to understand and manage.
Another useful extra is a voice chat capability. Although text-based chat tools are common for remote control, LapLink allows the remote and host computer users to carry on a discussion over the same link as their data connection. This is an excellent feature for supporting users on a single phone line, allowing you to fix a problem while talking the user through it at the same time.
Of course, both remote and host systems need bidirectional sound cards and microphones.
Installing LapLink is as easy as inserting the CD. I had LapLink installed on two computers and was transferring files within five minutes. My only complaint is that the three products that ship with LapLink Tech must be installed separately, requiring separate reboots for each install.
LapLink, by default, restricts all access to a computer. So the first thing you need to do is specify who can connect to it. Any computer with LapLink loaded will advertise its presence as "ready to be connected to". Or you can connect to another waiting computer that has given you security rights.
A wide variety of connection methods are supported, including modem, network, direct cable connection, wireless, ISDN, and dial-up networking. I tested LapLink using network and modem connections.
Internet connections are sup-ported through the dial-up networking option. If you know the TCP/IP address of the computer to which you want to connect, you can enter it directly. Workstations on a LAN can connect over IPX or TCP/IP protocols.
Overall, LapLink Technical is a great product. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs to remotely support Windows 95 and NT 4.0 systems.
The Bottom Line
More than just an updated remote-control application, LapLink Technical bundles the best LapLink yet with Ghost disk-imaging and WinGuard antivirus software to let network support technicians assist remote users.
Pros: Easy to use; supports a wide variety of connection types; bundled software provides useful toolsCons: Lacks support for DOS systemsPrice: $249 RRP (existing LapLink customers can upgrade for $99.95)Platforms: Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0; disk-cloning software requires a DOS boot diskTraveling Software Tel (03) 9929 9700ÊFax (03) 9929 9787www.travelingsoftware.com