Remote-control offerings aren't exactly thin on the ground - XP Pro has one as standard, and there is always free virtual network computing. But these are one-to-one tools, not perfectly suited to the larger task of administering and supporting networks. For this, you need a product along the lines of NetSupport Manager (NSM).
As well as a remote control, users get file transfer, chat and a hardware/software inventory. It's also possible to share control of a remote desktop, so you can walk a user through a problematical task. Remote Web access is available via the bundled ActiveX controls, so you can remotely control a client over the Internet direct from a browser.
Reassuringly, NSM worked right out of the box. Installation is a snap - you install the whole package on the "monitoring" PC and just the client on the ones to be monitored. This can be done remotely via a "deploy" feature.
The well-thought-out Explorer-like interface makes using NSM a very intuitive experience, and for most tasks we found no need to refer to the extensive manual. This is a major plus, considering the program's wide-ranging and complex functionality.
Verdict: Reasonably priced, very easy to use, and with a wide range of features, NetSupport Manager is the answer to every network-admin's prayer. Highly recommended. Note: We reviewed version 9.1. Version 9.5 now offers more client support across platforms. Visit www.pixel.com.au/html/products/netsupport_manager/netsupport_manager.htm for more details.
System requirements: IBM-compatible 486 or higher; DOS/Windows 95/98/NT/Me/2000/XP/2003/Linux/Mac OS X; 4MB RAM; 10MB hard disk space; IPX/SPX/NetBios/TCP/IP. Distributors: Pixel IT and Logical Connections. RRP: Prices range from $110 per seat (25-49); $104.50 per seat (50-99); $85.80 per seat (100-149); and $72.60 per seat (250-299)