GotoMeeting works, but is total overkill for my 1:1 conversations and is expensive at $40-50/month. Yugma works, and is cheaper, but thanks to its Java interface, 8 of 10 times I wanted to use it with clients they couldn’t launch it. The web marketing discussion turned into a frustrating Java Virtual machine discussion. Using Windows Remote Desktop works, for one person – the one doing the connecting.
There are other tools too, but most of them are “in the way” of the conversation – distracting noise with tabs hanging off the windows or floating configuration boxes, blah, blah blah!
VNC has Been Around Forever. But It Was Designed for Geeks.
VNC is old school. But in the past it required a well choreographed dance of launches and clicks to make the listening viewers work. And the client/customer had to install the whole app – faced with a myriad of confusing features.
So I had never really considered VNC (Virtual Network Computing) because it was too geeky for clients. In my mind it fell into the same category as telnet, SSH, and navigating VI. Stuff I took great pride in being able to master but would simply frustrate my clients. I’ve used VNC and tunneling of various types for 15 years, but things had to change when less tech-savvy clients were waiting for me to show them something.
Here’s How Singleclick Works
The client has to do this:
- Unzip it to their desktop.
- Run it when asked.
- Done.. nothing else
You (consultant) need to install it: This took me 20 minutes including configuring the Singleclick config file
- Download it and Install it on your Windows based PC.
- Configure your firewall to accept connections. You can configure it on a variety of ports for security.
- In the install directory there will be a folder containing a configuration file, some icons, and the core of an application.
- Adjust the config file and add your company logo. Here you identify the ports you’ll use, the host name of your VNC server, and other information. I used the funny cat because I can always tell when the application has been run for the first time on their end. They chuckle.
- “Compile” the applet at the UltraVNC website’s “SC Creator Tool.” It spits out an .exe file ready to run on any Windows computer.
- Run a virus scan on the resulting application just in case. This is one time.
- Give that file to all of your clients using Windows. Tip: You need to ZIP the EXE so it will pass through email and anti-virus systems.
- You run the Listening VNC viewer on your end whenever you’re about to do a call.
- When you want to do a connection, you ask the client to run the program, and click on “Internet Support” on the SingleClick applet. It is configured to hit your IP address (or in my case host name) thanks to the info you put in the little config file.
- The system pings my VNC server and a dialog appears….”are you sure you want to allow a connection” I click “Yes”
- I’m now looking at my clients’ desktop along with them. Clean, fast and no confusion. No windows or tabs hanging off the side. You can do it plainly or with 128 bit encryption.
- When done, the system shuts itself down and uninstalls itself from memory. It can never be initiated without permission at both ends of the wire.
- By the way – you don’t have to use an ugly cat. You can use your nice corporate logo. :-)
- If the client has a webcam, you can run Skype and have a pretty decent virtual meeting!
What about Firewalls?
Not an issue as far as I can tell. The client’s initiation of a conversation is akin to a simple ping, and since I initiate the inbound connection on my end, things just work.
After struggling with Yugma for months, this system now works wonders. Every single client has been able to use it flawlessly and we’ve saved hours (and gallons of $4/gal gas) getting little things done. It’s transparent tech the way it’s supposed to be – out of the way of what you’re actually trying to do.
It’s spontaneous and well designed for a busy consultant.
What’s the Catch?
The downside is that the system is not intended for multiple viewers. It’s really just a quick and simple way to get your clients’ screen in front of you. It’s at least 10 times easier than any other method I’ve seen now that Singleclick is in place.