Higher Ed IT Pros: DON’T Use Online Meeting Tools for Remote Support

Chuck Leddy.

Chuck Leddy

March 15, 2021


Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, institutions of higher education have shifted to either digital-only or hybrid (digital + in-person) learning. Due to the rapidity and extent of these shifts, IT teams have struggled to meet the surging demand for scalable, secure and responsive remote support. While short-term workarounds may have made sense in the chaotic early days of the pandemic, it’s time to take a longer term approach to managing remote support.

5 Big Drawbacks of “MacGyvering” Online Meeting Tools

IT professionals in higher ed, confronted with surging demand for remote support during the pandemic’s early days, made the most from a tough, resource-scarce situation. Many took their cues from legendary 1980s TV hero MacGyver, renowned for his resourcefulness at repurposing whatever tools were on hand. For instance, MacGyver once improvised a pair of boots from duct tape and a plastic floor mat.

With that same MacGyver mindset and facing mounting pressures (and insufficient resources of time and budget), many higher ed IT pros understandably repurposed online meeting tools (OMTs) to provide remote support for their users. In fact, 77% of IT teams turned to OMTs to address their tech-support needs, according to a new survey by Education Dive’s studioID and Rescue by LogMeIn. While these improvisions sometimes did the job in the short term, they have a number of fundamental and long-term drawbacks for users and IT pros alike. As a result, nearly half the IT pros surveyed said they were evaluating new technology tools to help with support services. Here’s why:

  1. OMTs were never designed for remote support, and they don’t provide a scalable, secure and sustainable solution for that purpose. We can only assume that MacGyver would have preferred to have purpose-built boots rather than make them out of a plastic floor mat and some duct tape.
  2. When using OMTs, triage and resolution process are very manual, like capturing system information and diagnostics from multiple locations, which takes more time and limits a technician’s ability to help more users in less time.
  3. Difficulties supporting different devices. OMTs aren’t designed for users to share their full screen on a mobile device, for instance. Even those meeting tools that do offer this capability have limitations around seeing what applications are installed, pushing applications to different users, and transferring files.
  4. IT pros can’t go in unattended, meaning the end user must be available for the entire OMT session, even if the agent doesn’t require help.
  5. Misaligned security measures. “There is basically zero in-session audit trail with OMTs, especially if you’re using a free version,” says Chris Savio, product marketing manager at Rescue. “If an end user claims that you breached personal information or installed malware, you can’t trace that back.”

Little wonder that after confronting all these OMT drawbacks, IT pros are now evaluating purpose-built support solutions. Hacking OMTs just won’t cut it for sustaining remote support.

5 Advantages of Purpose-Built Remote Service Tools

  1. Reduces headaches. There’s a perception that OMTs are easier to use since consumers are familiar with them, but starting a remote support session with a purpose-built tool is just as easy as starting an online meeting.“A purpose-built remote support tool makes it easier on everyone,” Savio said, “end users can continue doing their work while IT pros do their work.” With unattended access, IT can resolve issues without needing the end user present.
  2. Identifies issues faster. A remote support tool can retrieve specific configuration and diagnostic information about the user’s device. Remote support technicians can get a quick summary of processes, services and applications to rapidly identify the issue without having to dig around manually.
  3. Supports any device. The “bring your own device” (BYOD) environments that higher ed supports means that end users may have multiple operating systems or devices. The ability to support mobile devices has become particularly important — research from Wiley notes that 56% of online college students used a smartphone or tablet to complete some of their course-related activities.A purpose-built tool makes supporting any device easier for both IT and end users. Agents can quickly identify and address issues from a central dashboard without the need to navigate the user’s device. They can address alerts, manage connections, and push settings with one click, as well as having a live view of the end user’s remote iOS or Android screen.
  4. Scales support without altering headcount. A purpose-built remote support tool enables IT to optimize resources by remotely supporting more users simultaneously. Agents can toggle between up to 10 sessions at once.Instant chat is another feature of most remote support tools that enables multi-session handling. Agents can chat pre-session to qualify the level of support needed, which helps speed response times and ensures that customers are quickly directed to appropriate help.
  5. Ensures security of remote sessions. Security is always a primary concern, but becomes even more critical when remote users work on unmanaged networks, as is common with students and faculty. To improve security, support sessions should be protected with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, and all support sessions should have an audit trail for sessions run, background actions taken and recorded remote control sessions and stored in an encrypted format that can be queried later.Obtaining and tracking end-user permissions is essential. OMTs simply don’t provide the level of control and transparency to the end user, while purpose-built remote support tools do.

Better Remote Support Today and Tomorrow

The pandemic will eventually subside, and higher ed will return to in-person learning (primarily). But the pre-pandemic “normal” isn’t coming back. Faculty and students have spent a year in remote and hybrid learning environments. Their experiences have irretrievably transformed how higher education is delivered and perceived.

No matter what the “next normal” looks like, IT pros will need to offer support to remote learners, faculty and staff. As such, institutions of higher education should look at remote IT support as a long-term investment required to ensure scalable and secure support

With due respect to MacGyver, purpose-built tools like Rescue are simply better long-term solutions than improvised workarounds. For more insights on how higher ed IT departments are navigating the future of flexible campus support, download the Higher Ed Dive report Closing the Gap With Remote IT Support.

Closing the gap with remote IT support.  How higher ed can scale remote support to meet the dramatic increase in demand.

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