Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soluto: Easy Tech Support for Mom and Dad

Techcrunch had a great article about how to provide tech support to your loved ones (or those who you like enough to provide support). The solution is from a company called Soluto, and they bill themselves as the Anti-Frustration Software company.

Soluto started out as a downloadable app for Joe User, but eventually they figured out that Joe User just wants their stuff to work, not figure out yet another tool that will tweak their computer. So what Soluto did was pretty genius: they decided to make their solution web-based, and market it to IT professionals (the founder calls them "techie people") like me.

Now, instead of my mom having to install the software herself and make decisions about what to turn off or on, and what to do about the web browser toolbars, etc., it is me who makes those decisions, remotely. All with little to no end-user interaction.

This means I can monitor and push software updates (hello, all you lonely Windows XP Security updates!), as well as reset her default browser to Chrome and search provider to Google should she get hijacked somehow. I know, a rare thing, right? Essential computer specs are there, too, like used/free space on hard drives, CPU, how much RAM, what motherboard and graphics cards... all the essentials. Other things you can do: with the click of a button, install cool apps like Skype, Dropbox, OpenOffice, Google Talk, Evernote and more. You can see when apps are non-responsive and/or crash.

To make boot time faster, Soluto lays out all the programs that start up at boot time, and arrange them in order of time it takes to fire up. From there, you can drill down to the ones that are safe to remove, the ones that are potentially removable, and ones that are required. The desktop version of the app told you how many seconds you've saved off the boot time, but this new web-based beta does not do that as of this writing.

You also have access to the end-user's computer protection including turning the firewall on and off and managing the virus scanning side of things in addition to Windows Updates.

Does this replace being there? Almost. You can't, for example, troubleshoot printing or driver problems or anything complicated like that yet... but remember, this is in beta and there's a lot more in the works as they listen to techies like me give them feedback. For the really tough problems (printer/scanner not working, some kind of thing (virus/malware) causing incredible slowness) or the infamous "I can't find my file" scenario, LogMeIn and a good Skype connection is always as good as being there. If LogMeIn's too complicated, they just launched a service called Join Me, which is desktop sharing in two clicks.

So the days of helping family with tech support tasks just got a little bit easier. For the really advanced stuff, there's LogMeIn/Join Me. For the rest of the small stuff like pushing upgrades and common things like setting the homepage or default web browser or basic maintenance tasks and monitoring the frustration level of the people you support, Soluto provides a great solution.