Remote Technical Assistance

[This article is timely, since many people still need technical assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.]

Getting technical assistance can be awkward.

Traditionally, one would disconnect all the wires, take the offending device to a service shop, describe the issues, wait until it is fixed, return to the service shop, take the device home, plug it back in, and then see if it was = fixed. If the issues were not fixed, you would repeat the process until they are fixed.

A preferred approach is to have a technician come to you and address the issues while you wait … but this can involve a lot of travel time for the technician, and tie up the technician for extended periods, keeping him or her from helping others.

This is why remote technical assistance is invaluable. It saves your time in to-and-froing. It saves the technician’s travel time, and allows them to (potentially) multitask during long fixes. It’s also very helpful if you are shut in, or self isolating, for whatever reason.

The three main requirements for remote assistance are that the device has remote access features, is booting up, and has Internet access. If these requirements are not met, a technician can still potentially help over the phone. But if they are met, there are many remote assistance tools that can be used.

Technicians often have their own remote access tools like ConnectWise or TeamViewer that work with (and between) many platforms. Windows has a built-in tool called Remote Assistance. Google has Chrome Remote Desktop that easily be accessed by browsing to remotedesktop.google.com on most devices that use the Chrome browser.

These tools are easy to use and yet are very secure. They must be initiated by the end-user, but can be terminated by the end-user or the support person at any time. Once the connection is terminated, it must be re-initiated by the end-user (i.e., no “back doors” are left open).

There are even remote access/assistance tools that don’t require a device to be fully booting. One is called a DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller) which is specifically for Dell servers. Another is KVM-over-IP (keyboard-video-mouse over Internet Protocol). The advantage of these hardware devices is the ability to remotely access the BIOS as well as the operating system.

Note: Only give remote access of your computer to trusted and verified support technicians.

e-Transfers: Easy, Secure and Handy

I understand trepidation for using new technologies, but e-Transfers are very handy and have been around for a long time.

Interac, a Canadian interbank network that serves as the Canadian debit card system, has been around since 1984. They launched additional services, including e-Transfers, back in 1996.

The best description of e-Transfer comes straight from Interac’s FAQ: Interac e-Transfer is a fast, secure and convenient way to send money to anyone in Canada from within the security of your online banking service. It uses email or text messaging for fast notification to the recipient that a transfer has been sent, while the participating financial institutions transfer the funds using established and secure banking procedures.

All you need is a bank account with online access, an email address, and the email address or mobile phone number of the person you are sending money to. You initiate the e-Transfer either from your bank’s website, or from your bank’s app. If the recipient has enabled auto-deposit, it may automatically be deposited for them; otherwise, you may need to share a security question/answer for the deposit to be completed.

If prompted to create a security question/answer, make it a good one: something sufficiently long and complex so that 99% of people couldn’t guess it, and something the recipient either knows, or you can tell them with a method other than email/text.

e-Transfers are handy for sending money to businesses, friends, and family. The transfer limits are high (typically, it’s your client card’s daily access limit), the fees are low (or free), and the process is very fast and secure. When sending money to a business, you should probably ask what email address to send it to; but for person-to-person transfers, it’s pretty safe to assume you can send it to their regular email address or mobile number. If you accidentally send an e-Transfer to a landline, or the recipient gets the security answer wrong too many times, you may be informed that the transfer notification could not be delivered. It’s easy to cancel or redo e-Transfers in case of unforeseen issues.

And yes, it is very safe and secure.