Windows users have what feels like a never-ending list of remote support software options available. That's great, but it does make me wonder about the state of remote Linux support software.
In this article, I'll share what options are available for Linux users for remote support and additional work-a-rounds for remote Linux support.
Having remote support for Linux work with one release, then completely stopping Linux support with the next application release is a frustrating experience. Sometime ago, we watched this happen with Splashtop. What's even lazier on their part, is that they can't be bothered to remove the obsolete Linux packages.
Then you had options like Mikogo. They went from supporting remote support for Linux users to acknowledging in a blog post that this is no longer the case. To be fair, the software is still available if you know where to look for it. However it's not a good idea to rely on unsupported software.
My advice is to avoid programs that offer unsupported versions of Linux remote support applications. It might not seem like a big deal, but running an outdated Linux distribution just to run a specific application is a terrible idea. Instead, just keep reading – there are some great alternatives out there.
Not that surprising, but there are actually some pretty good enterprise grade remote desktop support solutions available. And try as I may, I doubt I know of them all. That said, here are some of the best known of the bunch.
Bomgar (Closed Source)– It's expensive, but Bomgar is a well known remote support tool used for handling multiple Linux desktops, along with other platforms. Besides being an excellent solution for providing support for Linux, Windows and OS X, this tool also allows you to support iOS and Android devices as well. For people who are in the support industry, this ability to support mobile platforms remotely is a huge asset. Taking things even further, Bomgar even offers live video streaming for folks trying to setup a router or other items that require a set of eyes on the situation.
Netop (Closed Source) – I've looked at a lot of Bomgar alternatives. And while there are many, most of them that I found don't offer Linux remote support like Bomgar does. Luckily Netop was one option that supports Linux with open arms. While it may lack the features found with Bomgar, it does offer cross platform remote support that includes iOS. One thing I liked is that Netop explains very clearly that upgrades are always free.
eHorus (Closed Source) – This last enterprise grade remote Linux support tool is still in an open beta. That said, eHorus not half bad considering that's its a beta product. I like that all installed clients are visible and accessible from the provided web control panel. What I didn't care for was the lackluster Linux instructions. Thankfully, I was able to figure out which ports needed to be accessible and where to add needed login details to the config file. Despite this, I still found myself battling errors trying to get the daemon going reliably. Perhaps as it develops, it'll be a decent option worth revisiting. Assuming the remote daemons run for you, this would also provide you with a means of providing support to multiple desktops from one web based control center.
Not everyone needs a hardcore remote Linux support application to manage multiple people. Some of us just need to manage one or two. The options below provide you with just that – a simple way to offer remote support to an individual.
TeamViewer> (Closed Source) – Despite their issues with "abused accounts"...TeamViewer remains a major player in the remote desktop game. Thankfully, TeamViewer did indeed improve security significantly by forcing all new instances of TeamViewer to be approved by email. So instead of simply logging in and accessing that person's account, the user must prove their identity before gaining remote access to anything.
TeamViewer supports unattended access, which is very useful. For the most part, I think that TeamViewer is arguably one of the easier solutions to provide remote Linux support. Best of all, so long as you're only using it for limited uses, one can utilize it free of cost. But if you find yourself using it professionally, you'll want to buy a license. Lastly, it runs in a WINE wrapper. If this is a problem for you, then keep reading as there are alternatives.
Chrome Remote Desktop (Closed Source) – Early on when Chrome first became available to Linux users, I found that Google's Chrome Remote Desktop worked pretty well. It's not much help if the remote user can't open up Chrome, but overall it's pretty decent. Like TeamViewer, this remote desktop option provides you with an easy to use application that works easily. You can also provide unattended remote support to Linux PCs if you're logged in as the same user. Otherwise, you must rely on the remote user to provide you with a special key to access their machine. Chrome Remote Desktop works on anything that has Chrome and the addon installed.
NoMachine (Closed Source) – This is the application I use for remote Linux support. The latest release of NoMachine is outstanding and my goto favorite at the moment. Unlike the other two options above, however, you do need to have a static IP for the remote target or a dynamic DNS situation so that you can login to your remote PC over the Internet. But if that's setup ahead of time, then the rest of the process is dead simple and very accessible. As many of you likely know, NoMachine uses NX technology to provide you with encrypted security without the lag of trying to X forward through SSH. It's fast, pleasant to use and I think most people who try it will fall in love with it.
X2Go (Open Source) – SSH is outstanding for remote terminal sessions. But to be blunt, X2GO leaves a lot to be desired when using it to handle remote X instances. Thankfully, it provides a relatively decent (faster than any VNC client) X session experience to most remote desktop environments. As remote Linux support applications go, it's up there with NoMachine in terms of providing a great project.
Some of you might be wondering why I didn't include VNC (and the countless clients available), RDP (a Microsoft product), or perhaps OpenVPN. The reason is simple – these are not great tools for Linux remote desktop support. VNC alone, offers atrocious speed and leaves a lot to be desired.
I also realize that by no means do I know of every single application available that can offer decent remote support for end users. Perhaps you know of a few great titles that work with Linux and offer a fairly easy setup process? If you do know of a few titles, hit the Comments and tell me about it.