There are many ways to work with clients remotely and they vary in capability and cost. Until recently Intuit included free remote access to QuickBooks through a subset of Webex for Accountant users. If you, as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, relied on this service, you may now be looking at other solutions. Since I am often working with clients on linking QuickBooks to other programs, I never relied on this solution, but for those who did it will be missed, especially since it is hard to beat ‘free’.
As you decide what route to go there are many factors to consider. These include price, attended vs. unattended access, reports, security, printing and usability.
For some firms moving clients to hosted QuickBooks may be the right answer. But, you probably won’t get all your clients to migrate to a hosted environment so you may need to explore the options. There are many choices including Logmein, TeamViewer, GoToAssist, GotoMyPC, Bomgar and more. While my tool of choice is GoToAssist, I sometimes rely on GotoMeeting, Logmein or Join.me.
For me GoToAssist offers the most flexibility. I can set it up for attended or unattended access, although most of the time I use attended access since I primarily provide consulting and training. I can have multiple sessions which help if I need to login to both the server and a workstation, for example when troubleshooting QuickBooks multi-user mode issues. I also like the reporting. Shortly after I finish a session I can pull up reports that show how long I was logged in. This can be especially useful if I forgot to track my time (yes I still do mostly hourly billing). For firms with multiple users you can also see who used the system and when.
GoToAssist offers a chat capability so that if we are not on the phone but the person is on the other end we can “pop” messages back and forth. I am amazed at how many of my clients don’t have a phone near the server! Another great feature is that I can change the screen resolution on my side without impacting the client. When the font is small I can enlarge it so that I can read the screen without changing the client’s resolution. I also find it useful that I can send a reboot if necessary. The client will have to put in their reboot password but they don’t have to reconnect. I can also send a ctrl-alt-delete command if needed. GoToAssist also lets me choose which screen I am seeing, and to move around, if the client has multiple monitors.
GoTo Assist doesn’t offer print capability but I can print to PDF and then transfer the file to me. GoToAssist offers a built in file transfer capability which makes it easy and secure to transfer large files. My clients like the security of GoToAssist, because once the session is over I can’t get in again without permission and it doesn’t leave a big footprint behind. Aside from printing the other big downside of GoToAssist is that you can’t go from a Mac to the PC. I can work on a client’s Mac computer without a problem but can’t switch it so that the Mac client can see my PC. This limits the ability of GoToAssist for demos to those using a Mac. If someone is using a PC, I can connect and then switch so that they see my screen.
Every so often I run into someone that can’t get into GoToAssist for some reason. In that case, I use Join.me. Join.me doesn’t require payment, just go to the website and have the user start a meeting. Then you join the meeting with the code. If you use it a lot you may have to setup a login, but if the other party is starting the meeting then this won’t matter. Join.me is owned by LogMeIn and they offer paid versions with more features including a meeting scheduler, customization and cloud storage.
When you are doing a presentation you may need lots of people to login to your system. In those cases, I generally use GoToMeeting. I have access to an account through my business partners, so it is my tool of choice. However, if you only need 3 participants, including yourself, there’s a free version of GoToMeeting that you can use.
My business partners also have LogMeIn setup for many of their clients. They have a LogMeIn Central account where they can setup lots of workstations and put them into groups. If I need to work on one those clients I can login to the central control and choose the appropriate computer to work on. If I have the appropriate credentials I can get in, do the work and get out.
If you are accessing larger numbers of computers and mostly doing unattended, there are advantages to LogMeIn and the management and organization tools provided. LogMeIn also offers remote print capability.
While most of the products offer the ability to login from mobile devices I find that this is better in theory than in practice. Trying to maneuver around a PC from an IPhone isn’t easy, purely due to size. From a tablet device it is generally more practical but may still be limiting. If the feature is important to you make sure you test to decide if the navigation will work for your eyes and fingers.
Most programs offer a 30 day free trial so you can test them out and decide what is best for you. Once you choose one, I recommend putting a link on your website if feasible. This makes it easy to have clients get to you and gets them to your website.
In summary – decide what features you need then try a few to find what works well for you.