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Freelancers and small business owners, how do you handle product delivery and support to your remote clients? Example: I have a client who knows enough about ArcMap to add a shapefile, turn layers on and off, print a map, etc. - GIS isn't their thing, they uses it to make maps and manage digital data storage. When I have a deliverable, I spend alot time on the phone troubleshooting the deployment. Sure I can use GoToMeeting, get onto the remote box, and install everything, but its $50 a month, man! I'm also thinking of setting up a FTP site, which will be easy enough and will help with delivery of the product. But are there good options to GoToMeeting that anyone here can provide feedback on?

EDIT: Lots of good stuff being shared here, but please keep in mind I need something incredibly simple for my client to install and work with, before they can hand control over to me.

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Whoever made this CW, thanks! –  Chad Cooper Mar 16 '11 at 22:50
    
Note some file sharing (dropbox, snapdrive, A-drive etc) are blocked by corporate company's, so not accessible by the client - so secure FTP is the only alternative to supply data on tight deadlines... –  Mapperz Mar 17 '11 at 13:52
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Freelancers should support the Freelancers site that is now in commitment phase in Area51. –  Kirk Kuykendall May 19 '11 at 14:48
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9 Answers 9

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've used ReadyTalk, which has per-minute pricing.

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Interesting...and then do you bill it to the client? –  Chad Cooper Mar 16 '11 at 21:07
    
Yeah, it's been a while, but last time I used it they provide a pretty detailed usage report with their bill. –  Kirk Kuykendall Mar 16 '11 at 21:11
    
So I decided to go with ReadyTalk. I called them the other day to confirm that I could control the remote box, and after a few rings, a HUMAN BEING answered the phone! Addressed my questions easily, and I signed up in about 5 mins on their site. After that, ANOTHER human being actually called me to talk about my new account - very surprising and pleasant. Just used the web conferencing to do a remote deployment and it worked flawlessly. Got cut off once, but pretty sure it was my internet connection going down. Session was 2.5 hours long. Product was super simple for my client to use as well. –  Chad Cooper Apr 13 '11 at 17:35
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@Chad With so many humans on the payroll, I hope they can compete with the others. Are you sure it wasn't a bot? –  Kirk Kuykendall Apr 13 '11 at 17:40
    
ReadyTalk also made it on Inc. Magazine's Top 50 Small Company Workplaces for 2011. –  Chad Cooper Jun 16 '11 at 14:03
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Skype does screen sharing and has widespread deployment outside of techie culture. My deliverables are usually code, not data, but it has come in handy a couple of times to troubleshoot/teach.

Also, MSN has "remote assistance" built in.

And finally, there's a heap of screen sharing services out there -- others are giving better answers than me with regards to them.

I'd highly recommend you drop the "FTP site" and just use Dropbox: Affiliate link | Normal link. (I'm not above getting a little bit of extra space for free. ;) )

Workflow: drop deliverables into a subfolder under the "public" folder. Right click, copy the public link location, give it to the client. Wait for them to download it, then remove it from Dropbox to free your space back up. You get 2 gigs for free, which if you're only using it to transfer deliverables, is a pretty decent amount.

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Excellent! Had no idea Skype does screen sharing. And Dropbox sounds like a great plan as well. Thanks. –  Chad Cooper Mar 16 '11 at 21:28
    
A quick caveat: I'm not sure if it has remote control -- I've always used it as an "over the shoulder" tool. –  Dan S. Mar 17 '11 at 0:02
    
+1 on Dropbox. I upload stuff for clients there all the time. –  KevinMayall Sep 10 '12 at 17:48
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Webex and Filezilla Server for sFTP (with files compressed jZip)

http://www.webex.com/howto/index.html

(The 'Host' can give control to users to their desktop/applications and it quicky solves issues - good for Demo's)

http://filezilla-project.org/

http://www.jzip.com/

*Fast Broadband 15Mbps+ (or faster) helps deliver large files fast.

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+1 Offering compressed downloads is my method of choice. –  Nathanus Mar 16 '11 at 22:21
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I found TeamViewer to be a really good way to allow me to log into clients computers remotely when they needed "hands-on" training, even though I might be hundreds of miles away.

Its free for personal use.

Review @download.com

Corporate website

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Doesn't LogMeIn solve your problems?

LogMeIn has a free version where you can "take over" and be the pilot.

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After the initial trial LMI starts charging, too, and they don't make it easy to notice that's happening or to stop the charges. –  whuber Mar 16 '11 at 21:22
    
I still use a free log me in. It's been installed for ages and i've never had to supply a credit card or anything. Oh and it's not a crackware or whatever. –  George Mar 16 '11 at 21:25
    
Thanks (+1). There is indeed a limited version that remains free. I see they've also changed from monthly to annual pricing. –  whuber Mar 16 '11 at 21:28
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Excellent suggestions so far, especially Skype (gmail now offers filesharing, screen sharing, and some other tidbits, though I've found gmail glitchy with more than one user, like a conference with 3 or more people sharing screens, documents, files etc)!

One thing I always try first for delivery is a Torrent!

particularly, Utorrent. On the delivery side, ports will need to be forwarded (usually done through your router/firewall.) but the end-user only needs to install Utorrent or another P2P software and have access to your torrent file.

The torrent can be password protected, individual IP connections can be monitored and explicit access rules can be set, amongst other things.

Torrent transfers require you to have a broadband connection though the transfer rate can be super fast and if need be, throttled. You may need a dedicated PC/Server to host files for long term distribution. I use my old laptop on a cooling pad for overnighters.

Be aware of the stigma you may face when using P2P about Piracy and prepare yourself for some arguments, even with your ISP...

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Torrents are designed for mass distribution with multiple seeders and downloaders. For one-to-one transfers it's overly complicated. –  Sean Mar 17 '11 at 14:17
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I haven't yet seen anyone have difficulties opening a Torrent file. Most people are familiar with these through their own personal use. Can you give an example of 'complicated'? The only time I did experience a complication was when my settings were not configured correctly. This involved typing a number into a box and clicking OK. A small oversight. There is also the complication of IT restrictions around the use of P2P software due mostly to piracy concerns, rarely security. –  SaultDon Mar 17 '11 at 15:49
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UltraVNC Single Click http://www.uvnc.com/addons/singleclick.html

You have to configure your router but usually works pretty well.

You just need to run vncviewer in listen mode to receive the incoming connection:
vncviewer.exe -listen

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I've used this quite a bit too - it's cross-platform and opensource. –  djq Mar 17 '11 at 10:25
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I am quiete amazed not to see in the list software project management and tracking tools like Trac or Redmine, actually used by most successful open source projects.

I find them invaluable, any software developer or team should seriously consider to use one of them (together with a SCM) in the workflow they adopt.

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Here at Latitude we use GoToAssist, which is very similar to GoToMeeting:

  • Made by Citrix, so corporate IT departments aren't offended by it
  • Client-side installer is a java applet that unfolds itself (escalating its own privileges, once the client has approved)
  • Client-side program uninstalls itself on exit
  • Gives you (the technician) immediate control over keyboard and mouse. The desktop is exposed, so it doesn't work well over remote desktop connections, you have to have a "real" computer desktop to work with.
  • Gives you ability to extract information about installed software - so you don't have to ask if the XYZ package is installed, you can just get a report.
  • Works with multiple screens
  • Can perform direct file transfer, PC-to-PC (although if your upload speed is slow this can be tedious)
  • NO support for builtin VoIP
  • Can perform "unattended support" which lets you beam back in to a session without the client being present. I've never used this feature myself.
  • A bit more expensive than GoToMeeting

From what I understand, though, the client experience certainly meets the extremely simple requirement.

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