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First look: Citrix GoToManage brings desktop management to the cloud

Citrix Online has added features to its remote desktop management tool GoToManage and an iPad version. Check out this review to learn the pros and cons.

Citrix Online recently released a free version of GoToManage for iPad -- a service based offering for corporate desktop and server management that requires (almost) no components to be running locally.

Citrix launched GoToManage in early 2010 and has added features such as XenServer Monitoring since then. The company now offers a free 14-day trial and, because we haven't previously looked at GoToManage, I figured I'd try out the whole package on a few co-workers' computers.

GoToManage has a few main capabilities, all accessible from a common interface:

  • Remote support
  • Software and hardware inventory
  • Monitoring and alerting.

Let's take a look at each one of these areas.

Remote support
When it comes to remote support, you may already be familiar with GoToAssist and think that this sounds kind of the same. So, how is GoToManage different? It turns out that it's not, because when you launch a remote support session from the GoToManage interface (or from the free GoToManage iPad app), the tool that pops up is branded as GoToAssist.

Since I hadn't used GoToAssist before, using it through GoToManage for remote desktop support was as nice as any I've ever used. You can tweak the display for user performance, pass files back and forth, chat and pull up a report giving complete system specs. If you download an unattended installer, you can do this remoting without the user being present on the other end. (This is Windows only, but that just means that Mac users will always have to be there when the support technicians are getting into their machines.)

The inventory of your environment is taken using an application called the Crawler, which is the one server component of GoToManage that has to be installed on an actual machine. The Crawler can be on any Windows machine, wherever you want it, and after it's all set up, you shouldn't have to worry about it very often. It uses WMI calls to poll all the machines on your network (or just some of the machines, like in my case where I just scanned a few of my friends' desktops because I don't have domain admin rights and, more importantly, I don't want our IT guy to get mad at me).

The monitoring functions can provide "real time" alerts, but since there's no client left on the devices on your network, you have to wait until the Crawler gets around to scanning each device. You can adjust the frequency of scans, which is fine for keeping track of inventory changes or disk utilization, but you won't want to depend on it for really critical server monitoring.

The monitoring and the remote assist functions are together in one interface with only one login required, but aren't really integrated. You can use the inventory list to push out instances of the unattended remote support client, but that's about it.

iPad app
The iPad app provides the remote support capabilities only. If you want access to monitoring reports and alerts, you will have to use the existing online interface (which you could always do using your iPad's browser).

The remote support features on the iPad app are streamlined. There's no file transfer -- screen sharing is only one-way and you lose the ability to run a diagnostic report on the machine you're supporting. Remotely navigating a desktop designed for a mouse will always be a bit cumbersome when using your fingers on a tablet, but that's a known hazard of any remote-desktop iPad app.

Overall, everything seems to work fine. The remote support is good and the new iPad app is great for a wide range of use cases. On the other hand, setting up the Crawler is not as easy as it could be. The not-quite real-time monitoring may be a deal-breaker for some, though Citrix touts the lack of an agent on each machine as an advantage.

Also, for being a cloud-based solution, some might not like that the Crawler has to live on a machine in your environment. But overall, it does what they say it does, and getting it set up sure is easier than a traditionally installed product like Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager or Altiris Client Management Suite.

Read more from Jack Madden

Jack Madden
blogs about all things desktop virtualization-related at (What that really means is that he blogs about storage, management, hypervisors hardware, consumerization, cloud computing and a myriad of other topics.) Madden is also the guy that gets sent out to talk to lots of vendors and try out all of their products. Madden has been involved behind the scenes at BriForum events since 2008, and was the Media Editor for before it became a part of TechTarget. Follow him on Twitter @JackMadden.

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