IT Pro Verdict
Zoho’s remote support product offers a robust and well-rounded free tier for SMBs on a budget, with excellent platform support, although businesses with more advanced needs may be better-served elsewhere
Well-rounded free tier
Flexible paid plans
Great multi-platform support
Excellent iOS app
Comparatively basic service
Cloud-hosted remote support doesn't get much easier than Zoho Assist - nor indeed more affordable. Small businesses may well find that the free basic service does everything they need, with support for one technician, unlimited sessions and unattended access to up to five computers. There's also built-in chat, clipboard sharing and support for Windows and Mac clients.
If your needs are greater, you can step up to the Standard, Professional or Enterprise plans - and there's no need to worry about locking yourself into the wrong one. Zoho's pay-as-you go policy lets you choose whether to be billed monthly or yearly, and you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel your contract whenever you want.
Regardless of which tier you're on, Zoho is very easy to use. When a technician initiates a remote session from the web console, a page opens with a unique nine-digit code, which can be sent to the user via email or SMS. Once the user has entered the correct credentials in their browser (or just clicked on the link in the email), the Assist runtime app kicks in and prompts them to authorise the connection. A nice touch is that you can reassure users that the request is legitimate by using custom templates that include details such as technician and company names.
Once the connection is accepted, a fully functional remote session opens in the technician's browser. A pop-out sidebar offers a range of useful extra tools: from here you can share your screen, lock the user's input devices or invite another technician to take a look. A separate Administrator Tools menu gives access to power controls, along with handy shortcuts to Windows management features including the Registry Editor, Task Scheduler, Disk Cleanup utility and Group Policy Editor.
There's a built-in file-transfer tool too, which - once the user has given their authorisation - lets you drag and drop files between the two systems. The user, meanwhile, gets a system tray app providing options to stop sharing, chat, swap screens and annotate whatever's on the display.
Platform support is top-notch: we were impressed with how easily Zoho handles support connections with Mac devices. All our MacBook users needed do was click the provided web link to download the Assist DMG package. Once they'd opened this and installed the client, the support session started right away.
For always-on access, you can also install the Assist unattended app on client devices. It's available for Windows, Mac, Linux and even the Raspberry Pi, and once it's installed the system appears in the technician portal for one-click access. For enhanced security, Zoho lets you place clients into groups to determine which technicians can see them; if the user is present when an incoming request is received, they can choose to block it, and you can optionally give them the ability to close and uninstall the service.
The cherry on top is the Assist iOS app. After logging our iPad into our account, it took a mere few taps to create remote sessions, connect to unattended clients and use the app's quick menu to restart Windows clients, shut them down or lock them.
Zoho Assist is a great option for organisations of any size looking for cloud-hosted remote support. It's easy to use, platform support is a cut above the rest and Zoho's flexible licensing plans mean you can always scale up or down if your needs - or your budget - change.
Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.
Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.