It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Zoho makes remote access software – the Chennai, India-based company makes seemingly every kind of business apps you can think of. What’s surprising is how different Zoho Assist feels from its competitors.
Zoho Assist was built with technical support in mind. The interface, which runs entirely in the browser, is packed with bells and whistles. Some features I haven’t encountered in any other remote access application include the ability to take control of Android and iOS devices. All this, combined with a decent free version for personal use, makes Assist an attractive option. However, please note that this application is primarily intended for IT administrators and is also organized as such. Beginners should not start here.
How much does Zoho Assist cost?
Zoho Assist offers a free version for personal use that can access up to five unattended computers and unlimited one-time remote sessions (one at a time). This is generous, as most of the applications in this space don’t offer a free version – with the exception of Editors’ Choice winner TeamViewer, which offers all features for free for personal use.
Paid plans required for business use start at $12 per month or $120 per year for Standard. This package includes file transfer, multi-monitor compatibility, voice chat and more. To get video chat and whiteboarding, you need the Enterprise service tier for $28 per month or $288 per year.
Prices are competitive, but may not be the best deals out there. Our Editors’ Choice for paid remote access software is RemotePC, which starts at $19.99 per year with unattended access to a single computer and unlimited one-time remote sessions. Teamviewer’s paid plans start at $414 per year, which is significantly higher than Zoho Assist, but Teamviewer also has a more generous free version. Both apps significantly outperform Zoho Assist in streaming quality, which I’ll get into later. Zoho Assist is worth considering for the price, especially if your main focus is on providing remote support.
What operating systems does Zoho Assist run on?
Zoho Assist can be used to access devices running Windows (XP and above), macOS (10.9 Mavericks and above), Linux (latest versions), Android (5.0 Lollipop and above), and iOS (version 11.0 and above, but access without supervision is not supported).
Zoho Assist has full access to devices from the web browser or the app on mobile devices. There are desktop versions of Zoho Assist for Windows, macOS, and Linux, but this is just the web version that runs in a dedicated window. You don’t get any extra features.
Zoho Assist runs primarily in the browser and requires an account. Sign up at zoho.com/assist(Opens in a new window). The service opens to the remote support screen, which is to access someone else’s computer.
Click on Start now generates a link that you can share with anyone whose computer you want to use. This link will guide your customer through the process of downloading and running the application that shares their screen with you, after which you can take control.
If you want to access your devices, you can also go to the Unattended Access tab. You can add devices on the Deployment tab, which has a blue Add Device link. Click on it to generate an implementation link that you can use to install and configure the software on a device. If this sounds a bit stupid, it is: this is software built specifically for IT people and as such it won’t hold your hand.
Stuttering but does the job
I set up unattended access on a Windows 10 PC and an Android phone and then accessed those devices from a Macbook, a Windows laptop, and an iPad Mini. In all cases, I found Zoho Access’ streaming quality to be a lot lower than competitors such as TeamViewer and RemotePC, regardless of which browser I was using. It is possible to perform basic tasks such as editing documents or browsing the web, but anything related to images or media is a non-starter, even on a local network. Zoho Access worked consistently throughout my testing and should be more than good enough for the kind of tech support situations the software is built around.
And there’s more to it than just controlling the screen offered here. The Diagnostics button in the left menu bar, which is only offered when connected to a Windows computer, allows you to run the Command Prompt or PowerShell, close applications from the Task Manager, and view the specifications of each piece of hardware connected to a Windows computer. It’s a lot of power, and I wish it wasn’t limited to Windows.
The diagnostic button lets you find out a lot about a device without having to move your mouse, which is great if you’re trying to diagnose a problem. You also get buttons for quick launch of the Control Panel and System Properties, which reduces the time spent scrolling through the start menu on a remote computer. These features save time for technical support personnel.
Access to mobile devices
Zoho Assist allows you to remotely control Android and Apple mobile devices, a feature most remote access software doesn’t offer. It works best on Android where Zoho Assist can fully control the device. Performance is not great. Even with the two devices side by side, there was a delay. But I could use a real keyboard to chat with family on Snapchat – not its intended use, but it was pretty cool. Navigating is tricky as Android is not designed to be operated with a mouse and keyboard.
The experience is different on Apple devices, where Zoho Assist can only display the screen and not take over anything. It’s disappointing, but inevitable given Apple’s tighter security restrictions. Still, it can be a useful way to talk someone through a problem with their iPad, a handy trick for your toolbox, such as when giving tech support to family members. The display quality isn’t great, but it’s more than enough to figure out what’s going on.
File and other functions
To transfer files, use a drag and drop interface or, if you prefer, the standard system “open” menu. The lack of a two-panel file transfer tool is disappointing, but probably impossible given the web-based nature of the platform. The only remote access software with a convenient two-pane file transfer interface are RemotePC and GoToMyPC.
Zoho Assist offers a chat feature for real-time communication and an option to leave a digital note if you want to access someone’s machine when they’re not there and let them know what you’ve been up to. Video and audio chat are included, offered through a browser window. The whiteboard function is called Annotation and can only be activated from the session window on the remote device.
One notable missing feature is external audio from the accessed machine. In other words, you cannot hear what is happening on the remote machine. Zoho Assist is the only remote access software I tested without this feature.
A mixed bag
Zoho Assist is not for beginners, and on purpose. It is remote access software designed from scratch for people who provide customer support. The free version gives a lot of power to those of us who often end up as unpaid customer support for friends and family, while the full versions come with all kinds of features that a professional needs. And Zoho Assist could work for both groups.
What makes it hard to recommend is the streaming quality, which is very poor compared to the best remote access software, namely TeamViewer, our Editor’s Choice winner for personal use, and RemotePC, our Editor’s Choice pick for business use. Both apps offer better streaming quality and are a better value for the given usage scenarios. Zoho Assist is worth considering, especially if you will primarily be using remote access software to provide support.
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