Using Remote Assistance Across a NAT

Remote Assistance has been significantly enhanced and improved in Windows Vista to allow novice users to request (and expert users to offer) assistance over corporate networks or even the Internet. If you want to learn more about it, you can read the chapter from the Vista Resource Kit on this topic which is reproduced here with permission from Microsoft.

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Now back to talking about Remote Assistance in Vista…

Did you know that you can use Remote Assistance to help users when their computers are located behind a router configured to use Network Address Translation (NAT)? There are limitations on how this can work however. Specifically, if your NAT supports Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) then Remote Assistance should be able to obtain a global IPv4 address that can enable anyone to connect to your computer and help you with your problem. And if your NAT supports Teredo/IPv6, then a Remote Assistance expert who is also running Vista and is Teredo-enabled should be able to connect to your computer and help you.

The only problem is, how do you know whether your NAT is the right type to support Remote Assistance connections across it? Your NAT must be either a restricted or cone NAT to support Remote Assistances—symmetric NATs won’t work. And how do you know if your router supports UPnP? Well it turns out Microsoft has provided a tool that can query your NAT/router for this information, it’s called the Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool and can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/tools/igd/default.mspx target="new". The test takes only a few minutes to run and provides the option of viewing a detailed report concerning your router if needed. IT departments who need to support users who work from home can have users use this tool to determine whether users’ home routers will support Remote Assistance connections, and the test results page also includes a link to where you an find a list of routers that have received the Windows Vista logo.

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