A free chat for a company: Network Assistant vs. MyChat

  1. A brief review of the program for communication — Network Assistant
    1. No digital signature
    2. Software requires administrator rights during installation
    3. Chat installer disadvantages
    4. Network Assistant can't work with UNICODE
    5. Sent messages get lost
    6. Bulletin board and required public opened shared network
    7. Nassi in Ubuntu Linux
    8. Impossible message and file sending to offline users
    9. Nassi does not work via NAT and proxy
    10. Network Assistant chat and Windows Terminal Server
    11. Issues with Nassi security
    12. Other flaws in Nassi
  2. Comparison of Network Assistant and MyChat self-hosted messenger
  3. Recommendation regarding switching to MyChat

1. A brief review of the program for communication — Network Assistant


Network Assistant is a program for communicating ina local network without server. The last version (4.5.0.2668) released on May 25, 2009, created by developers from Ufa, Bashkortostan republic, Russia.

Network Assistant interface

The program has not been updated for a long time, but the official website is working. The last changes made on December 23, 2019 року.

It should be noticed that developers did a good job with announcements and a common board for painting. These are well-made tools. Unfortunately, all advantages end with the fact that the program has no server. Nassi can work only in a small local network without segments and preferably without DHCP.

One copy costs from $25 to $15. The price depends on the number of licenses you buy. Special prices provided for Russian internet users.

In this article, we talk about some of the issues in this office messenger and offer a free alternative.


1.1. No digital signature


The installer has no digital signature and version number:

Nassi Properties

The installed program also has no digital singature:

Properties of installed Nassi

It causes problems with anti-virus software and privacy policies in most companies where such programs are not allowed.


1.2. Software requires administrator rights during installation


UAC Nassi

The installation performed in Program Files default. Elavated privileges:

Nassi nstallation

Moreover, it does not matter if you install the program in Program Files or any other folder, you still need elevated privileges. However, a good program should not require such rights because this is not a server.


1.3. Chat installer disadvantages


Nassi has no MSI for installing in a domain — it has a default installer only. Therefore, if you need to deploy the chat for a big number of computers at once, you have to do it manually. Nassi has no special keys for configuring the installation process unlike MyChat.

Another small inconvenience is when you switch the language, the program requires to restart :

Nassi requires restart

If you try to switch to another task you won't be able to go back to the program — is located on a taskbar but it is impossible to press the button in this window because the program stubbornly does not want to display its window. The helpful solution is to delete it from the memory in Task Manager.


1.4. Network Assistant can't work with UNICODE


Network Assistant supports various interface languages. You can download packages for Belarusian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and even Vietnamese languages for the interface language. Despite this, the chat does not recognize UNICODE-symbols in messages. Any phrases with international characters displayed "corrupted" after sending them in the chat:

Issues with UNICODE characters in the chat in Nassi


1.5. Sent messages get lost


Unfortunately, Network Assistant chat does not have means for controlling message delivery and statuses "sent" and "read" like in modern internet messengers or MyChat. Any sent messages can simply not be delivered to the recipient.

The response from the official support service in Russian (the forum does not work, this screenshot taken from web.archive.org):

The Admin says that if you send a large message when the network is overloaded, the message can get lost (because of UDP).

Network Assistant forum archive


1.6. Bulletin board and required public opened shared network


Common Bulletin board is a very important tool, and Nassi developers knew that store it on clients is an unsafe option. A user's computer can be off and co-workers won't read an important announcement. That is why they decided to place the board on the shared network:

Common Bulletin board

Notice, that this scheme won't work if you have a complicated network. Besides, you have to configure it for each user manually.

Let's just not talk about security solutions. We trust everyone or do not use this office chat.


1.7. Nassi in Ubuntu Linux


Because Network Assistant exists only for Windows platform. You can run it in Wine or Crossover but the program works unreliably, Linux users left with nothing. The program starts but the network part works incorrectly, nobody seen in the chat.

Users on Russian Ubuntu forum tried to make it work but nothing happened.

The best option is a native Linux program to avoid troubles with emulator.


1.8. Impossible message and file sending to offline users


Nassi has no server, thus, has no reliable authentication for users (everyone can rename himself and you will never know who it was). This is also a reason why you can't send a message or a document to an offline person.

For example, if an employee turned off the computer, he won't be displayed in the chat. Or he will b a "ghost", but these are disadvantages of the broadcasting.


1.9. Nassi does not work via NAT and proxy


UDP traffic not routed and the package "dies" as soon it starts on the router. You can't unite several network segments in one chat or connect external people via the internet, NAT, or proxy server, unlike MyChat or Jabber.

But this is not the program's error, but the limitation of the serverless technology of the Network Assistant office chat.

The only way out of this situation is using VPN, then external users will be like in one big virtual local network. You may need to make some efforts, but theoretically, you can make the chat work in this configuration.


1.10. Network Assistant chat and Windows Terminal Server


Long story short, it is impossible to run this chat on the terminal server because of the program feature. It takes UDP ports 50138, 50139 and TCP 50138, 50139 and it is a server and client at the same time.

Confirmed by the official support:

Network Assistant support team about its work on the terminal server

To make chat work in the terminal session it must connect to its server without taking fixed ports. However, at the same time, the client application must not require too many resources (this is a terminal environment where application copies work concurrently on the same server). It's worth mentioning, how it is done in MyChat on-premise messenger.


1.11. Issues with Nassi security


NA can work both via multicast and broadcast. But when UDP broadcasting is used, data broadcasted for all the network but not for the specified recipient only. Hence, a message can fall into the wrong hands because it is easy to get it on any computer in the local network.

Conversation logs and system messages not encrypted and stored open in the folder not encrypted and stored open in the folder %appdata%\Gracebyte Software\Network Assistant\Logs\ encoded as win1251:

Network Assistant conversation logs and system messages


1.12. Other flaws in Nassi


It is possible to send messages and file to yourself, but this is a common problem of serverless messengers for team collaboration.

Network Assistant automatic configurator incorrectly detects the network interface using Link-local address to do this:

Network Assistant automatic configurator

Obscene words filter provided. However, you need to configure the filter by yourself, manually, because it is empty by default:

Network Assistant obscene words filter

You can make ready lists and share them using the buttons "Export"/"Import".

Unfortunately, the chat has no simple calls as in Net SpeakerPhone, for example.

Image and photo exchanging is not provided as well. You can send them as files directly to specified users but not in the conferences.


2. Comparison of Network Assistant and MyChat self-hosted messenger


In the table below we compare basic features of Network Assistant (version 4.5.0.2668 from May 25, 2009) and MyChat 7.7 (free version) from August 21, 2019.

Ability Network Assistant MyChat
Installation, uninstallation and update system
1.1 Installer Yes Yes
1.2 Uninstaller Yes Yes
1.3 Automatic Installation No Yes
1.4 Automatic updating system No Yes
1.5 Automatic updating and saving of all the data when installing the latest version over the old one No new versions Yes
1.6 Portable version No Yes
Network settings
2.1 Work in large networks No Yes
2.2 Work in complex networks and via the Internet No Yes
2.3 Guaranteed message delivery No Yes
2.4 Work in terminal sessions No Yes
2.5 Traffic encryption Yes, the algorithm is unknown OpenSSL
2.6 Work in very bad networks (satellite connection, "long" pings) No Yes
Default functions
3.1 Private messages Yes Yes
3.2 Message statuses (received, seen) No Yes
3.3 Text conferences Yes Yes
3.4 Notifications with a return receipt No Yes
3.5 Common Bulletin board Yes Yes
3.6 File transfer Yes Yes
3.7 Images transfer No Yes
3.8 Automatic backlight for links in a text Partially Yes
3.9 Messages history view Yes Yes
3.10 Event sound notification Yes Yes
3.11 Personal contact list No Yes
3.12 Sending messages and files to offline users No Yes
3.13 Graphic smileys Yes, static Yes
3.14 Voice calls No Yes
3.15 Video calls No Yes
3.16 Screen sharing No, but you can view another user screen Yes
Active Directory integration
4.1 MSI package to deploy users via Group Policy No Yes
4.2 User transparent authorization No Yes
4.3 Importing users from the Windows domain No Yes
4.4 Support for any amount of various domains No Yes
4.5 Collaboration between common and domain users No Yes
Appearance configuration
5.1 GUI languages Yes Yes, UNICODE
5.2 Appearance customization Yes Yes
5.3 Font changing Yes Yes
Administration
6.1 Centralized configuration of user rights and restrictions No Yes
6.2 User Groups No Yes
6.3 Obscene words filter Yes Yes
6.4 IP, MAC, Hardware ID filters Yes, IP only Yes
6.5 Anti-spam and anti-flood filters Yes, anti-flood only Yes
6.6 User management system No Yes, WEB interface
6.7 Detailed reference information about users (Full name, email, phone numbers, date of birth, photo, etc.) Yes Yes
Operating systems
7.1 Windows Yes Yes
7.2 Android No Yes
7.3 Linux No Yes
7.4 Mac No Yes
7.5 WEB No Yes
Additional abilities
8.1 User network status "free", "busy", "away" Yes Yes
8.2 Scripting language to write simple programs which extend chat abilities No Yes
8.3 Integration with external services No Yes (1С, phpBB, REST, php, C#, Delphi, Python, etc.)
8.4 User search system No Yes
8.5 Tree-like contact list that is common for the whole network with an unlimited nesting level No Yes
8.6 Account manager for several users who work on the same program No Yes
8.7 User ignore system Yes Yes
8.8 Plug-in system to extend program abilities Yes Yes
8.9 Company department list No Yes
8.10 Company work position list with the sorting "superiors from above" in the contact list No Yes
8.11 Built-in forum No Yes
8.12 Task management No Yes, Kanban
8.13 Website chat No Yes
8.14 Distrib Maker No Yes
Technical support
9.1 Built-in help system Yes Yes
9.2 Community support forum Does not work Yes
9.3 Developers support via email Unknown Yes
9.4 Additional reference information, articles about the program use on the website, blog, etc. No Yes
9.5 Developers support via Skype, Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp No Yes

3. Recommendation regarding switching to MyChat


Why? Network Assistant chat is only suitable for small local networks with no segments. It does not work over the internet, you can't connect users to it remotely. The program has no updates, no problem fixes, no support for modern operating systems and mobile platforms — Android and iOS. There is no versions for macOS, Linux, and WEB.

The main disadvantage is the absence of the centralized server and system for user management. No calls and reliable system for storing and syncronizing message history.


How to switch to MyChat? For small companies and budget-limited organisations such transfer from Nassi to MyChat is a logical move. It is completely free.The default license of MyChat up to 20 onluine users is free, with no trial period. MyChat updates are free too.

For organizations with a limited budget it is a good decision during the crysis. You can save money on licenses and the administrator salary.


Prices. The commercial version is for those who have more than 20 employees in a team/ The client applications are free. One concurrent connection costs $6. One year of updates included in the license price. . Programs that are purchased individually are MyChat Guest and Distrib Maker for custom setup files, and the Quiz bot.


Decent support service. We provide support during the business day via email and popular messengers. Our official support forum.


How long you've been working? MyChat enterprise messenger development started in 2004. During this time we developed voice and video calls, applications for all popular OS, Kanban project management, internal forum and file server. We implemented integrations with 1C, Telegram, phpBB, and popular programming languages. Updates are stably released 5-6 times a year.

More than half a million real users from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, USA, Canada, Australia, India, Poland, Great Britain, etc.



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