Review of Logmein.com

by John Sequeira

Related link: http://www.logmein.com



I remember reading about a competitor to GoToMyPC.com that was offering free accounts a while back. As someone who tends to work from home, sitting in front of my PC, 'going to it' on the few times I break from my daily routine was not a high priority. And of course VNC seemed to work pretty well if I prepared my port forwarding ahead of time.


But occasionally I do have to travel, and having to use my own or other machines on other people's networks is a different story. You are faced with some challenging firewall-bypassing issues, and when you don't have control over the hardware or security policies, remote access can be problematic.


On a recent business trip to NYC, I had an excuse to try out logmein's solution to the remote access problem. After signing up for the service, I was able to logmein-enable my primary workstation and laptop. I commuted from my sister's place to the work site, and while there I could easily dig up information on my laptop left behind at my sister's (protected by her apple wireless router) , or on my home workstation in Cambridge protected by my linksys router. After leaving the client site, of course I could jump back on my on-site desktop (protected by the corporate firewall) just as easily. In each case, remote-control enabling the PC's took minutes and never needed any firewall fiddling or assistance from central IT. To get to my home office lan, I had no firewall, tunnelling, port forwarding, or ssh key-signing issues to deal with necause their easy-to-install client and server takes care of all these issues for you.


So what does their solution look like? The logmein remote control client comes in three flavors : ActiveX, Java, and pure HTML. I generally use the ActiveX version, and it compares favorably to things like PCAnywhere and Microsoft's Remote Desktop. I've been able to use the Java version on a Linspire desktop (in Mozilla ), but on my sister's iBook it locked up Netscape, IE, and Safari equally well. While visiting said sister, I really needed to look up an address on my home PC. Since she only had iBooks available, I tried the pure HTML version of logmein. It works via server push and I'm not going to describe it fully because I think it has to be seen to believed. Take a look -- it truly is a feat of UI design that something so simple could be useful. You could say the experience is comparable to playing chess by mail -- it works, but not something you want to rely on)


The most amazing thing about Logmein is that they're offering their basic remote control service free -- you only have to pay them if you want to synch files across machines or do remote printing. The big difference between Logmein and GotoMyPC is that the latter costs $20/mo _for each pc_ in the scenario above. It is phenomenally expensive if you come in contact with a lot of PCs on an intermittent basis, as a consultant like me does, or any techie w/tech-support-needin' relatives does.


So, given the zero cost, how can you really maximize the value of the Logmein giveaway?


Well, install it on a lot of machines, of course. I think for most techie users, the likely candidate for "lots of machines" are all those relatives of yours stuck running Windows, but with no idea how to run it securely. Extropolating from MS sales figures, that's a few hundred million people I believe.


Personally, I've certainly installed it on a lot of friends and family machines to help me help them. Because it's much easier to support someone using remote control, I've been able to not only help them with difficult problems, but I've also been able to delegate support so that family members can help one another.


Professionally, "lots of machines" for me has meant lots of virtual machines. If you read either of my blogs, you'll know that I have trouble completing a post without saying something gung-ho about virtualization.


In this case, logmein + virtual machines is a really potent combination. I set up one or more VMWare VM's for every client project I work on, for many reasons (mobility, sandboxing, painless configuration management). Occasionally I would poke holes in my firewall to let clients view works-in-progress or for team-mates to do QA using straight HTTP or VNC. But poking holes in your firewall is something I like to avoid, when possible.


By tunnelling your connections securely through another server and not requiring firewall port forwarding, logmein solves this problem handily, and adds an additional security benefit for the scenario when others need to access your machines. Logmein allows you to set up 'secondary users', to whom you can delegate specific access rights to your machines. You can grant single-use access - disabling their account after one session, require a one-time key that logmein.com will email out, and enable, disable and delete accounts when they're no longer needed. It's both very flexible and easy to use.


With secondary users, I am now able to easily demo software for clients or have co-workers QA my work on the client-specific VM I built it on, separate from my own desktop and other potentially confidential files and applications.


On a small scale, I have a solution comparable in power and security to a Citrix server farm with negligible administrative overhead or connectivity/software costs. That's pretty cool.


A minor down-side of logmein is that it currently only works to remote-control Windows 2000+ desktops (No 98/OSX/*nux). I remember reading an announcement or press release about extending support to linux desktops, but I believe the ship date has come and gone without mention. Anyway, since remote access to linux servers or desktops has never been a big issue, and being able to gain remote access from this other OS's is supported, it hasn't bothered me too much. I really love the service, and have rapidly grown to consider logmein indispensible.


Do you have any experience with logmein.com you could share?


23 Comments

JamesN
2005-01-23 10:25:44
LogMeIn on Mac OS X
I too had problems trying to access a target PC from a Mac running either Safari and Explorer, but Firefox has come to the rescue and seems to work perfectly.


James

johnseq
2005-03-10 06:30:43
Security?
Hi
I read your review about LogmeIn here: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/6248
I'm not a techie, but you can call me "an advanced user".
I started using it and I'm amazed. You didn't relate to security. Any comment? Can hackers break to an "enabled" PC?


Regards
Mike Y
Chestnut Hill, MA

johnseq
2005-03-10 06:31:05
Security?
Mike,


I'm glad you liked the article.


Re: security, that's a difficult question to answer. I think of it like a car alarm or "the club". There's no such thing as unstealable - You just try to be a little better than other people and that's probably the best you'll do.


From what I read on their website, they're using above average security mechanisms and I feel comfortable that they're not going to be a liability on my systems.


It's also much safer because most alternatives require you to either not have a firewall or to open it up for remote access. That seems to be a riskier thing to do.


John S
Cambridge MA

Pinda
2005-03-24 14:05:27
Issues when fiorst Loggin in
I had some issues with Norton Internet Security and then got into a loop of the product trying to reinstall itself and ask for multiple passwords. After expressing my concern to support they had the answer for me..


It would have helped if they have these warinigns/documents available before the installation completes.. It would have save a lot of time/stress.


I have been using www.mywebexpc.com afte5r being a 5 year user of the pro webex version , and find LogMeIn to be much easier and faster.. Webex has file transfer in their free version...


I think I will switch all my clients to the logmein.com product..


Neale van Streepen
Principal Consultant www.pinda.com

techienut
2005-06-21 08:53:21
Great Piece of Software
LogMeIn.com really provides some outstanding remote access programs. I started using it in mid-december so I could use my home computer while I was at school and have been hooked ever since. While on their site today I noticed that they released a beta of LogMeIn Rescue, which is aimed at system administrators (both small business and corporate). It basically allows for temporary, on-demand support with a pay as you go scheme. It seems to have all the goodies too... file transfer, whiteboard and a 'snapshot' of system info.



The way I look at it is that if one of my friends wants me to fix their computer, I have him/her give me the five dollars for the temporary session and then I can take a look at it with him at the same time. Meh, maybe I'm just being cheap. Anyhow, it seems like a cool product for sys. admins.


-Dan

johnseq
2005-06-21 10:58:14
Great Piece of Software
If you're looking to save some $$$...


http://doc.uvnc.com/addons/singleclick.html


but it does require that you make your pc accessible over the 'net (via port forwarding etc.), a step not required by logmeinrescue.


Usually I just have friends&family sign up for the regular logmein and invite me in.


Other options include


http://www.qnext.com


or


http://www.kaboodle.org/


but I haven't used either.


Rich_L70
2005-06-30 06:41:07
Interesting
Started using it yesterday, nice stuff,, i'm probably gonna purchase pro when my trial exp.


Rich

bertaf
2005-07-26 07:33:35
LogMeIn for German users
check out the german LogMeIn site
http://www.LogMeIn.de.


Check out the new LogMeIn IT Reach for IT consultants and internal it departments for remote support and remote administration.

http://www.LogMeInITReach.de


Check also the new LogMeIn Rescue for real on demand remote support for help desk organisation and support outsourcing business.
http://www.LogMeInRescue.de

johnseq
2005-12-04 11:24:33
Simultaneous remote sessions?
(posting this on behalf of a reader who emailed me) ...


I do have a question that may have been answered in your article,
but I didn't perceive it as such. As preamble to my question, let me
state briefly what I want to do:


- I would like to be able to run a program on my client (remote)
computer which has access to one or more files on the host computer
and will be reviewing, adding, or changing records in the files it
uses. Although one can do something like that using one or another
program, such as PcAnywhere, there is a price to pay for doing so -
the host computer isn't available to anyone during the session,
unless the user of the host wishes to put-up with not being able to
complete a task without having the mouse do weird things or the
screen changing unpredictably as the remote user works.


- Essentially, I would like to work in the background on the host
computer, leaving the host machine to work for the user, perhaps
slower at times, but essentially fully available to the person at
the host keyboard.


Now, the question is easy to ask:


Will LogMeIn allow the remote computer to work in the background, as
described above, or does it function like PcAnywhere?


Thank you very much for having the patience to wade through my
expository, and, in advance, for any reply you may make to my query.


Best wishes to you,
David M

johnseq
2005-12-04 11:26:19
Simultaneous remote sessions?
I'm glad you found the article helpful.


The short answer is that Logmein behaves like PCAnywhere -- only one
user at a time on the primary destkop.


The longer answer is, there are probably several ways to do what you want.


1) Synchronize the files -- run a file synchronization program so you
can run the application on your remote computer and automatically 'sync' the changed
files over periodically. See Microsoft's free Foldershare service, or consider
Logmein Pro which also sync's files.


2) Run VMWare -- if you run VMWare on the 'host' PC', you can run a
logmein/pcanywhere/etc session that is "hidden" from someone using the
desktop. The downside is that you must install (and probably pay for)
another operating system + application instance in the VM. I do this all the time and it
works really well.


3) Run Windows 2003 Server on the "host" pc. This contains something
called Terminal Services that allows multiple people to have independent
sessions on the machine, that do not interact with one another. You
may still have firewall issues, but these are likely easily overcome
with a tool like Hamachi (see hamachi.cc).


The above list is not "plug and play" by any means. But they're not
all that complicated either. If you're thinking about remote access,
you may be able to figure them out, but it also would take much time
(ergo shouldn't cost that much) to have someone help with them.


Good luck,


John

johnnygeneric
2006-01-03 01:51:15
LogMeIn on Mac
I've got an ibook with Mac OSX Tiget ( latest edition, I think).


Is there some reason the Java settings in LogMeIn as client won't work with Safari? Anybody have any luck getting the Java setting to work with Firefox or Netscape?


Johnnygeneric...
Generically speaking

johnnygeneric
2006-01-03 01:51:28
LogMeIn on Mac
I've got an ibook with Mac OSX Tiger ( latest edition, I think).


Is there some reason the Java settings in LogMeIn as client won't work with Safari? Anybody have any luck getting the Java setting to work with Firefox or Netscape?


Johnnygeneric...
Generically speaking

vdon76
2006-01-11 07:30:52
Interesting...
I've been using LMI Free for a bit now as a remote support tool. Being a small business this gives me some flexibility as it allows me to fix clients' computers without spending the extra cash on unessecary software.


Vincent

Fartinmonkey
2006-01-11 08:04:26
Logmein.com - Fantastic
I use Logmein.com on an almost daily basis. I work in IT Support and there are so many advantages for work and personal use. I have an uncle in canada and an uncle the other side of town, both of which come to me with any IT problems, this makes life just so much better, rather than telling them the solution, i can just fix it there and then!
lemil
2006-01-14 03:59:23
Logmein.com - Fantastic
I am having problem when my remote computer goes thru a touter. I know that I need to open a port, but I do not know which port # should be opened?
Can you help ?
Bob Schlottmann
2006-02-21 11:38:55
I haven't tried Logmein yet because I don't know if it will do what I need. I have no phone line at the office (I use a cell phone), but I need to send faxes. I would like to access my home computer (running Win98), send a file to it, load it into Word, and fax it using BVRP software. I would have to use the Print command and select my fax machine as the printer. Can the free version of Logmein do this? Also, I'm running ZoneAlarm on the home computer. What would I need to do to gain access?
John Sequeira
2006-02-21 11:55:57
I have the same issue Bob - I have fax-unfriendly VOIP at the office.


Logmein Free will let you do what you want, except you'll have to email yourself the document. But if you're emailing the document, why don't you sign up for net2phone, j2 or one of the other email-to-fax providers? It wouldn't cost much more than faxing it yourself , and would be much less hassle.



Bob Schlottmann
2006-02-22 06:45:25
Thanks for the suggestion, John, but as I understand it Internet faxing is not very secure. Some even keep copies of the faxes sent on their computers. I'm just not sure I can use them to send the kind of confidential information I deal with.


Also, I checked out Net2phone, and they want not only my credit card number but also my PIN number. I'm sure they're reputable, but I don't give that out to anyone.

John La
2006-04-11 19:50:49
We experienced trouble with Lexmark and Dell printer with GoToMyPC. After wasting hours loading drivers and speeking with CS reps from both Dell and GoToMyPC, someone finally admitted that they are not quite compatible with all printers. Someone told me about LogMeIn so I tried it. We have since cancelled all GoToMyPC accounts and have converted totally to LogMeIn last year. It works with all printers and we have never had a problem. Every user inhouse (about 20) finds it easier to use and set up as well.


If you're having printer compatability problems with GoToMyPC, don't fret. It's not you or your printer.

Kate
2006-04-17 07:48:14
Love,Love, Love LogMeIn! Why didn't someone come up with this before!
stevhorn
2006-05-21 17:26:54
I've been using the free version of Logmein for about a month. It is truly amazing. By coupling it with my FTP server, I can freely transfer files between home and work. No more lugging external drives around!! Fantastic! (I only wonder how long the service will remain free)
Howie Taylor
2006-06-07 13:04:29
I am attempting to connect to my home computer from work. My IT guy came in here and told me to cut it out. It was leaving footprints all over the office network. These other people have no idea what logmein.com is so they never went to the site. What gives?
Here are a few of the logs...
Angela Hale (GRAPHICS) IP Address: 192.168.3.229
6/5/2006 7:40:48 AM
secure.logmein.com.
6/5/2006 7:41:01 AM
howie-xwfeqzsnya.app15.logmein.com.
6/5/2006 7:41:14 AM
asterisk.app15.logmein.com.
6/7/2006 8:27:16 AM
howie-tmcpotnisb.app15.logmein.com.

Bobbie Keener IP Address: 192.168.3.141
6/6/2006 9:34:52 AM
www.logmein.com.
6/6/2006 9:35:11 AM
secure.logmein.com.
6/7/2006 12:10:16 PM
howie-ygpcnahomn.app14.logmein.com.
6/7/2006 12:10:24 PM
asterisk.app14.logmein.com.

Brandi Kress IP Address: 192.168.3.119
6/5/2006 3:46:20 PM
secure.logmein.com.

Brianna Mewborn IP Address: 192.168.3.106
6/7/2006 8:27:16 AM
howie-tmcpotnisb.app15.logmein.com.

COMMUNITY (Left Collection) IP Address: 192.168.3.110
6/6/2006 7:53:17 AM
secure.logmein.com.
6/6/2006 7:53:27 AM
howie-owzyuqakql.app15.logmein.com.
6/6/2006 7:53:41 AM
asterisk.app15.logmein.com.
Donald
2006-06-14 07:25:54
My only experience with logmein.com is that I could not accesss the site. I tried for 3 days.