Remote PC Control Made Easy

For many years, we’ve used pcAnywhere — now sold by Symantec — to provide offsite IT support to clients all across the United States. While it has always been expensive and always cumbersome to set up, we stuck with it version after version for the reliability and security. But recent hardware and firewall compatability problems prompted us to consider other ways to implement remote control.

Of course, Windows XP has built in remote control software, but some clients still don’t have XP, and we’re not always working from a machine equipped with XP Pro (required to control another XP machine). The widely advertised and well-regarded GoToMyPC — a remotely hosted service — fills the bill but, at $240 annually for the plain jane version, it’s more than most of our small business clients are willing to spend.

LogMeIn logo

After checking pcAnywhere alternatives and hosted services from smaller companies, we tried LogMeIn, which offers hosted remote access software in several versions. We haven’t tried all the flavors or options — we’re just users, not product reviewers — but we’ve used LogMeIn with different browsers, versions of Windows, firewalls, routers, brands of hardware, and Internet access from DSL, to cable modem and T1. And we haven’t found any combination that LogMeIn didn’t ace.

There’s a lot to like about LogMeIn. It’s extraordinarily easy to set up. Actually, there’s no set up; LogMeIn’s tiny software download does it all for you. No configuring necessary. The remote PC must be running Windows 98, 2000, XP, or Server 2003 with Internet Explorer or Netscape 4.0 or better installed. The local (controlling) PC needs a 4.0 or better browser with Java, but is even more flexible about operating system. LogMeIn says "any operating system with Java enabled within the browser." That means you you can also access your PC from any web-enabled Pocket PC device!

It’s fast, with easily selected display options. Even with a dial-up connection to the remote desktop, LogMeIn provides reasonable speed. Broadband connections provide remote functionality as good and often faster than pcAnywhere, e.g. about as fast as intranet remote across a large inhouse network.

Naturally, the graphic quality of the display, depends on the connection speed and video cards, but it’s always more than adequate for anything by image editing. Changes in the number of colors, screen resolution, and windowing are easily selected from an unobtrusive, auto-hiding menu that defaults to a top-center screen position.

The best thing about LogMeIn is that it can be installed on the remote PC by anyone who can open an email and click on a link. You don’t have to physically visit the remote to install it; and you don’t need an IT-guy to configure it. I’ve set up remote sessions with clients proud of their "computer illiteracy" in less than five minutes.

So what’s the catch? It’s not the price. A full-function remote connection costs only $69.95 annually (otherwise, $12.95/month). But if you don’t need file-sharing and transfer, you can use the free version, which is otherwise identical to the subscription edition. What’s not to like?

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