Like many people, I know I am quick to slam products when they don't work well, but fail to give kudos when they do work well. Today, I'm going to throw a tally on the good side of that scorecard for LogMeIn. I've used LogMeIn for around a year, now, and I've yet to have it let me down. Not too bad, considering where some other software vendors set the bar.
If you haven't heard of it, LogMeIn is a remote access / remote control product - in fact, a suite of products, really. When I initially set up my account, there were basically just "Free" and "Premium" options, but they've added new products at a dizzying pace. They're up to something like ten products now, including one I didn't even know about until I looked today. Most of these products seem to be specialized derivatives of their core technology, which is a really nice approach to see - sort of the opposite of the "throw everything in one basket" approach that many products take. Despite the breadth of products, all of my experience has been with the basic free product.
First, the bad news. You have to run an installer on each PC you wish to control, and you need to install an ActiveX control in the browser of any PC you wish to use as a "viewer". I'd love to see the viewer work without an install (some administrators won't permit this, of course), but this notwithstanding, I've never had the need to install these pieces hinder me.
There's a lot more good news than bad news, though. Here are just a few of the things I've noticed (and liked) so far:
- The "host" component prompts you when there's an update available, but it doesn't stop running until you upgrade. This can really save you when you're logging in to a "headless" PC remotely, so the first chance you have to see that the host wants to run an update is when you've remoted into the host. It would be a real drag to discover that a whole bunch of PC's just became unreachable because they were waiting to be upgraded.
- I've never had any problems traversing firewalls, proxies, etc. File this under "it just works", and I'm grateful for it.
- It works on my Windows Mobile phone! I'm using Win Mobile 6 on a T-Mobile Wing, and it works like a charm. I certainly wouldn't want to work for any extended time this way, but it's really, really great to be able to get to the one stupid little button on your desktop that I desperately need to press when I'm sitting in a coffee shop on the other side of town.
- Screen scaling. This is one of those little usability features that escapes attention at first glance. Many remote control apps will let you view the host's screen at exactly the resolution of the host, meaning that if you're looking at a screen larger than your client's window, you're doing a lot of scrolling to see the whole screen. LogMeIn, though, scales your host's screen to fit in your client's window - no matter how large the window is. That means that if you're watching a remote PC to see if a job's done, or something like that, you can do so in a small window. The resolution suffers a little, of course, when you scrunch the screen down, but it's really pretty remarkable how readable the screen stays as you resize it. This is a really nice touch.
- Did I mention that it just works?
I've tried quite a number of other remote-access products over the years, including VNC and Windows Remote Desktop (running over various tunnels and VPNs), and LogMeIn beats them all when it comes to reliability, and when it comes right down to it, that's the #1 feature for remote access, isn't it? If you haven't tried LogMeIn yet, go give them a shot. You won't be disappointed.