IT Pro

LogMeIn and Join.me: review

Remote controlling a PC and sharing screens with colleagues is a lot easier than it used to be.

LogMeIn Pro
$69.95/year per system
4/5

Join.me
$149/year or $19/month
4.5/5

A screen shot of a remote computer accessed via LogMeIn from an iPad.
A screen shot of a remote computer accessed via LogMeIn from an iPad. 

logmein.com

The first time we tried remote system control software was in the mid 90s, using the 16-bit colour of Windows 2000 over a pre-broadband data connection. The experience was brutish, to say the least.

If you haven't thought about remote system access and control for your organisation lately, things have moved on. Ubiquitous connectivity and modern desktop operating systems have made it more pleasant and easy.

There are several specialist products like Zendesk (a customer tech support package) on the market, but the LogMeIn suite, like Citrix's GoToMeeting, is an all-purpose solution that combines functionalities you need in an enterprise environment with the ease of use of consumer products.

We know than when it comes to screen-sharing and collaboration tools, they are a dime a dozen in the Skype age, and many are no-fuss add-ons to existing chat and video-conferencing technologies, so the question is: why would you consider paying for them?

We've looked at two complementary products that claim to make distance communication, collaboration and troubleshooting fairly idiot-proof.

The first is LogMeIn, which gives you control of a remote device wherever you are. So you can be at home on your PC, on the train on your iPad or (if you're dextrous enough and have good enough eyesight) on holiday on your mobile, accessing files on another machine. You begin by installing the small LogMeIn utility on any machine you want to control remotely. To access that machine, you use the LogMeIn website as a mediator: simply point your browser to it, log in and choose which machine you want to access if you've connected more than one. You now have the desktop of the remote computer or device in front of you, just as if you were sitting there.

There's a paid and a free version – the Pro (paid) service gives you more functionality including playing HD video, printing from the distant machine to your local printer, file transfer between the remote system and the one you're using and more. The free version merely lets you manipulate the system remotely, but for the price of a client lunch, being able to completely control your office system from any other computer anywhere is priceless. Access from an Android device is via the Ignition app.

Join.me is about screen sharing rather than control, so you can run a virtual meeting and invite far-flung colleagues to watch what you're doing on your desktop. To start an account you download an installer that enables screen sharing on your system. It creates a web address (join.me/yourname) and up to 255 colleagues can join sit in by keying it into their browser.

They can now see you screen and a small suite of additional tools such as chat and voice call appears at the top of their browser window. The quality of voice calls, at the same time as screen sharing, will depend on the internet connection available to participants at both ends.

The paid version of join.me does all the above and allows the virtual meeting conveener to give out temporary screen control access to participants as he or she sees fit.

The upside with both products is that apart from small utility downloads there's nothing cumbersome to install or wrangle – everything's done through your and your collaborators' browsers. Even more important for enterprises, it's all everyday web traffic, which saves you the extra security burden a dedicated new data channel would impose.

And as we hinted earlier, the limitations of blocky graphics and the terrible lag of yesteryear's internet are long gone. The system resources of all our computers and devices ensure a clear, bright picture of the remote system you're working on, and the data communication infrastructure we enjoy today makes controlling or watching the remote desktop as immediate as being there.

Verdict: Both products put remote systems and colleagues right on your desktop with a minimum of fuss.

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