Tactical Advice

Remote Worker Support with LogMeIn

LogMeIn's freeware tool provides administrators with web-based remote access to a PC.
This story appears in the September 2007 issue of BizTech Magazine.

If you are in IT, you know that support is a 24 x 7 proposition.

I hate the thought of having to go into the office at 2 a.m. when a problem arises – especially if it’s a simple issue that I can resolve with a mouse click or two.

Luckily, we run a VPN at our office, and I can connect to it over my home DSL Internet connection and hopefully resolve the issue in short fashion.

The main problem with using our VPN is that I need to have certain proprietary applications loaded on my home PC. Once my VPN connection is established, I can open those applications and work as if I’m sitting at my office desktop.

However, if I happen to be at a friend’s house or the airport when my bat phone rings, the VPN isn’t that helpful. Enter LogMeIn, a free web-based remote-access tool.

End-User Advantages

The free version of LogMeIn offers several remote functions for IT administrators and mobile professionals, such as access to a remote PC’s screen, desktop, programs and network resources. The paid versions offer more options, such as secure and automatic backups, remote printing and Web-based remote PC support that requires no preinstalled software. [As I am cheap and prefer to save my company money whenever possible, this review will focus on the LogMeIn Free product.]

Initial setup is simple. When you go to the LogMeIn Web site, click the Download LogMeIn Free icon on the main page. You will be prompted to set up an account and provide an e-mail address and password. The software will download and install an ActiveX component, and you will then be asked to name your target PC. That’s about all there is to it.

You should then see a LogMeIn icon on your System Tray indicating that LogMeIn is enabled and online. Now you can connect to a remote computer from any other Internet-enabled computer by logging onto the LogMeIn Web page and choosing a machine from your My Computers page. You will be prompted to enter a username and password, and then you can control the computer as if you were sitting in front of it.

Firefox users will be pleased to note that LogMeIn offers a Firefox plug-in. Finally, so you Mac fans don’t feel left out, LogMeIn now offers a beta version of its product for Mac computers.

Why It Works for IT

Let’s dive directly into the most important issue with any remote-control solution used over the Internet: security.

The LogMeIn host maintains a constant SSL-secured connection with one of the LogMeIn gateway servers in its physically secured data center. This link is initiated by the host (the PC at which you are sitting), and the firewall treats it as an outgoing connection, not unlike secure Web-browsing traffic. The server simply selects the strongest available cipher suite that the client (the PC you want to control) has offered.

The client brower establishes a connection and the Web site authenticates itself. The gateway then forwards the subsequent encrypted traffic between the client and the host. Clients must be authenticated by the gateway and the host. When a client logs on to the LogMeIn Web site, a simple e-mail address and password verification is performed.

IT administrators are advised to enable one or more of the extra security options that LogMeIn provides. These include IP Address Lockout, IP Filtering, Remote Screen Blanking, Lock Console when remote control disconnects and detailed connection logging. The LogMeIn Web site offers several white papers detailing its security environment.

Disadvantages

Should a system administrator leave your company, you will need to go to your in-house computers and uninstall LogMeIn to make sure that person can no longer access company resources. This is a key security step that administrators should consider. If you’ve disabled or deleted his or her network account, he or she shouldn’t be able to connect anyway, but I would prefer to err on the side of caution.

CDW Price: Freeware Version

CEO Takeaway
Remote support for end users is a necessity as it allows IT to eliminate travel and troubleshoot using the tools on desktops.  Three critical features for any remote-support application include:
• Remote administration without the need to install software or configure licenses.
• Security options, such as session encryption and passwords.
• Easy-to-establish sessions, even in slow-bandwidth environments.
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