As you may have heard in the news, LogMeIn decided to cancel their “free” offering. They only provided users with 7 days of warning for this change. They hoped to effectively force users into buying their Pro product. At ESG we began investigating alternatives to LogMeIn as soon as the announcement was made.
Before we get into specific recommendations, it is important to note that all of the products we have examined are designed to perform a simple task: allow you to remotely access a desktop/laptop from some remote location. Typically in a business environment this takes the form of accessing a work desktop/laptop by an employee while at home, traveling, or otherwise remote. There are a number of serious concerns regarding product selection and safety when examining remote access software. In terms of how we selected products and excluded those that we deemed to be unsafe:
- We have excluded products from consideration that do not support an encrypted connection as we feel that for ANY business use an encrypted remote control connection is mandatory. This is particularly the case when considering PCI compliance, HIPAA, SOX, and other regulatory commitments. Examples of products that were excluded because they failed to provide security at even a minimum level for compliance considerations are VNC, RealVNC, PVNC, Microsoft Remote Desktop, and others.
- We have also excluded products that are mobile-only apps. These mobile-only apps can be found for sale in the Play store or Apple store but are designed only to be used on mobile devices and, as such, are wholly impractical for doing real work from home desktop/laptop to work desktop/laptop. The security of these apps is also in question.
- Lastly we have excluded products that require you to accept advertising or potential malware on your system in order to use their product. Examples of products that were excluded because of this requirement are Join.me, WebEx Free, ScreenConnect, DameWare, imPcRemote, and Mikogo. While many of these products might be fine for home use, their advertising requirements and (in some cases) blatant selling of your information do not make them suitable or safe for business use in our opinion.
In testing each of the solutions available we created a chart which we have included below. This chart offers pricing, pros, cons, and verdicts on the five top solutions for remote access which met our criteria. Please review the chart as time allows to see what fits best with your specific needs.
For very general recommendations, we can make the following statements based on our testing:
- As much as it is painful to reward LogMeIn for their lack of notice and poor customer care, their product remains the best option currently for secure remote access for home users accessing a work machine. While we hope that other vendors come forward with better solutions, for the time being it likely makes the most sense to pay LogMeIn to continue using their service. For a business environment we recommend that the business buys the LogMeIn licenses and maintains a list of who has them in use. We at ESG can assist with this process and with getting the LogMeIn software installed/reinstalled on both work computer and home computer if needed.
- If you cannot pay, or if you have enough time to try other variations, the only free product that we can currently recommend is Chrome Remote Desktop. Unlike the similarly named Windows Remote Desktop which is largely insecure, Chrome Remote Desktop features encryption, PIN/passcode access, and the added layering of security based on your gmail account. However, that requirement of a gmail accounts is a concern for businesses as it means the individual, not the business, is the one setting up the remote access so if the individual is no longer employed there will be an added step to make sure their access to the work desktop/laptop is completely disabled. Also, while fairly easy to setup, the Chrome Remote Desktop requires the PC to be left logged in and the Chrome service (Chrome browser in some cases) running. If you forget to check this before you leave the office, or if the PC goes to sleep or reboots, the Chrome Remote Desktop will not allow you remote access.
We at ESG are standing by to help you if you have questions about LogMeIn, Chrome Remote Desktop, or any of the products we have reviewed or excluded. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to dig into these options in more detail or review the broader aspects of your remote access / work-from-home policies!
Pricing and options below are current as of January 31, 2014. As pricing and features from these vendors may change in response to the LogMeIn accouncement, please consult the links at the bottom of each column for the most current information directly from the vendor.
|Pros||Easy to use, as long as the PC is on you will be able to connect, strong security||Easy to use, as long as the PC is on you will be able to connect, strong security||Low one-time cost, as long as the PC is on and network settings have not changed you will be able to connect||Currently free, uses a PIN code for security so fairly easy to manage||Allows one person to connect to any numbers of PC’s, central management console for security|
|Cons||Recurring cost, cost could go higher on renewal||Recurring cost, higher cost than LogMeIn for about the same features||Requires static IP on PC, requires open ports on firewall, more background management required||You must have Chrome on PC and must be logged into the PC for remote access to work, if PC reboots you cannot access, requires a personal gmail address||Very expensive as a desktop tool, version changes require you to re-purchase license so their claims of a one-time price are not accurate|
|Supports Dual Monitors||Yes||Yes||Yes||No, some video cards or combinations not supported||Yes|
|Verdict||Although no longer free still the easiest to use and most reliable||Viable option if price is not a major concern||Not viable for desktop access… best used for connecting to servers, DVR’s, and other static devices||Emerging option that is best for home, relative, and friend use but a little unreliable for business use thus far||Only viable if you have a large number of computers to manage by only one person|