As an alternative to VPN remote access, hosted remote control services from companies such as LogMeIn have a lot to offer, enabling you to connect to a home or office PC from anywhere with Internet access. And now there’s LogMeIn Ignition which eliminates the dependence on browser plug-ins and automates the connection side of the process, putting the client software onto a USB memory stick which you can simply plug in and start using.
Ignition can be used with either the basic LogMeIn Free service or the LogMeIn Pro we tested ($12.95 / £6.56 per PC per month) which adds a number of useful features beyond basic remote control, such as file transfer and remote printing.
A little bit of setup work is needed with both, requiring a LogMeIn agent to be installed onto each PC you want to access. This can be downloaded and installed onto any system running Windows 98 or later, the agent both providing the remote control functionality and registering the target PC with a host server maintained by LogMeIn.
An always-on Internet connection is also required but because it’s the agent that initiates the server session, there should be no issues with things like dynamic IP addressing, network address translation (NAT), firewall settings and so on – issues which would otherwise prevent you connecting to a remote PC over the Internet.
That done, you can, if you want, simply open a browser on another PC and connect to the LogMeIn server using the username and password assigned to your account. You’ll then see a list of your registered target PCs running the LogMeIn agent from which you can select the home or office system you want to control.
The drawback here is that ActiveX or Java plug-ins are required if you use a browser and these may be blocked. However with LogMeIn Ignition a Windows console is used instead and no browser or browser plug-ins are required. Moreover, when the USB stick is removed there’s nothing left behind on the host PC to potentially compromise security. Of course, you might forget the stick itself, but then it’s useless without the associated password to connect to your LogMeIn account.
One drawback is the need to leave the target PCs switched on for LogMeIn to work, but in practice that’s not a major issue and we found it very convenient and easy to use. We were also impressed with performance. Clearly the more bandwidth available the better, but it worked well on just about every Internet connection we tried, enabling us to check and send e-mail, retrieve important files and so on, when out and about. It could also be used by support staff to troubleshoot and fix problems no matter where they happen to be.
Our test product came pre-installed on a USB stick but you’re not limited to that format. The Ignition software is provided as a download for installation onto your own hardware which can be a USB memory stick if you want, but could equally be an iPod or PDA, a removable hard disk or a fixed hard drive in a laptop.
Whatever you choose, it’s remarkably simple to use and provides secure remote access to home and office PCs from just about anywhere.
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