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LogMeIn Central Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Midway through testing LogMeIn Central, it occurred to me how many more customers I could have supported (and more money I could have made) in a small IT consulting business I ran years ago, if I had a tool like this. LogMeIn Central is a Web-based management solution for remotely accessing and monitoring multiple machines called “hosts.” The machine used to remotely access hosts is called the “client.” Central is used to access and manage host machines running LogMeIn Free or LogMeIn Pro². It eliminates a lot of the complexity of setup often found in older, more traditional remote control solutions like pcAnyhere.

This is the latest in a line-up of products by LogMeIn which include LogMeIn Hamachi. LogMeIn Central is not free; it’s $49.00/per month subscription (or a discounted yearly fee) plus an additional charge for the inclusion of premium management features of the LogMeIn Pro² product, which is also subscription-based. That’s not cheap, but if you are responsible for IT support of multiple machines, it’s invaluable as a centralized and cost-effective way to manage those machines from a browser. There’s also some room for flexibility as you can remotely access host machines from Windows or Mac and there’s an iPhone and iPod touch app available called LogMeIn Ignition.
With a LogMeIn Pro² subscription, you get the same features but with secure file transfer and sharing, remote printing, remote sound (on Windows clients and hosts), desktop sharing, and a diagnostic toolkit.

Setup and Testing
Getting started requires activating a LogMeIn Central account. There’s a 30-day trial. A quick software install is required on each host. LogMeIn makes the install process really simple: from the LogMeIn Central management console create a deployment link to send via email. The remote machine user clicks the link and is directed to install the required software. That PC becomes a host, ready to be accessed and managed. If you access the LogMeIn Central console through Firefox, an additional plug-in is installed.

Within seconds of installing the software on three host machines, I could see all three listed on the Home page of LogMeIn’s management console. One of the three machines I tested was a Windows 7 Virtual Machine, not an actual physical PC, and working with it using LogMeIn Central was as smooth a process as working with actual computers.

After establishing a LogMeIn Central account, notifications are sent to the account holder’s email anytime any activity happens. It actually gets somewhat annoying, but you can control notifications through the interface’s Account Audit settings. If you are only using LogMeIn Central for troubleshooting a handful of machines the basic option without LogMeIn Pro² should suffice. You can quickly access a remote desktop as if you were sitting in front of it. If you are working within the scope of a small IT department managing upwards of 15 computers, then the inventory, reporting, alert and monitoring features of Pro² will be of value.

When accessing a host machine, you have to log in to it using its credentials, not your LogmeIn Central account. I like how the client’s printers get auto-created on-the-fly in the management console. This allowed me to print from the remote machine to my local printer. I have witnessed issues with printer auto-creation in enterprise remote access solutions like Citrix Metaframe and Microsoft’s Terminal Services. LogMeIn Central handles remote printing superbly.

In fact, I typed this paragraph via the remote control of LogMeIn Central. The responsiveness is good, and there is little difference between working with this file remotely and if I sat in front of the computer it’s opened up on.

Features
LogMeIn has really stepped up the interface game since the days of its previous IT management tool, the awkwardly-named LogMeIn IT Reach. Central’s console allows for full screen view of remote desktops and the ability to zoom. You can even manage the color quality. The interface is as intuitive to use as any major social networking site; you won’t get bogged down trying to find settings and commands and can get right to business. It’s a more mature product than Laplink Everywhere 4 and easier to setup than BeAnywhere.

Remote machines can be added to groups. It’s simple to add additional users and give specific permissions as to which machines they can access. LogMeIn Central has baked-in security which includes AES 256-bit encryption between host and client, IP address filtering and Denial-of-Service protection for host machines and for LogMeIn.com (it’s browser-based so you are interacting with their network). You would need the Enterprise version of VNC, another popular remote control solution, to get even 128-bit session encryption.

Charts and reports round out the feature set to provide in-depth information about managed machines, another feature that alternate solutions like VNC often lack.

You get a lot for the price of Central: unlimited LogMeIn free deployment, reports and charts, user management, compute grouping and search. The more advanced features come with using LogMeIn Pro² package on hosts (it starts at $69.95 per PC and goes down in quantity). For example, the File Manager feature is an easy way to drag and drop file between host and client. The Dashboard is a concise way to see information about a machine, such as memory usage, network traffic, error events and installed Hotfixes. With the additional management it’s possible to run the Registry Editor and get information about Services and Drivers on Hosts.

Central also works with LogMeIn Hamachi² for secure VPN connections to host PCs.

It can be puzzling to sift through which feature set accompanies which pricing model on LogMeIn’s webpage so a phone call to the company’s sales department is advisable.

Bottom Line
LogMeIn Central is an easy, inexpensive, and powerful way to manage and troubleshoot multiple ‘host’ machines running LogMeIn Free or LogMeIn Pro². LogMeIn Central plus Pro² is ideal for small-to-mid-size IT support teams that would benefit from the diagnostic and management tools and the inventory feature, but even the free version on host PCs is going to give a nascent IT person plenty of centralized control.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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