*Rrrriiing*..."Hi son, my computer is on the fritz again"
Ever had to help your mom with her computer from across town, state, or even country? It can be quite a bit of a hassle, especially if she isn't so good with clicking on the right things that you tell her to click! Patience is a virtue, right? :)
If you're like me, then you have been performing family support for awhile and you know that it isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. While the technical issues might be easy to fix, it isn't so easy to be patient with your family as they blast you with a number of crazy questions that should be easy to answer, but just aren't - because typically they don't really have the frame of reference to understand why a computer does what it does (they have trouble accepting the fact that the computer did that because they told it to do it that way!).
"Click on My Computer...no, your icon that says 'My Computer' - - no, not 'Rob's Computer'..."
A lot of times, it is just plain easiest to remote control mom's computer rather than step her through a number of tasks over the phone.
There are a quite a few different ways to go about this - - you can set up a virtual private network with a tool like Hamachi and remote control with VNC (or it's various flavors) or Remote Desktop...or maybe you want to go the route of using the 'Remote Assistance' tool from Microsoft (which is very nice, btw!)...
However, as you can guess, getting these connections set up and working with Mom isn't so easy. You have to either spend time configuring the connection, or verifying that the firewall isn't going to get in the way (if they have one), or just having her find the icon can be troublesome!
TGILMI (Thank Goodness It's LogMeIn)
This is where Logmein comes in. Logmein is an online service that provides a conduit for a secure remote control session with your computers that you support. Of course, you need to set up a computer initially so you can remote control it later, but it is quite easy.
Side note: Hamachi was recently purchased by Logmein, so it is part of their product suite now!
Create your account and Install the client
From your mom's computer, go to the Logmein website, create a free account, and follow the onscreen instructions to download and install the Logmein free client on the computer. If the computer is not part of a domain, you will be prompted to create a Logmein password to access the computer through the website. If the computer is a part of a domain, you can use a domain/workstation account password when attempting to connect using Logmein later (very nice!).
Once the client is installed, you will see the Logmein client icon in the Taskbar, and now the computer will appear in your 'My Computers' page under your Logmein account on the website!
Now the cool part: Fast forward two months. Your mom says that her IE isn't working right, the home page was hijacked (try stepping her through to fix that one!). Enter Logmein. Go to the website, login using your free account, click the 'My Computers' option, find your mom's computer, click it.
After a secure connection is negotiated, you will be prompted with a screen asking for a password to the computer. Type in the password, and viola! You will be looking at a remote control session attached directly to her computer!
The only thing that mom needs to make sure of is that the Logmein client is active and enabled (you can right-click the icon to disable connections, but leaving it running). The Logmein client reports into the website and lets you know if the computer is online or not.
Tweak your connection
Once you've connected to the computer, you have some options to tweak the connection a bit...perhaps the connection is a little slower, so you can turn off or adjust the color settings (black & white! Windows in the old days, eh?). Adjust the bandwidth to save some bandwidth on unnecessary settings...you can even zoom in, and the screen will auto-pan with your mouse.
But that's just the remote control!
There are some additional options under the preferences tab of the home screen for the computer you are managing:
- Remote Control Settings
View and modify the preferences for remote control sessions
- Security Settings
View the remote computer's security settings
- Network Settings
View and modify the connection data for your remote machine
- Log Settings
View and modify your preferred settings for the LogMeIn log files
- Reboot Options
View options to restart LogMeIn or reboot your remote computer
- Advanced Options
View and modify advanced options that control the behavior of LogMeIn.
Group your computers
You can also create computer groups to separate out say, your personal computers from the family. Why would this be important? You may have another relative who is also computer savvy and you want to use the same computer groups to remote control your mom's computer...you can send an 'invite' to your cousin, and then assign that person to only be able to view/administer the computers you choose! Pretty nice, if I say so myself - -
But what about security?
From Logmein's FAQ section on their site:
Well, I for one was very excited to share Logmein with you, you should have seen my face when I started using it - - my friend Eric Patterson who has passed on would have totally have made fun of me as I always have the same reaction to something cool... "oh, now that's awesome"...this one's for you, Eric.
Is LogMeIn secure and what is SSL?
Yes. To prevent unauthorized access, LogMeIn requires you to enter separate passwords to access both your LogMeIn account and your Target PC's Windows login. LogMeIn uses 128- to 256-bit encryption to protect your passwords and data. It also includes such active defense features as IP filtering and lockout.
SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a protocol used to encrypt data transmitted over the Internet. The SSL protocol is used by web sites that request confidential data such as credit card numbers or other private information. Web sites that use the SSL protocol have URLs that begin with https: rather than the standard http:. LogMeIn uses SSL to protect the data you transmit when accessing your computers remotely, as indicated by the padlock icon that appears when you visit the LogMeIn web site.