I have long been a fan of LogMeIn for accessing my computers remotely. I install a small piece of software on each of my computers and as long as they have an Internet connection, virtually anywhere in the world, I can access them from another Internet-connected computer. It’s great for accessing my applications and files remotely. All for free. LogMeIn has various other services, including paid versions of the remote access software that add remote printing, file transfer, and other options. The free version, however, meets my needs nicely.
In some cases I’ve used LogMeIn to do remote support for family – I have them create a LogMeIn account, install the software, and share their LogMeIn password with me. This typically worked well, but I only felt comfortable doing this for close family, primarily because if they forgot to turn off the LogMeIn client when we weren’t using it for support, I could technically access their computer – not that I would under any circumstances, but I like for them to have the peace of mind of knowing that I (or anyone else, for that matter) couldn’t without their consent. And what if they want to use LogMeIn for their own purposes of remotely accessing their computer?
With that in mind, I’ve regularly searched for other free or inexpensive ways of doing remote support. Something like a WebEx or GoToMeeting (both of which have plans for remote support), but without the high price tag. I’m not a big IT shop and don’t have the funds for that. There some solutions out there that would loosely do the trick. However, to be even pickier, I had some more “wish list” requirements for my remote support solution:
- Free or inexpensive
- User on the remote computer does not have to have administrative privileges to run the remote support client.
While most home users have administrative privileges on their computer, some do not and many business users do not have these privileges based on company policy (yes, that is a good thing).
- Not VNC (Virtual Network Computing) based.
Though there are several solutions that use open-source VNC software, many antivirus programs complain about and/or block VNC. While this can be gotten around, it is simpler if I don’t have to explain that to the people that I am supporting.
I typically support both Windows and Mac users (and I regularly use both), so it’s important that I be able to use the same tool for both.
- No ads or unobtrusive ads.
Very “wish list” – I know that they have to make money somehow.
- EASY and quick for both the end user and I to use.
If I have to spend as much time explaining the remote software as I do actually troubleshooting the initial problem, what good is it?
Well, LogMeIn – my go to for remote computer access – has finally answered that call and hit all of those nails on the head.
Join.Me is a new service from LogMeIn. It is currently only in beta (testing or initial release), but it is entirely free and extremely easy to use. Their primary focus for Join.Me is as a collaborative web-based conferencing tool, but it can be used for any instance where you need to share your screen with another person.
All you have to do is go to www.join.me on PC running Windows or a Mac and choose whether you want to share your screen or join the session of someone that has shared their screen.
Sharing Your Screen
When you choose the option to share your screen, what you see next will vary slightly depending on what web browser you are using. If you are using Internet Explorer and ActiveX is enabled, you may be prompted to let the Join.Me application run, which will then download and launch a small application. If you are using another browser, like Firefox or Chrome, you will be prompted to download a program, which you will then need to run. When the application runs, you will see this at the top-center of your screen.
That series of numbers and dashes after “join.me/” is your session number. Give that number to the person/people that need to see your screen.
As a screen sharer, when you close the Join.Me application, you’re prompted with an option to “install” Join.Me on your desktop. This is a nice feature because you can just double-click the desktop icon to instantly start up a session, without even having to visit the web site. You still do not need administrative privileges on your computer, as this put the application in your user profile and doesn’t need to change any system settings.
Accessing A Shared Screen
In order to access a shared screen, you need to know their session number. Enter this number at www.join.me and click the green arrow to join the session. Since the viewer is Flash-based, there is no software for you to install (assuming that you have Flash installed, which most people do).
- Text chat
You can either chat with all members of the session or just particular members.
- Conference call
A conference call phone number is provided as a part of the service, as they market this primarily as a conferencing tool. Since I was using this as a part of the free version, I expected to hear some advertising before I was connected to the call, but there was nothing like that.
- File transfer
You can send files to specific members of the session. Just to test this out, I gave it a 1.5GB file to send and it didn’t tell me that I couldn’t – I assumed there would be a 100MB limit or something less than 1GB at least.
- Up to 250 people can join a session
- You don’t have to create an account or provide an e-mail address, unless you want to sign up for the Pro version.
A Couple of Missing Features
There are just a couple of things that aren’t available, but for a free product, it’s hard to complain. Knowing LogMeIn, it’s only a matter of time until they tackle at least some of these as new features.
- Record a session
- Sharing multiple monitors
Currently, only the primary monitor is shared.
- Chat log is not saved
The one thing that you have to remember when using the free version is that all you need to join a session is the session number. That makes it incredibly easy. It’s also a layer of security, but it’s security through obscurity meaning that someone technically could guess the session number. However, this is incredibly unlikely. If that were to happen, you can see who has joined your session and can remove them.
The pro version has an additional security feature in that you can lock a meeting so that no one can join unless the presenter allows them, even if they have the session link.
As is the case with LogMeIn’s remote access software that I use so regularly, Join.Me also has a Pro version that has some additional features. These are primarily things that a company holding regular meetings with Join.Me would utilize: meeting scheduler, user management, and a customized link with the company’s name or something similar. As far as a web conference tool runs, it is fairly inexpensive at $29 / month. However, for most of us, the free version is going to cut it just fine.
I’ve only had a couple of chances to use this in testing so far, so let me know in the comments if you’d had a chance to use it and what you think of it. Also let me know if you have another favorite tool for providing remote support, preferably that meet all of the criteria mentioned above.