Wherever you go, there you are

12:00 am Articles, Ask the Geek

It’s Saturday. You drove into the office today even though it’s beautiful outside. Your spouse gave you a dirty look when you said you weren’t quite sure when you’d be home. One of your kids gave you the stink eye. For one reason or another, there’s something you’ve got to get done, and everything you need is on your work PC. You pull on a pair of shorts and a ball cap — no way in hell you’re wearing office clothes on a Saturday— and slowly pull away from your home, forlorn.

Maybe you’re a small business owner who needs to see how much you invoiced the client who just called you after hours, or on the weekend.

Maybe you’re in health care and need to check a patient’s chart from home, but your small clinic doesn’t have the budget for “fancy network equipment” like that. You might be the marketer who spends more time on the road than at a desk, but your desk computer has access to all the company network applications you need. Maybe you’re an accountant and need to run reports that take hours while you watch the lights blink.

It doesn’t have to be this much hassle. Seriously, there’s an easy fix for this.

Picture this: It’s Saturday morning. You’re at home trying to make yourself sleep another half hour, but the PowerPoint presentation you’re giving on Monday is on your work PC and you can’t shake the thought that it still needs heavy editing. You don’t have PowerPoint at home. The presentation is on the company server.

Traditionally, your option has been simple: Drive to the office, provided you have a key, and waste your Saturday. Instead, wouldn’t it be easier to roll out of bed, put on a cup of coffee and an old bathrobe, connect to your work PC from home and just “play like” you got dressed and drove in?

What if it were this simple?

  • Open your Web browser and go to a Web site.
  • Log in with your e-mail address and password.
  • Click the link for your office PC, then click another link to start a “remote control ” session.
  • Sip coffee and grin smugly.

“It can’t be that easy,” you say. It is. It’s called LogMeIn, and chances are pretty good you’ve heard of it, even if you’ve never used it. They have several options for remote access products, all with great features. The one that fits the scenario above is called “LogMeIn Free.” (That word “free” means just what you think it means.)

The principle is simple. You create an account with LogMeIn. Each computer that you want to control from afar installs a small piece of software. That software says “hello” to the LogMeIn servers each time the PC boots. The software tells the LogMeIn server where to find the PC on the Internet.

You — from home, or a motel or wherever else you happen to be — log in to the LogMeIn Web site. When you’re in, you’ll see a list of the PCs where you installed the client software. If those PCs are currently turned on and attached to the Internet, you’ll see that they’re “Online.” Simply click on them, then control them as if you were sitting directly in front of them.

Do you find yourself helping computer users over the phone? Let me tell you from experience: It’s much easier to solve their issues by taking over their PC and helping them directly, whether you’re across the country or around the world.

What about security? If you’re pulling all that information through the mysterious “tubes” of the Internet, doesn’t that mean you’re leaving yourself open for attack? Perish the thought. LogMeIn is encrypted from end to end, including your username and password.

Note: Don’t get excited and install this on your work computer without approval from your manager, or without the knowledge of your IT department. You don’t want to run afoul of your company’s “Acceptable Use Policy.”

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Kevin McDonald: Writer and professional computer/network administrator. He lives in Amarillo with his wife and children, and owns and operates Definition Computers. E-mail Kevin at askthegeek@definitioncomputers.com with questions you’d like to see answered in this column.

(This article was originally published in the Amarillo Independent newspaper.)

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