Turning the iPhone, iPod Touch into Support Tools

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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LogMeIn releases a remote control client for Apple’s popular devices. Reaching out and “iTouching” a remote PC has never been so easy.

Apple’s iPhone has been starting to popup in the enterprise as a unified communications device, forcing solution providers and IT staffers to find ways to leverage Apple’s consumer-orientated device. The iPhone isn’t the only Apple product to make the jump from consumer product to business tool. The same can be said for the iPod Touch, which is becoming a very popular device for instant messaging, email and web surfing in WiFi enabled environments.

With the launch of LogMeIn Ignition, LogMeIn has brought additional legitimacy to the iPhone and iPod Touch, at least as far as business IT is concerned. LogMeIn has made LogMeIn Ignition available via the Apple iTunes store, a necessary evil to deliver the product to i-device users. While that does cut the channel out of the equation, there’s still some opportunity for solution providers. That opportunity comes in the form of setting up the service on the PC side of things.

For LogMeIn ignition to work, a LogMeIn application must be running on the host PC (the PC waiting to be controlled) and that has not only security implications, but also creates other elements that must be addressed – such as remote PC wake up, power profiles, locally installed applications and so on. On the other hand, solution providers can use LogMeIn Ignition as a simple way for a technician to support a customer at a moment’s notice from most anywhere. In other words, LogMeIn ignition offers value to both the solution provider and the end user, which goes far beyond a simple margin.

As with most anything Apple, installation and use of LogMeIn ignition is amazingly simple. Once the product is purchased from the iTunes store (under $30), it pretty much auto-installs and is ready for use. While the Apple side of the equation is automated, the PC side of the equation is a little different. Here, the logMeIn client must be installed on the host PC, which translates to creating an account on LogMeIn’s site, downloading and installing the client software and setting up user access security/controls. LogMeIn offers several flavors of the PC client, each of which offers a different feature mix. For example, the free client offers just basic remote control features, while LogMeIn Pro adds advance file sharing, on screen meetings, synchronization and more. The company also offers LogMeIn versions for smart-phones, Hamachi and server management.

For most users, the free edition will probably do everything needed to remotely control and use a PC from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Using the iPhone to remotely control a PC is simply amazing; it seems as if the device was designed with that purpose in mind. Once connected and logged in, users are presented with the PCs screen on the iPhone (or iPod Touch), the PC’s screen is scaled down to fit on the iPhone display and can be hard to see, but by using the zoom function on the iPhone, users can enlarge any part of the screen, which appears crisp. If the PC has more than one screen, it’s not a problem to switch views, just shake the iPhone and you now are on the other display. Shake again and you are back to the main display.

Perhaps the only downside is the lack of a keyboard, although users can press a button and then have access to an on screen keyboard to input text. That’s not as good as a physical keyboard, but it sure does work well in a pinch. Zooming in and out of screens is also very easy, users can just use the touch screen to make that happen or use a zoom button on the software’s dashboard. LogMeIn Ignition takes full advantage of many of the iPhone’s unique features. For example, if you want to change from portrait to landscape view of the PC’s display, just turn the iPhone 90 degrees and the device takes care of the rest.

Screen refresh rates and overall system speed proved to be adequate and more than fast enough for remote support chores. Overall, the product proved to be a well-designed complement to the iPod Touch and iPhone and is well worth the money.

Whether you are a solution provider trying to reach out and fix a minor problem on a server or you are an end user that wants to access some data while on the train, LogMeIn Ignition proves to be a great way to do either.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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