It seems that the new year is not only a time for resolutions to get fit, but instead, for online service providers to re-evaluate their offerings. Numerous services have announced closures and alterations – this morning, it’s LogMeIn Free.
LogMeIn is a “no-fuss” remote access client which allows for easy remote administration of your computers without having to think about setting up port forwarding, or whether you can get through firewalls and NATs. It has UDP hole punching logic, and also the availability of relay servers operated by LogMeIn to make sure you get “in”.
Of course, this does cost money to operate, and many home users typically take advantage of the free offering. This morning, in a rather abrupt e-mail and online posting at LogMeIn’s Blog, they announced the discontinuation of LogMeIn Free after ten years of service. I haven’t actively used LogMeIn myself, although I have been aware of it.
Their posting is as follows:
Changes to LogMeIn Free
(Updated to provide clarity on common questions)
After ten years, LogMeIn’s free remote access product, LogMeIn Free, is going away. We will be unifying our portfolio of free and premium remote access products into a single offering. This product will be a paid-only offering, and it will offer what we believe to be the best premium desktop, cloud and mobile access experience available on the market today. We will be notifying those impacted by the change in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, we wanted to take a minute to explain the change and help users of LogMeIn’s access products better understand what this means for them.
Starting in January, we will gradually migrate users of LogMeIn-branded remote access offerings and Ignition-branded remote access offerings to a single, premium access product. Please note that once you log into your account there is a seven day window to upgrade. Subscriptions will include LogMeIn’s signature remote access to two or more computers, premium mobile apps for Android and iOS, and native Mac and Windows desktop apps. Additionally, all users who purchase a subscription to LogMeIn Pro will be upgraded to a premium remote access experience, with capabilities that include integration with popular cloud sync and share products like Cubby, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive, the ability to manage and transfer cloud and local files, remote printing and more.
It’s worth noting that Central customers will not be impacted by this change (please see FAQ). In addition, this change does not impact other freemium products in our broader portfolio, like join.me and Cubby.
We understand that with any change come questions and potentially concerns. You can find the answers to what we anticipate will be the most common questions here. In addition, we are dedicating an area of our community site for fielding questions and feedback.
We’ve heard a couple common questions around Ignition and the notification period, and wanted to provide some clarity. Please see below:
For owners of LogMeIn Ignition for iPad/iPhone and LogMeIn Ignition for Android
While customers who purchased these apps are impacted by this change, we have taken steps to be especially attentive to these customers. LogMeIn Ignition for iPad/iPhone and Android app purchasers will receive significant discounts, as well as generous terms to ease the transition. Details of these offers are being sent to Ignition mobile users this week, both via email and in-product notifications.
Impacted users will be notified via email and in-product messages. While messaging started today, users will be given 7 days to make a purchase decision about LogMeIn Pro. To be clear, the 7-day grace period starts when you next login to the LogMeIn service.
Interestingly, their posting in their investor blog reads a little differently …
As you might have seen, today we began notifying users that we will be discontinuing LogMeIn Free and will seek to transition existing LogMeIn Free users to our paid-only remote access offering.
While we intend to provide additional information regarding the financial implications of this change during our February 13th earnings call, we want to share some initial details for the investment community.
Currently, consensus revenue estimates for LogMeIn in 2014 are $190.3 million. While it’s too early to project the precise impact of this initiative, we anticipate our 2014 revenue will be consistent with these estimates without any revenue contribution from this business model shift. However, management believes there may be some incremental revenue contribution as a result of this program, depending on the number of users that convert to our premium offering.
We look forward to providing more details on our upcoming earnings call on February 13th.
Forward-Looking Statements: This post contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding our estimated 2014 revenue. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date they were first issued and were based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections as well as the beliefs and assumptions of management. The company’s actual results could differ materially from those stated above.
Why oh Why?
Interestingly, it seems that LogMeIn is doing well even prior to this change with what seems to be fairly good revenue in the positive. The move to discontinue free offerings is likely to improve revenue into the future. This seems to be an interesting move – are they preparing to do something with the company? Merger? Sell-off? Acquisition?
Secondly, I think it’s going to impact heavily on the free users, which are typically lighter users of the service which occasionally need to use it because they’re stuck behind NAT, carrier-grade NAT or restrictive firewalls. Their options are limited – according to the site, it’s going to get pricey:
- LogMeIn Rescue $1188/year + Smartphone Devices $768/year
- LogMeIn Central (0-100 computers) $299/year
- LogMeIn Central (101-250 computers) $499/year
- LogMeIn Central (251-500 computers) $799/year
- LogMeIn Central (501+ computers) $1499/year
- LogMeIn Pro for Individuals (2 computers) $99/year
- LogMeIn Pro for Power Users (5 computers) $249/year
- LogMeIn Pro for Small Business (10 computers) $449/year
They like to say that it costs less than a coffee a day, but that’s already quite expensive when you realize that the service isn’t that valuable for many free users. Many users have issues buying even $0.99 apps from a store, so asking them to pony up $99/year at the least is a bit steep.
One of my thoughts was that they might be doing this to curb abuse of the system by telephone scam operations. Many of the “fake” remote support calls have utilized LogMeIn to gain remote access to end user computers to install malware. The interesting thing is, at $1499/year for LogMeIn Central with 501+ computers, it’s really not going to be enough of a cost to stop successful scam rackets from using it.
Really, the guys it hurts are those who aren’t able to configure and run their own remote access servers due to a variety of impediments or a lack of technical knowledge.
I think it’s been a bit of a epiphany by cloud providers that they are offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) and they can decide to offer these services at a subscription which means continuous ongoing revenue. They feel the need to improve revenue by reducing all “freeloaders” by offering short trials and hoping to convert them to full-paying customers.
I understand that they are businesses and that profit is king, but likewise, I hope that this proves to be the impetus for others to develop their own solutions. Maybe some will continue to be charitable and realize their importance to the community as a whole. This could mean limited free services, completely free open source alternatives, etc. It’s a bit harder when the service involves the offering of hosted services like STUN or UDP relay as there is bandwidth and trust issues.
From Now On …
For those who are stuck, you can try an alternative called TeamViewer. It’s free for personal usage, and they even put up a quick post about how to switch from LogMeIn Free to TeamViewer. It also appears to be able to work behind NATs and Firewalls, although I can’t attest to how effective it is in comparison.
I’m not too sure about the limitations on TeamViewer, however.
The best alternative is to set up your own VNC server on your own machine and directly connect to it over the internet. To do this, you will probably need to:
- Use a dynamic DNS service (to get a name to connect to, or you can remember IP addresses if you have a static IP)
- Set-up port-forwarding (to enable external connections into your network)
- Configure firewall (to allow connections to your VNC server)
- Install and configure VNC server on your machine (e.g. encryption mode, passwords). Note that advanced features like encryption require clients which are compatible which often means no access from mobile devices.
You can use dynamic DNS services such as afraid.org and under Windows, my favourite VNC server and client is UltraVNC. It also features file transfer, and encryption plug-ins although it will only operate with UltraVNC Viewer.
Under Mac, there’s an inbuilt VNC server within the operating system itself which you can find under System Preferences. Under Linux, you can try Krfb or configure x11vnc.
As VNC is a “quasi” standard, you can use a variety of viewer software. For example, on Mac, you can use Chicken of the VNC Viewer; on Linux, KRDC; on Android and iOS, you have Wyse Pocketcloud, Mocha VNC, android-vnc viewer and other VNC viewers with the same server, as long as you forego encryption and file transfer.
Under Windows, there is a second option to use the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) which is also possible to connect to from remote control applications on mobile and tablet, although it will require ability to configure port forwarding, firewall and possibly dynamic DNS.
Under Linux, they will snicker at me and just use SSH with X tunneled through it. It’s actually a pretty good solution :).
That being said, some legwork means that you can be free of the variability of “cloud offerings”. It also means no ongoing costs – I’ve been doing it this way for years now.
If you don’t have a direct connection to the internet from the system you want to install the server, you can still get through by using LogMeIn Hamachi VPN. It allows up to 5 computers in the free installation, and still punches through firewalls and NATs.
If you choose to use Hamachi VPN, unfortunately, you won’t have mobile access, but you will have an encrypted link that goes through all the troublesome firewalls and NATs and it will cost you nothing for up to 5 computers.
That is, until LogMeIn discontinues Hamachi free …
It’s not a bright future … I’d expect Hamachi might get chopped in the future. Much like how we saw the demise of Dyndns Free, Sugarsync Free, Bump/Flock, etc.