LogMeIn pulls plug on free remote access; rage ensues

Ticks off customers who used it to provide informal tech support to family, friends

Angry users of LogMeIn's free remote access service lashed out Tuesday at the company for giving them what amounted to a week's warning that their plugs would be pulled.

Not surprising, virtually all of the several hundred commenters bewailed the demise of the free service. But most saved their most caustic comments for the quick shut-off of LogMeIn's free service.

"It's hard to make a shorter notice than that," wrote someone identified only as e1000 on LogMeIn's discussion forum. "This shows no consideration to your customer base. I'll think twice before going for paid service."

"If they'd given us a reasonable amount of notice I would probably have taken the easy option and paid up," added matteustace on the same thread, which had grown to 76 pages by the end of Tuesday.

"Thanks for giving us loads of notice to sort something else out," chimed in chandlerp.

When LogMeIn announced Tuesday that it would shutter the free remote access service -- which lets people connect to as many as 10 computers for remote support, transferring files and online demonstrations -- it said it was immediately halting new registrations and would require current users to pick a paid plan.

Current users will have seven days from the day they next use LogMeIn to pay up or lose the free service. The Boston-based company has sent emails to users, and will notify them of the change when they run the software on a PC, Mac or mobile device.

LogMeIn's least-expensive paid plan costs $99 annually, and allows access to only two computers, although the company is halving that fee -- to $49 for the first year -- to entice users into signing up.

Most of those who stormed LogMeIn's discussion groups said that they would not pay for the service, which they used only occasionally. Many said they used it to provide ad hoc tech support to friends and especially far-flung family members who were less technically astute.

Readers of Computerworld and other technology websites know all too well that they are often pressed into helping others who know that they work in IT or are at least more familiar with the intricacies of Windows, OS X and other operating systems than are they.

"I'll set off now to go and drive a long distance to go and install a competitor product on my parent's machine," said JC3.

"Thanks for all these years of service to help my parents with remote sessions, [but] for me [it's not] worth it to move to Pro for occasional connections," added IvanM3.

Numerous users said that they would switch to TeamViewer, a LogMeIn rival that still offers free remote access for personal use. Other alternatives include Windows' baked-in Remote Assistance, and for OS X, the $80 Apple Remote Desktop application.

Others pointed out that it was always risky to rely on a free service, comments reminiscent of opinions expressed last year when Google announced it was abandoning its Google Reader RSS service. And Google gave Reader users three-and-a-half months to prepare for its death.

Some claimed that the free service had led to paid subscriptions, which might now be in jeopardy. "Like some other users, I started with the free product for my own use, which led to my company buying the Pro service," wrote Anon72628/a. "We've been happy enough with LogMeIn, but now as we're going to have to get alternatives for personal use, you can be quite sure we'll be having another look at paid-for services."

That may have made LogMeIn think hard before pulling the trigger on the demise of the free service, but by the results nothing more. Still, the company has called out the value of its free service in past filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"A significant portion of our user base utilizes our services free of charge through our free services or free trials of our premium services," LogMeIn's latest Form 10-Q read. "We seek to convert these free and trial users to paying customers of our premium services. If our rate of conversion suffers for any reason, our revenue may decline and our business may suffer."

LogMeIn did not reply to a request for comment on its decision to pull the plug, including a question asking why it is using a seven-day grace period rather than a longer notice.

LogMeIn has dumped its free remote access service, and gave current users just seven days to pay up or ship out.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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