The price of relying on any freely provided service, it seems, is the possibility that one day the plug will be pulled without warning. Google users are by now all too familiar with how today's product can become tomorrow's afterthought: Google Reader, Google Wave, Knol, Picnik ... the list goes on. Fortunately, few of them have proved irreplaceable in the long run.
Users of the free tier of desktop remote access service LogMeIn received a similarly rude awakening when the company announced it was discontinuing the free version of that product. But it's not as if there aren't alternatives. Here are a few of the most notable.
GoToMyPC is LogMeIn's most widely known competitor, and it has just about all the features of LogMeIn, along with some extras: clipboard support, file transfers, remote printing, remote audio, and even multimonitor support. It doesn't have an actual free tier, but it does have a 30-day trial version, which is free for up to 20 users.
TeamViewer is nominally for companies that want to provide desktop support for their clients, and as such, it has features like being able to schedule online sessions via Microsoft Outlook or the ability to seamlessly hand off remote connections from one guest to another. That said, it can be installed and used by individual users as well. The latest release of the product (version 9, December 2013) supports copy/paste actions between guest and host, file transfers, and remote audio/video.
Splashtop Remote is mainly for accessing a desktop from a mobile device (Android or iOS) and has received major kudos for two features: its handling of multimedia streaming, and its ingenious mapping of keyboard and mouse functions to touch gestures. Windows and Mac editions of the client are also available. Note that without the Anywhere Access Pack (which is an additional $1.99 / month), you won't be able to use Splashtop Remote from an outside network -- e.g., through a firewall. Also note that the personal tier only allows five PCs per user, and it does not allow commercial use.
Google Chrome Remote Desktop lets you use, as the name implies, the Google Chrome browser both as the client and the server for accessing desktops remotely. The range of features is limited compared to some of the other solutions here, but it does serve up basic remote desktop functionality. It also has the advantage of being cross-platform between Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook systems.
No discussion of remote desktop would be complete without at least some mention of the VNC protocol, a cross-platform and open source solution that's been widely deployed in both free and commercial implementations. RealVNC is a commonly used version of VNC, which comes in two flavors: an "open" version distributed as GPL-licensed software, and "personal" and "enterprise" versions with encryption, high-performance connection control, and support. The biggest drawback with RealVNC is that it doesn't automatically connect through firewalls, so be prepared to monkey with your network settings by hand.
Correction: The original version of this post listed GoToMyPC as having a free service tier. It has a free 30-day trial edition, not a free service tier. It also did not state that Splashtop Remote needed the Anywhere Access Pack to work across networks, or include the description of Google Chrome Remote Desktop. This post has been amended to reflect these corrections.
This story, "Locked out of LogMeIn? Check out these free alternatives," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.