By Charles Hamilton, GigaOM

For several years, LogMeIn Hamachi2 has been one of my favorite tools for creating a VPN that allows me to connect to my network remotely. I can create and access secure virtual networks on demand, across public and private networks.

It’s easy to install; each computer is assigned a unique identifier. Users can then create password-protected private networks, or join existing ones through an AES 256-bit encrypted connection. The unique identifier is in the format x.x.x.x, so it looks like an IP address to the operating system. Thus, once the Hamachi network has been set up, you can use standard tools to communicate between machines. Shared drives will display in Explorer or Finder, and you can use Remote Desktop Connection or Apple’s Screen Sharing app.

Until recently, the Hamachi client for Windows has been way ahead of the rudimentary command-line tool that was all that was available for Macs. That’s changed. The new Mac version 2.0 sports a spiffy GUI, plus some features that were previously Windows-only, including a way of sending private chat messages between connected machines. There’s also a beta command-line version for Linux.

Hamachi is one of several related products from LogMeIn. We’ve talked about LogMeIn Ignition, for accessing computers from mobile devices; LogMeIn Central, for managing multiple machines in a corporate environment; and web conferencing system The LogMeIn website has a wizard for helping users decide which product is appropriate for their needs.

Hamachi is available for $199 per year. The license includes the ability to create multiple networks of up to 256 computers. There is also a non-commercial version that’s limited to networks of up to 16 computers, and a 14-day free trial.

How do you and your colleagues connect remotely?

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