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Network service platform promises secure teleworking

User demands are forcing IT managers to offer remote access to users' systems. An SSL-based VPN could simplify this
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor
With users demanding to work remotely, and governments supporting the principle, IT managers are under pressure to support teleworking -- which leads to a conflict with security. A product just arrived in the UK promises to support user access through any browser, while keeping the network secure. Dial-up remote access has been the mainstay of users working from home for some time, but incurs heavy telephone costs and ties the user to one system. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) reduce the connection costs by using the Internet but still need client software, so keeping the user on one system, usually a laptop. Services such as the very popular Gotomypc allow the user to install software on an office desktop so it can be controlled remotely from across the Internet, giving the user access to all the applications and data accessible from work. Many IT managers are alarmed at the security risks in this approach, but they increase the pressure to offer something under tighter control. The answer, according to Burton-on-Trent-based Lansition, is to install a server that delivers specific corporate applications to users who can access them from any Web browser client. The company is distributing the Netilla service platform in the UK, a hardware device which sits in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) of the corporate network, acting as a proxy. The product sets up an SSL-based VPN, overcoming limitations of regular VPNs, which can handle only Web-based applications, by acting as a proxy to systems accessed through Windows Terminal Server. "We don't pitch against Citrix," said Steve Jennings, business development manager at Lansition, although he admitted that the system is somewhat similar to Citrix's NFuse products. "We work with Citrix Metaframe if you have it, but you don't need it." Users might set up a contact management program such as Goldmine, which would otherwise have to be updated through email. The system actually increases security over the solution where applications are run on laptops because there is no customer data on the laptops, said Jennings. The box costs £5,000 for support for up to ten clients -- suitable for a sales force of 20 people, said Jennings. There is a charge of around £850 to install the box and configure applications to run on it, and a maintenance charge of about £1,000 per year. A box with 25 ports coss around £12,000 and other ports can be added in packs of five. An enterprise platform with 100 ports costs £22,600.
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