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Home for the holidays? What’s your remote management strategy?

Dec 14, 20053 mins
Data CenterRemote Access

* Technology to let you enjoy the holidays without fear of a call from the office

At this time of year, it’s nice to be able to think about going home for a few days, or to some idyllic setting away from winter cold and snow. Unfortunately, IT professionals don’t always have those options. But that is changing as remote management solutions make it increasingly possible to let technologists warm their hands before the home fires rather than by the heat of an equipment rack.

The evolution of VPN technology has given administrators a broader foundation of secure connectivity, with finer degrees of control. SSL VPN, for example, is natively specific to Web applications, inherently enabling application-specific granularity of access. This specificity can be extended to non-Web applications as well (a concept known as “intermediation”). In the past, this may have been a drawback when the network-wide connectivity of IPSec was preferred, but the evolution of SSL VPN intermediation has reached the point where this is not an issue with many of today’s leading SSL VPN solutions, such as those from Aventail, Citrix and Juniper Networks.

Increased focus on data protection, information privacy, and insider risks mean that the enforcement of information security measures on remote connectivity has become increasingly significant. Solutions such as Permeo’s Base5 present an interesting differentiation of efficient options. For those familiar with SOCKS, the Permeo Base5 architecture centralizes both intermediation and policy management functionality at the session layer (Layer 5 of the ISO network stack, hence the product name). This natively enables the use of a wide range of connectivity as well as security options, since it limits requirements for application- or target-specific intermediation.

Remote support for GUI-intensive environments such as PCs often requires the ability to interact with the local desktop itself. This is where remote desktop tools from Symantec’s pcAnywhere, DameWare, and the various flavors of virtual network computing (VNC), to Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and EMC’s VMware play a role. Unless configured for the purpose, however, these tools may not incorporate the level of secure access management required. This is where solutions such as Citrix GoToAssist can be helpful. The Citrix solution leverages the ASP model and mediates an indirect connection to support targets, which reduces the exposure risk and increases access control options.

Enterprise remote support solutions such as ComBrio provide behind-the-firewall connection and access management, linking directly with the connectivity option of choice, whether it is remote GUI or a basic terminal connection. This allows the enterprise to minimize risk through controlling connections from the inside out rather than the other way around, in combination with a wide range of access options.

Onsite data center support is often made simpler through the use of keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) technology, which enables an administrator to interface with multiple systems from a single console. Today, KVM solutions have been extended to KVM-over-IP and other remote data center administration options, from vendors such as Avocent and Raritan. This enables the data center or network administrator to do as much from in front of the fireplace as she can from in front of her data center workstation.

I’d be interested in knowing which solutions are making it possible for you to enjoy time away from the office, with confidence in your remote support options. May they ease the adrenalin jolt you may have experienced from unexpected pager rings in previous holiday seasons!