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TravelingPC offers remote access alternative

Jun 09, 20034 mins
Network Switches

Unique approach provides managed access to corporate applications and data, disaster recovery.

Six months ago, Jason Hickock came flush up against the limits of his company’s VPN. Remec, a San Diego wireless components manufacturer, had just bought the financial software application Hyperion for its two dozen controllers, stationed in offices from China to Finland. Although the controllers access Hyperion over the VPN, “the performance was terrible,” Hickock recalls. So Hyperion suggested Remec add Citrix to access the application instead.

But Citrix was too expensive for such a small implementation. “We only needed 25 licenses, and they quoted us a price of $25,000,” says Hickock, Remec’s finance systems administrator. “After the price of the server, connection pack, training, software engineering, Web server, our guys said it would probably cost more like $30,000.”

Hickock assumed Citrix was Remec’s only option, but Rick Taylor, the vice president of IT, had heard of a small company called TravelingPC, which provides Web-based application and data access as a subscription service. Remec gave it a try.

Like Citrix, TravelingPC is a server-based product. Users log on to TravelingPC’s data centers, where they view their application clients and My Documents folder. Users work as if the applications are running locally, but all processing takes place on the server. Only screenshots, keystrokes and mouse clicks are transmitted. TravelingPC’s data centers connects to the customer’s servers via a VPN.

“Our people access Hyperion from the TravelingPC site, and it runs pretty smooth,” Hickock says. It’s also solved another problem: Employees in the manufacturing plant in China were having problems accessing Remec’s ERP system, Baan, over the VPN.

“The connection was so slow it would just time out,” Hickock says. “But they can access Baan fine using TravelingPC. We originally bought 25 licenses, but now we’re up to 75. The whole China operation is working through it.”

As Remec learned firsthand, TravelingPC’s architecture offers better performance and price benefits over Citrix. It also offers improved security over ExpertCity’s GoToMyPC.

According to the company, users experience high performance, even over 14.4K bit/sec wireless connections. Instead of retrieving a 50-byte document and pulling it over a DSL connection, for instance, users view the document residing in the data center.

Also key is the ability to extend the life cycle of client PCs because client performance isn’t reliant on processing power. There’s no need to update operating system security patches, antivirus definitions, or maintain a personal firewall. The client device for the most part is irrelevant.

TravelingPC’s subscription model is ideal for large companies such as Remec that need limited access to specific applications like Hyperion and Baan, and for smaller firms as a VPN alternative. The cost is affordable: $30 per month, per user, which includes the TravelingPC Instant Virtual Office desktop, and access to Microsoft Office applications and Outlook. Additional applications cost $2.50 per month, per user. A data synchronization application provides disaster recovery and data backup.

The only subscription-model competitor to TravelingPC is ExpertCity’s GoToMyPC, which has seen success in small and home offices, but limited adoption in corporations, in part because of security concerns. Users install client software on the corporate workstation (often unbeknownst to IT), which lets GoToMyPC punch a hole through the firewall to access the workstation’s applications and data. This method can expose corporate resources to the Internet and bypasses security policies and application management practices.

With TravelingPC, the user experience is similar, but the desktop accessed is only an approximation of the actual workstation, populated only with applications and data authorized by IT. When the user accesses resources on the company’s data center, the pixels and keystrokes are encrypted using RSA Security’s RC4, 128-bit, using port 443. TravelingPC aggregates all external users into one VPN tunnel between its data center and corporate network.

“While companies might still be concerned they have a single VPN tunnel to a third party, it is still more secure than having remote employees drilling large numbers of holes through their corporate firewall, with each hole introducing a different security risk because of an improperly administered and configured PC,” says Joe O’Brien, TravelingPC CEO.

Although the company, launched in 1999, built its business on the subscription model, O’Brien says he’s recently had a lot of interest from customers who want to run the system on their networks. As a result, TravelingPC has developed a line of remote-access server appliances that start at about $10,000 for 25 concurrent users. The 5000 BL device serves up to 2,000 concurrent users and can be clustered together to scale much further.How it works: Anywhere server-based access