• United States

Collaboration suite packs strong security

Apr 21, 20033 mins
Collaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium BusinessVoIP

Plethora Technology unveils new version of its remote access and collaboration software.

When you’re in a small office, your coworkers might be just over the cubicle wall. But when you telework or travel, it can be a lot more difficult to find them — and for them to find you. With Perspective 3.0, a new version of Plethora Technology’s dispersed workgroup enhancement software, you can reach out and connect regardless of location.

Plethora Technology is a small company (12 people) making software for other small companies with distributed employees. Perspective 3.0 runs on the network server, and provides high-security VPN connections, text conferencing, instant messaging and presence management tools. When you use a single login to gain access to Perspective, presence management makes you visible to coworkers, although you can hang up a “Do Not Disturb” sign if you wish.

One customer is USSI, a Baltimore firm with eight staffers. Three are full-time teleworkers; the rest travel regularly, providing IT consulting to small firms in architecture, engineering and construction. USSI uses Perspective for VPN, remote control of PCs, file transfer, instant messaging and text conferencing.

Barclay Olson, IT consultant for USSI, uses Perspective more for customer and in-house technical support than collaboration.

“We have better security with Perspective. Our earlier software had only 128-bit encryption compared to 168-bit for Perspective,” he says. “And this software automatically reconnects on PC reboot so clients don’t have to be at a workstation to restart a session.”

Perspective displays who has logged in to the system, makes it easy to send broadcast instant messages and offers text conferencing for an online meeting. The application is based on peer-to-peer technology between the server and clients, rather than standard Web client to Web server. To increase security further, Plethora developed its own authentication method called SecureChannel. Unlike standard encrypted communications, only one end of the transaction (the server) needs to know the 168-bit encryption key. This ensures no traveling salesperson can leave behind an authentication key on a kiosk computer at an airport or Internet café.

Perspective is available as a managed service or software. Because USSI runs Perspective on its network, Olson has complete control. When clients need remote support, Olson uses the remote control component to fix problems. For security, Perspective includes a time-out feature that disconnects the remote connection after a specified time.

Olson doesn’t use one of the features I like best about Perspective, the ability to archive text conference sessions. “If we need to archive anything, we keep copies of Exchange e-mails,” he says.

Plethora plans to include shared application viewing and an integrated Web browser in the third quarter, and voice over IP, e-mail and whiteboarding by year-end.

Security ranks high on the list of another Plethora Technology customer, the Department of Energy. It mandates the use of FIPS140 security for government work, which Perspective supports.

Perspective 3.0 pricing starts at $200 per client. The software comes loaded on a Linux server, but clients can provide their own hardware if they wish.

Olson, who lives in the Baltimore area, could muster just one complaint: “I couldn’t get out of work during the blizzard.”