Service Model Security

By Eric Griffith

January 26, 2004

A new wireless ISP for small-to-medium businesses lifts off today with the promise of providing extra security to customers as simply as possible.

Don't let the name fool you. Full Mesh Networks of Reston, Va., which is launching today after a few months of stealth mode, isn't a company that builds mesh networks (as in the self-healing, self-configuring wireless nets we've come to know). They just thought the name sounded good. Instead, the company is targeting one type of customer: businesses that want a secure wireless network with traditional equipment.

They plan to offer customers remote, RADIUS-based 802.1X authentication, similar to what Wireless Security Corp. (WSC) is offering. Full Mesh co-founders Bill Bullock and Steven Shippa says their solution will have added benefits, starting with IPsec-based virtual private network (VPN) connections, monitoring service, and managed access.

"It's an ASP/Service Provider model, which is quite unique in this space," says Bullock. "Typically all hardware is included, no startup charges [with an 18-month contract], everything is pre-configured plug-and-play and [you] just pay your monthly fee and we manage and monitor 24x7x365. Not a whole lot to think about as we already picked the best stuff." To start, Full Mesh is using Cisco routers, Proxim access points, and Red-M probes for monitoring. During initial testing, they even found a bug in Red-M's code, which they fixed.

"It seems like people are missing out on the service model approach," says Bullock. "There's growth in hardware, but not a lot in services. Yet a lot of small businesses don't want to outlay thousands in cash to pay employees and start a network operations center (NOC)."

The virtual NOC Full Mesh offers will set up firewalls to protect info, link locations for remote communications, and notify the customer of unwanted activity such as rogue access points or users.

"We'll monitor 24x7 and let people know after ten minutes when we see something," says Shippa.

Because the NOC is virtual, they'll keep up with the Wi-Fi trends for customers, such as new additions to the 802.11 specifications. They also plan to support Bluetooth connections. They'll do a free "tele-install," or you can pay for a contractor to install the AP. They provide an Excel-based service calculator online to figure out exact costs needed for an office.

This boils down to a "Macintosh approach instead of PC approach," according to Bullock; in other words, they want to make it simple in pricing and approach, and as jargon-free and non-intimidating as possible.

This is a "repeatable, scalable solution," he says, that will be successful because there's "pent up demand because people are scared to death by the options out there."

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