iPass Unifies Work, Home & Road Access

By Eric Griffith

October 16, 2006

The Virtual Office service is meant to give mobile employees one interface for all their possible modes of network connectivity.

Almost a year after acquiring rival GoRemote, iPass says it is ready to launch a service that integrates its own remote access with GoRemote's fixed broadband services to offer one complete access service for mobile workers.

Called iPass Virtual Office, the service — which enterprises can purchase for use by their employees — has a single software interface (the iPassConnect client software) providing access via 62,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, dial-up connections, and now fixed broadband connections (where iPass actually manages and provisions the wired broadband in a home office, for example). They're not just aggregating hotspots, but now also aggregating cable and DSL.

"Reuters says one in six people work from home once a week," says Joan Fazio, director of product marketing for iPass. "But if you don't have a strategic approach, people lose productivity, you can't control costs, they're wasting time setting up DSL and being their own technical support." She calls it fighting the "black budget" of hidden mobility costs — like, for example, a traveling employee expensing something as a phone call that was really an Internet connection. The budget that should have been hit was IT. "It's not visible to IT, they don't see that — but it does hit the company," she says.

With the iPass Virtual Office, Fazio says, "They get the same user experience at home as at a hotspot. The customer doesn't have to deal with support calls. It's a uniform solution."

The client handles connections securely, so the end user doesn't have to know any encryption keys or the like — nothing but standard username/password credentials. Items like virtual private network (VPN) tunnels are automatically launched as the IT staff configure them. Settings can be pushed out to users, so if a company has remote offices in cities like New York, Tokyo and Melbourne, the client gets the settings needed for each.

"They don't need to know we're doing 802.1X [authentication] with TTLS and all that stuff," says Fazio. "The end user doesn't need the Tokyo IT guy. The connection is there when they walk in the door."

On top of the unified mobility, iPassConnect is also featuring a new Device Lockdown feature. "We need to make sure [devices] are safe and protected while users are out and about," says Fazio. This is a standard Internet-based check of a computer's policy compliance before it's allowed to access the network or even see the rest of the Internet. It also gives IT a real-time view of the devices connecting to the corporate network — important on machines that IT may never see personally.

iPass connections aren't limited to Wi-Fi and wires. The company supports 2.5G and 3G connections from select partners, and even sells a Sierra Wireless EV-DO card. The company announced new partners today for overseas markets, including Beijing Unicom in China, KDDI in Japan, and 3 Hong Kong.



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