Converging at the Client

Remote broadband connectivity for enterprise users is usually up to the corporation’s IT staff to provide, and more and more are turning to subscription services such as those of GRIC or iPass. They allow users to get access back to the corporate network in a number of ways, including dial-up, Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Fiberlink of Blue Bell, Penn., another player in this space, is adding 3G/cellular to that mix.

Fiberlink gets a lot of notice in Wi-Fi circles for being one of the major customers of Boingo’s Platform Services, which opens up the Boingo Wireless virtual network of hotspots for corporate use. Fiberlink, which has customers including FedEx and General Electric, also provides dialup and wired broadband connectivity. Adding 3G, specifically CDMA, to the client is its latest move to provide secure connections no matter what the nature of the network.

“We want to secure connectivity, even if it’s not our network,” says Skip Taylor, vice president of product marketing at Fiberlink. “We’re trying to reach out with one universal client.”

The Fiberlink client, called Extend360, will dynamically seek out connections available on the end-user computer, and display them along the top of the screen. Support, of course, has to be on the system as well; the laptop will need a Wi-Fi card or CDMA card to be able to connect. Once the laptop is able to get on the Internet, the Extend360 client “phones home” to Fiberlink’s hosted Dynamic Network Architecture remote access platform. Extend360 is then updated with any security policies the laptop needs to connect to the corporate network.

“If there are any changes [in policy] that occur, the user signs on to our portal and we help push polices to the client,” says Taylor. “It’s about putting the control back into the hands of IT.”

In the last six months, GRIC and iPass have also introduced policy enforcement features on their clients to force end-users to get IT specified security (firewalls, VPNs, virus protection, etc.) before getting access.

Analyst firm META Group said earlier this year that while only 10 percent of enterprises currently outsource Wi-Fi hotspot services, that number is expected to jump as aggregator networks like Boingo’s become more popular. Fiberlink ranked just behind iPass in META’s overall provider rating.

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