Symantec upgrades remote-access tool

Symantec Corp. last week released a new version of its dial-up remote-connectivity software, adding centralized management, security and other features.

Many federal employees already use pcAnywhere software to dial in to their local-area networks and gain access to Microsoft Corp. Windows-based desktop PCs.

Version 9.0 of pcAnywhere is easier to deploy than previous versions because it lets managers pre-configure settings as part of the remote installation, and it eases the management of the software from a central location, said Charles Laforge, the senior product manager for pcAnywhere.

For example, managers can use the software to turn on, shut down and connect a remote PC to the host and view its files and security log. Such features reduce management costs by eliminating the need for the managers to make a trip to the PC's location, Laforge said.

There are thousands of pcAnywhere users in the federal government, according to Symantec, but the majority are concentrated in the Census Bureau and the Defense, Justice and Treasury departments.

The Navy has used pcAnywhere for about three years to support users accessing a document imaging storage system that supports supply inventory, said Bill Bunge, supply system analyst at the Naval Inventory Control Point, which supplies parts for naval submarines, ships and aircraft worldwide.

About six sites nationwide belonging to the Navy's Files Image Library Entry/Retrieval System (FILES) have pcAnywhere installed, and Bunge has relied on the software to manage Windows 95-based PCs that habitually malfunction at those sites, he said.

"I can take control of the PC wherever it is," Bunge said. "I can even install software [and] do upgrades and training while I'm connected to a PC, and I walk [users] through various things." Bunge has connected to FILES computers by dialing them directly and by accessing them over the Internet.

Bunge said it is still necessary sometimes to travel to maintain the FILES computers, but he estimated that in the past 15 months pcAnywhere has saved him a month that he would have had to spend away from the office.

To enhance security for connecting over the Internet, Symantec has bundled CheckPoint Software Technologies Ltd.'s virtual private network (VPN) solution with Version 9.0, Laforge said. The CheckPoint VPN-1 software prompts users for authentication credentials when they attempt to remotely access the corporate network via a CheckPoint VPN-1 gateway connection.

Larry Howard, vice president of Infonetics Research Inc., said the addition of the VPN features is important because VPN is becoming more viable among commercial organizations.

A recent Infonetics Research survey found that 57 percent of medium-size companies plan to use VPN for remote-access connectivity by 2000. Among the large companies surveyed, 51 percent said they would move to VPN within that time span. However, dial-up would probably survive as a backup, Howard said.

Another new security feature of pcAnywhere is a "nag" or warning message that appears when the software has been launched without the full security features running. The software also can keep a log at a central location of all the remote users' activities so that the manager can monitor what users send, download and view.

Version 9.0 also includes Windows NT authentication capabilities, restricted drive access, encryption and file transfer rights, and it has a new directory service feature to locate and communicate with other users who might be logged on. The feature has been developed with Yahoo! Inc. using its Yahoo! Messenger, which has been bundled with the new version of pcAnywhere.

pcAnywhere is available through various resellers' General Service Administration schedules. Its retail price is $169.

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