Because of the high cost of data lines, companies have traditionally implemented individual networks at each remote office. This requires procedures for synchronizing data from the remote sites with the data sets located on the central office network. It also mandates an IT person or staff at each remote LAN to administer the local network.
Remote Access Solutions
A better option is to provide high speed remote access to applications and data located on the central office network. This approach requires the use of a server-based architecture like that in Windows Terminal Services, Citrix MetaFrame or application “webification” in order to deliver applications and data to the remote users.
Server-based computing also centralizes network administration and allows for remote access over low bandwidth connections (see the section on server-based computing). Branch offices can work against the Headquarter’s network servers in real time over modest DSL lines. Telecommuters can work at LAN equivalent speed even over dialup connections.
Although performance is important, data security is even more critical. SIA can deploy several different technologies to protect your networks and data but the most cost effective strategy is to deliver network traffic over the Internet using a Virtual Private Network or VPN. A VPN creates a private “tunnel” over private phone lines or over the Internet to deliver secure access to your remote users. This model has become even more compelling with the widespread adoption of Intranets and Extranets. The VPN software is generally installed on the company firewall. Since most of the quality firewall products include VPN functionality, the cost and complexity of setting up your own “tunnel” for remote connectivity has been greatly reduced. See Security.
A final component to be considered with any remote access solution is voice connectivity. As discussed in the Data and Voice Lines/VoIP section, SIA installs Voice over IP products to allow branch offices and telecommuters to route voice traffic over existing data lines or over the Internet. Providing network and phone access over DSL or other inexpensive connections allows firms to quickly and inexpensively set up remote “Virtual Offices” in any state or country in which they do business. See VoIP.