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Five Ways To Arm Your Mobile Workforce

New technologies allow road warriors to spend more time on work and less on workarounds.

Employees on the go often feel like they're stuck in an episode of Survivor gone horribly wrong. Poorly designed hotel networks, dead laptop batteries, spotty cell coverage, and no in-room print or fax capabilities--coupled with a deadline of yesterday--add up to reality-show levels of stress for the brave traveling souls trying to make business happen.

Enabling your sales superstars to focus on their jobs, and not on battling technology issues, is an area where enterprise IT can add tremendous value with little risk. Better yet, the minimal investment required can be offset by the reduction in help desk calls alone. With a little planning, and some help from technology vendors, you can deliver new levels of connectivity, security, and--dare we say it--happiness, to your traveling contingent. We'll detail five top technologies that can make life on the road as productive as life in a cube, as well as three areas to watch out for.

Vendors have finally heard our cries over all these countless hours of lost productivity and connectivity on the road. The remote office access systems available today are incredible compared with what was available just a few years ago.

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Aruba Networks and Cisco are among the players in the remote access market that are making life on the road more bearable. With Aruba's line of Mobility Controllers and Remote Access Points, the days of troubleshooting VPN client problems are gone. Simply supply your road warrior with a small access point that's plugged into any wired Ethernet connection. The AP finds the mobility controller located at corporate headquarters and builds an IPsec tunnel that's actually an extension of your enterprise wireless network. The Aruba AP is VoIP-friendly and quality-of-service-aware, so users can put down the expensive hotel phone and break out a wireless IP phone.

If no hard-wired Ethernet connection is available, the Aruba AP-70 can backhaul the IPsec tunnel over a USB-based EV-DO or 3G cellular modem. The AP-70's HotelConnect feature allows the Aruba access point to register its MAC with the hotel's captive portal, but the service is activated via a device capable of associating with the Aruba access point and displaying the captive portal page. Alternatively, you can pre-activate the service at the front desk. The Aruba AP-70 can't tunnel through a hotel's Wi-Fi, so you'd need a hard-wired Ethernet jack, or you could use a cellular connection.

This ability to extend the corporate wireless network anywhere, coupled with seamless cellular backhaul to the corporate office, makes the AP-70 worth the $595 list price for high-priority off-site workers.

Preventing data leakage is quickly becoming a top priority for IT, and there's no better place to start than with staffers who are taking your most sensitive material outside the corporate walls.

For an in-depth look at how wireless is becoming viable for mission-critical network connectivity, see our InformationWeek Analytics Alert
If you own a copy of Windows Vista Enterprise or Ultimate, you already own an out-of-the-box system for full disk encryption via BitLocker. However, for true enterprise-ready encryption and data leakage protection, look to products from companies such as GuardianEdge Technologies, Mobile Armor, and Seagate Technology. With GuardianEdge's suite of products, you can encrypt the local hard drive and prevent leaks of data via external devices, keyloggers, screen captures, smartphones, and more. Policies can be defined and centrally distributed to managed devices, with full auditing and reporting capabilities.

Don't expect disk encryption and data leakage protection to prevent every conceivable leak, but it's a step toward preventing all but the most determined of attackers from getting access to your most important data.

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