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Virtual PC Takes On VPN Hassles

Sentillion's vThere is a complete virtual PC on a remote user's computer, operating system and all.
Remote users are a pain. They present all sorts of administrative, security, and access challenges. Yet, with more coming online every year, companies wouldn't put up with them if they weren't an important part of their businesses.

Sentillion, which spun off from Hewlett-Packard in 1998, saw this scenario every day: too many remote users relying on expensive or insecure ways to get online. Last week, it released vThere, software the company bills as a new way to connect remote users. Whereas most businesses use VPNs with presentation servers or application servers, Sentillion's vThere is a complete virtual PC--operating system and all--on a remote user's computer.

The virtual PC comes installed with relevant gear such as antivirus software, as determined by company administrators. Users can either download a virtual image of the PC over a weekend or install it from disks. It runs in a completely separate environment on the user's PC and doesn't require a company to buy application servers to push software to the desktop.

Akin to a VPN tunnel, vThere connects authenticated users to the company network, where the virtual PC is subject to the same policies and antivirus updates as office desktops. Security is still a possible problem; if the virtual PC is running on a family PC, a virus downloaded by a remote user's 12-year-old could shut down the computer and make the virtual machine inaccessible. But it shouldn't affect the company's network.

For hospitals in Ohio's Kettering Medical Center Network, security and budget concerns limit who has remote access and which programs and data they can access. But remote users are a lifeline for patient care, and vThere is making access feasible, network manager Bob Burritt says. For example, radiologists use it to view X-rays remotely. Sentillion hopes vThere will resonate with industries such as publishing, education, and businesses that rely on a traveling workforce.