Two-thirds of remote users still rely upon dial-up modems for at least some of their connectivity, even when using sophisticated line-of-business applications, according to one of the speakers at the recent IDG WAN Optimisation conference in London.

At the same time as IT bosses are trying to consolidate as much as possible, their users are more geographically spread than ever and they are using more and more different methods to connect into the centre, Quocirca principal analyst Rob Bamforth told the conference.

"Increasingly, we're seeing that the remote access required is more sophisticated, needs more bandwidth and is more business-critical," he said. "It's not email and Internet, it's accessing key parts of the business infrastructure.

"And often when people say they have remote access, they mean dial-up. Not everyone has broadband to access these sophisticated applications, although there is increasing use of home broadband, often via wireless."

The need to combine data centre consolidation with a dispersed user base is why people are buying WAN optimisation appliances - boxes which carry out tasks such as file caching, TCP acceleration and bandwidth control, Bamforth said.

He fingered two main enemies in the struggle to improve application performance over WANs - application developers, and naïve end users.

"There's a lot of inconsiderate software, software that's just written to expect connectivity," with no understanding of the connection's characteristics, he said.

He added that few users are aware of issues such as contention or bandwidth limitations.

"Give a user access and bandwidth and they'll use it, they'll use it as much as they can. They'll find ways to constantly use it, whether its peer-to-peer or whatever.

"Most people aren't aware there's contention. It's younger people who aren't aware of the limitations, and they're the ones who are using it more."

He said that network admins have to determine which factors are affecting their organisations - for example, mobility, consolidation - and work out from that which of the WAN optimisation companies has the 'solution set' that provides the best fit.

"The WAN optimisation market is maturing and consolidating," he said, pointing to the many acquisitions that have taken place here and Riverbed's recent and successful IPO.

He warned though that there is not, and may never be, a one-size-fits-all solution. "The market is still evolving and adapting," he said, "so someone has to bring it all together, whether that's the user or a value-added reseller."