RingCube Technologies' MojoPac software, which lets users store their Windows applications on any USB storage device, is now available for enterprises.

MojoPac stores a computer's desktop image on a USB drive to plug in and run on any Windows computer. MojoPac Enterprise Suite is set for general availability today.

The software makes it possible for contract workers, telecommuters and travelling employees to store their desktop apps, files and network privileges on a hard drive, flash drive, or even an iPod, and connect it through the USB port. MojoPac runs virtually as a guest on any Windows XP or Vista PC without affecting the host computer.

RingCube, a 45-person start-up in Santa Clara, California, is one of just a few companies pursuing this market, although Microsoft is another.

Citrix Systems sells a product that lets IT administrators deliver applications from a datacentre to mobile workers, as well as change access privileges or provide software upgrades. But Shan Appajodu, founder, president and CEO of RingCube, said that Citrix requires a network connection whenever the employee wants to use an application.

The applications, settings and access privileges of MojoPac stay on the portable drive, Appajodu said.

MojoPac Enterprise Edition eliminates the the need to configure every employee's and contractor's computer, said Srihari Kumar, vice president of enterprise business for RingCube. Workers can also get the same configuration on their own home computers.

With the user's virtual desktop stored on the USB drive, the software and data are safe in the event a laptop is stolen or a desktop computer is inaccessible, he said.

Ohio University, a school of 28,000 students in Central Ohio, has 50 MojoPac licenses and will have 200 within a month, said Brad Sayers, an IT administrator in the Office of Information Technology. He said he heard about this virtualisation tool, oddly enough, in the virtual world of Second Life.

Some teachers use Second Life to invite students to join them in a virtual classroom. Some students need to use Second Life on university computers, but those systems are configured not to allow Second Life. When the students replace the standard desktop with the one on their USB drive, they can use Second Life.

"We had to find a way to provide a virtual environment to let this one application [Second Life] run without bothering our core applications in our lab computers," Sayers said.

RingCube's solution may help employers serve their increasingly distributed work forces but also to address their increasing security concerns, said Gerry Purdy, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

"Companies today have a lot of remote access needs, and they are also trying to control software and access to systems," Purdy said. "This gives employees access to the applications that they need remotely, but still gives control to IT."

RingCube isn't the only company heading down this path. Microsoft entered into an agreement in May with SanDisk to develop a product to store applications and personal settings on SanDisk USB flash drives.

The Microsoft-SanDisk system is due out in the second half of 2008. Also, VMware said in March it is beta-testing a new version of its desktop virtualisation software that also would allow someone to carry their virtual desktop on a USB device.