Corporate remote access provider iPass has launched a service that bundles home broadband with its service, to make it easier for IT departments to support staff working at home.
iPass already provides remote and mobile access on a single bill, and can secure access through existing home and office Wi-Fi networks. The Home Office service, already available in the US, extends that by including the actual broadband service at up to 8 Mbit/s. It can be offered on its own, to users working at home, or included (under the name Virtual Office) in iPass's remote access offering for mobile workers, which also includes public Wi-Fi and 3G access.
Most users connecting from home have a consumer broadband connection which may be set up incorrectly or insecurely, said iPass European technical director, Ken Green: "IT managers have been burying their head in the sand," he said. "It might work in small populations of users, but if you don't know what the user's got, you can't support them."
The alternative, for IT to set up and manager end-user DSL services on behalf of staff, could be nightmarishly complex, and beyond the resources of most IT departments, which don't want to be in the ISP business. The headaches would include altering settings and contracts every time an employee joins or leaves the company, or moves house, and mediating support calls to a number of ISPs when faults occur.
iPass's Home Office service was developed by recent acquisition GoRemote. To offer it in the UK, iPass is reselling Internet access from a large un-named ISP, that can provide services in 95 percent of the UK (possibly BT, we suspect).
The service includes a hardware router to go in the home, which has two Wi-Fi networks with WPA security, for corporate and family use. The corporate SSID has security settings locked and kept private to the IT department, where the settings for the family SSID can be shared. "It would be no good if dad said 'sorry kids, I've got a new job and you don't have Internet access'" said Green.
The routers, from an un-named router maker, also include four Ethernet ports, which can be either available or shut down, according to Green. Many companies leave them open to home use, he said, since the staff member will most likely have an office laptop, while the home computer is more likely to be a desktop - or a games machine that wants fast access.
The service should compete well against the apathy option of leaving it to the end users, or the stressful choice of constructing end-user connections on the users' behalf, said Green.
Potential customers will have to make their own minds up about that though, as iPass is keeping the details to itself. Green was unable to give us even a rough idea of the price ("Let's just say we won't try to beat the cheapest ISP"), or give any details of the ISP and hardware partners - all factors IT departments before making a choice.