Sirocom is to use its expertise in helping business connect securely through public hotspots by placing public hotspots on its customers' LANs.

Ironically, the remote access is intended to ease access in customers' own offices. "When mobile workers visit other company sites, they can't easily connect into corporate facilities," said Barrie Desmond, marketing director of Sirocom. "They may find it easier to access the corporate network from Starbucks."

Remote access services like Sirocom are designed to make it as easy to work at Starbucks as it is at the office desktop. Now, with employees using wireless laptops, and facing complex wireless security measures on the corporate LAN, Sirocom sees space for a service that makes laptop working in the office as easy as it is at a public hotspot - and offers a public Wi-Fi service for guests.

Wireless Workspace is offered with Siroconnect, Sirocom's extended version of the iPass remote access service. It is based on the Cloud's Guestbridge service, which combines employee Wi-Fi access with public access. "It completely disconnects IT managers from the responsibility for the service," said Desmond. "The authentication for public access is done from within the Cloud's network, separate from their own infrastructure."

Visa adopted the service, after the European head of technology services, Andrew Vorster, noticed that a number of his colleagues visiting his London office would position themselves along one wall, where they could access Wi-Fi from the coffee shop next door. After that, he decided to deploy a public hotspot in his own building, and use it for access by his colleagues and guests.

"I haven't exposed my own network at all," said Vorster. The Wi-Fi network reaches the Cloud's network via ADSL lines, at which point, guests can access the Internet, while Visa staff are connected back to the corporate network through a VPN. This is a convoluted way to access services in the same building, but less of a security risk than allowing guests to gain access through the corporate network.

The Cloud service uses an access gateway from Colubris to manage whatever third-party access points are installed at the customer site. Users on the corporate iPass/Sirocom account go straight onto the Internet, and through to corporate services using a VPN. Other users can access the Cloud with vouchers - the IT manager at the Sirocom customer gets a web portal to manage web access and offer vouchers to guests and contractors.

As well as Visa's set-up it is possible to use the iPass client to access into the network without going via the Cloud, if users choose to set it up that way, Sirocom explained. Two legs of VPN might add latency to the link, the company said, but for many that's a price worth paying. The performance hit is the only drawback, apparently, because Sirocom users have a flat rate deal with iPass, and it doesn't cost extra to use the VPN from the office.

Sirocom is being bought by voice provider Azzurri. Already, Sirocom has been offering joint voice and data services for retail customers and others. The company recently added free Wi-Fi to its services having found that customers wouldn't pay for it.