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How enterprises use remote access. (Network Management).

Distributed enterprise data networks challenge IT managers today like never before. Branch offices, overseas facilities, off-site data centers and remote or at-home workers present security and remote management with complex riddles that must be addressed not only under economic restraints, but in light of interoperability concerns invariably present in many IT systems.

Remote access and control software can provide a cost-effective solution that aids troubleshooting and problem resolution for the distributed enterprise. Such software enables a technician to take control of remote PCs or other hardware, seeing inside the remote device as if he were seated at the distant screen.

Productivity benefits are obvious. Technicians can control multiple devices in multiple locations. Service calls are reduced. The number of problems that can be handled by a single technician is greatly expanded. The installation, configuration and upgrading of other software on the network can be facilitated through remote access software.

Forrester Research estimates organizations can save more than 10% on their help desk budgets through the use of remote access software. Those potential savings are fueling growth in the market that, according to International Data Corp., will result in $638 million in sales by 2004.

Convenient solutions

Bill Hubbard is on call 24 hours a day, responsible for administering point-of-sales equipment at all 54 convenience stores of the Wesco chain in western Michigan. Thanks to remote control software, however, Hubbard can address most network needs without going on the road.

Wesco's equipment includes PC-based registers, pump and car-wash controllers, and credit-card authorization systems. Eight of the stores provide a pay-at-the-pump fuel dispensing system, supplied by Texas-based AutoGas Systems. Both Wesco's head office and AutoGas utilize NetOp from CrossTec Corp., Boca Raton, FL, to monitor and control these complex fuel-dispensing systems, which are often too complicated for most store personnel.

When a site has an issue with a pump system, Hubbard or AutoGas utilize the software to dial in to the store to fix the problem remotely, explains Hubbard, "for everything from `checking up' and remote program installations, to major file transfers from the store to my location and then on to Texas for analysis."

The software enables users to control multiple PCs over LANs, WANs, the Internet or modems. It allows a user to control the remote PC keyboard and mouse from his own computer and see what is on the remote screen. He can change settings, monitor operations or even reboot the remote PC.

Hubbard uses the solution at times that are anything but convenient. "I've fixed numerous problems in stores that were as much as 200 miles away, while sitting in my pajamas at home at three in the morning," he says. "That's an especially nice way of doing business when you consider Michigan's winter storms."

Another configuration that Hubbard finds useful is the battery backup system. If a store loses power, the pump control computer and external modem stay up because of the UPS backup. This allows Hubbard to dial in and inspect the system even during total power failures.

At under $200 for a single guest/host license, the product allows a user to send an SOS message to a support desk, and provides session recording, along with the ability to control and monitor several PCs at once, regardless of color resolution or video setup. It also includes advanced encryption and multiple security options to protect sensitive operations.

For more information from CrossTec Corp.:

Facilitated storage tests

For Nishan Systems of San Jose, CA, eight weeks of monitoring and administering The Promontory Project was a demonstration preceded by months of work by many storage, computing and networking vendors. The project, which demonstrated the first IP storage network capable of multigigabit transport of block storage data across the United States, proved that a backup data center could be across the country from the primary data center, and organizations could use a standard high-speed data network infrastructure for backup and storage needs.

Nishan Systems provided IP storage switching between data centers in Sunnyvale, CA, and Newark, NJ.

For the performance configuration tests, each data center had two Dell servers, each with one QLogic HBA that was mapped to eight disk drives. Dell PowerVault and Hitachi Freedom data storage units also were housed in both facilities. Nishan Systems IP storage switches linked the Fibre Channel servers and disk arrays with a Qwest IP network that began with Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches at each data center.

The Catalyst switches fed into Cisco 12000 series Internet routers, which fed into Ciena SWDM long-haul optical transport equipment. Qwest provided the optical connection, an OC-48 (2.5 Gbps) link. Iometer, a server performance analysis tool developed by Intel, drove traffic for the tests.

Before testing could begin, however, the project partners had to address how to cost-effectively monitor and administer the systems. According to Nishan's Gary Orenstein, director of marketing, "Testing and reconfiguring software and systems were needed every day. Nishan, located close to the West Coast data center, found on-site administration by even one of its technicians there--although ideal--was highly impractical from a cost standpoint."

"With so many systems and software involved in the project, time was another concern. The project team looked at remote-control/remote-access solutions, and selected Symantec's pcAnywhere. The software supports all 32-bit Windows operating systems, as well as a wide range of connection methods. It enables administrators to take control of a remote machine, and see and work with it as though they were at that system--without leaving their desks.

Nishan installed the solution on each Windows server at each data center, as well as on Windows workstations at its headquarters. With one headquarters technician managing, administering and monitoring all the systems and software at both data centers, The Promontory Project was able to troubleshoot and resolve remote problems, and run applications and reconfigure software on remote systems.

Security was also a major concern. To protect information and activities during remote-control sessions, Nishan leveraged one of the many enterprise-class authentication options of pcAnywhere, and further secured communications by using the software's remote callback, encryption, password and logging features.

"From server-connectivity solutions and storage devices, to switches and data-center facilities, products make a difference when building a wide-scale remote storage infrastructure," says Orenstein. "For this project, an unobtrusive remote-control program proved invaluable. It streamlined the process of evaluating applications and provided clear visibility into the actual operating environment--all while eliminating the time and expense of putting a technician on site."

For more information from Symantec:

Energized network control

Central Maine Power's (CMP) IT department needed to change its remote access system. Its nonstandards-based legacy system could not support monitoring a unique SNMP device or remote monitoring, and needed an add-on package to support notifications to off-site personnel.

"To adapt the system," says CMP network specialist Phil Morneault, "I would have had to build a module for it, buy the $10,000 modeling tool kit, then learn how to use it.

"Imperative to our network management strategy was finding a simple, reliable tool to alert network administrators of critical problems in more than 330 devices, no matter the physical location of personnel or equipment," Morneault says, "and quickly fixing any disruptions before they cause costly downtime." The IT group is responsible for a wide range of services and devices, including Cisco routers, hubs, switches, RF LAN access points, LDAP-based directory servers, NT services, Web services and legacy devices. It must provide accurate statistics and complex network efficiency and reliability reports--and like most IT departments, maintenance resources are limited.

The legacy system was time-intensive, expensive at reporting and its yearly licensing cost $12,000. CMP finally tried Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold, a network and applications monitoring tool. Typically, a fully licensed version is $1,090, with a year of maintenance support. "I bought the software with my credit card, got it up and running and built the entire network by myself," says Morneault.

With the new solution, CMP sought to establish a system easy to use and update, create more sophisticated alerting mechanisms, and implement reporting mechanisms to satisfy departmental service-level requirements, without extensive ongoing maintenance.

Within a week of installation--a half-hour task--CMP built the network maps, which IT can remotely access over any computer with a browser via the company's intranet. After network monitoring began, CMP upgraded the WAN to ATM switches; the solution added and monitored the new ATM devices.

The autodiscovery feature allows Morneault's team to view maps, and determine which devices are up or down and monitor the status of individual T-1s at various sites, as well as VPN tunnels.

By integrating the software with specialized, third-party notification software, CMP extended alerting capabilities to cover its diverse work groups, each with different notification requirements. CMP can now send status alerts via pager, telephone and e-mail, allowing IT and other technicians to keep tabs on the network, no matter their location.

"We also monitor RF LAN access points, as we have several `lockups' a week," Morneault says. "The product immediately alerts us when there's a problem with a box. When the access point stops responding to pings, it sends an SNMP set to the unit to reset the power to the access point, thus remotely restarting it."

Morneault leverages performance reporting tools to provide required weekly and monthly reports, as well as to determine the peak usage times in order to optimize the networks accordingly.

The new software saved CMP $27,000 its first year of use. "Beyond the obvious savings, the solution allowed the company to free up resources for other projects, and achieve better performance and functionality for the key functions of reporting, alerting and remote monitoring, "Morneault says.

For more information from Ipswitch:

RELATED ARTICLE: KVM proves newsworthy.

Reuters, a global provider of news, financial information and technology solutions, faced a logistics problem in its IT department in France. A new facility needed in Paris meant servers would be 500 meters from network administrators' offices.

To control 25 Sun servers and 20 PC servers, Reuters France IT engineer Lament Bonneval wanted direct hands-on access through a system that would allow remote server management. He ruled out software systems, which did not offer necessary control guarantees in power or systems failure. Instead, Bonneval sought a solution that would provide direct connection to servers, independently of any software or hardware system.

Bonneval decided on Avocent's DS1800 for the distances between servers at the new location, which utilizes keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) over IP technology, providing network access and remote management to any number of servers via the Internet. Says Bonneval, "Now, network administrators can just switch the units on and return to work. We have direct hands-on control over the server, allowing us to resolve 80% of the problems that can occur."

The switch's imaging enables administrators to carry out remote maintenance and repair operations on Sun and PC servers from any location with Internet access. Installations can he completed with a minimum of on-site configuration. "The BIOS-level control saves us significant time," states Bonneval.

"Network administrators can access, control and reboot servers without having to leave their offices," he says. Once an administrator has launched three or four commands, he can work on something else. With the product's viewing capabilities, these tasks can be monitored from a distance.

Reuters uses the DS18110 for technical support, and group sales managers use it lot sales presentations and field demonstrations before an information and transaction system is installed at a customer site. "It resources are better allocated, and downtime has been significantly decreased, benefiting our customer base."

Additionally, trading-floor personnel can connect to Reuters servers in central Paris via their laptops, or Reuters can connect to a customer site to troubleshoot a problem remotely. "The value of the switch lies in the ability to resolve a problem very quickly from anywhere, at any time," Bonneval says.

For more information from Avocent:
COPYRIGHT 2002 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Large-scale protection. (Power management systems).
Next Article:The VoIP connection: telecommuters and remote workers gain one-wire access. (Internet/IP Technologies).

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