IBM and Citrix to offer USB-based remote access service

Published 25 October 2006

When disaster strikes, an emergency response team inserts their keys into any available computer, automatically sending a message to employees that they are to follow suit with their own; employees then have access to remote versions of their desktop and can continue on as usual; system also allows for ongoing monitoring, scheduling, and communications

Business continuity practices rest on a simple premise. When disaster strikes and the main office is inaccesible, companies need a way to continue operations. After all, one study suggests that a typical, 5,000-employee business would suffer a productivity loss of $1.36 million as a result of a business interruption lasting three days. One good approach is to develop a comprehensive plan to allow employees to work from home while executives take up the burden of relocating to new office space, and sensible companies put this at the top of their agendas. A question remains, however. How will the employees access critical data from their home computers? Remote hosting is the answer, but this just brings up more questions about how to permit secure access to the server.

IBM and Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Citrix Systems have a solution, a turnkey system that distributes memory sticks to employees for access to remote versions of their desktops and data, and also keeps them posted on the emergency situation. “Project Kent,” as it is called, does have one flaw — it relies on the employees having access to electricity and Internet access — but it would not be fair to hold this against IBM and Citrix. No business continuity efforts could succeed under such conditions unless the company intends to provide all of its employees generators and satellite communications gear.

Here is how it works: A company issues two sets of USB keys, red ones for the pre-established emergency response team (as we have noted in the past, all companies should have an ERT), and black ones for the rest of the employees. When disaster strikes, an ERT member inserts his key in any available computer and answers an authentication question. This automatically throws into action a messaging service that notifies other employees via e-mail, phone, or Blackberry of the state of emergency. Employees can then insert their black keys into an available computer and begin working. Best of all, the Business Continuity Manager appliance allows supervisors to easily manage their remote employees through a single emergency portal.

The company expects to begin selling the service early next year on a per-seat basis, but has not yet determined pricing, said Philippe Jarre, IBM’s VP for business continuity and resiliency services.

-read more in this InformationWeek report []; see also Brian Madden’s analysis