Wireless VPNs yet to be mainstream

"Workers from remote locations should use a VPN," he said. "I haven't seen any particular vendor pushing a VPN in the wireless area, but there is a lot of opportunity because when CIOs think of mobility, their mindset is stuck with horizontal applications."

Chaisatien said the increase in business applications going mobile will open up a good market for VPN vendors operating in the landline space. "This group of mobile workers will grow," he said. "The key is security and a business notebook should have a VPN embedded [because] a VPN is just an extension of the corporate infrastructure."

Pure-play wireless networking vendor Aruba Networks' Australia and New Zealand country manager David Humphries said a VPN is necessary even though "everyone does WPA (wireless protected access) now."

"When you are in a public network it isn't enough because the network is operated by a third party and you don't know when they are decrypting the data," Humphries said.

Humphries said third-generation, centrally-managed access points can be configured as a personal access point wherever there is Ethernet.

"It finds the corporate network and sets up an encrypted tunnel and the corporate network is then available," he said. "This is useful for executives who travel a lot, but also for home offices and telecommuters who can take a Wi-Fi phone home with them as well as a notebook. A softphone or handset can be used and calls are encrypted over the VPN."

Humphries said the multiplication of network access points has made networks more difficult to manage because each access point has to be configured individually.

So-called third-generation wireless networks involve the concept of all the intelligence collapsed into a single switch.

Earlier this year Aruba signed a deal with Microsoft to upgrade the company's global wireless LAN. Microsoft will replace more than 5000 Cisco Aironet access points worldwide with Aruba's thin access points and WLAN switches. According to Aruba, the WLAN will cover 277 buildings in 60 countries, supporting 25,000 employees and an estimated 100,000 wireless-equipped devices.

Linksys' manager Graeme Reardon said as VPNs become standard with today's access points, their use makes it the easiest and most cost-effective way to secure business information.

"People are becoming used to VPNs, a simple evolution," Reardon said. "Most businesses need to keep their data secure and a VPN provides that, so it's not a bad idea anyway."

For telecommuting, Reardon said a typical setup might be a Windows 2000 server running a VPN concentrator so a notebook with the standard Windows XP VPN client can connect back to the network.

"The advent of ADSL 2 and 2+ will make VPNs a better user experience," he said.

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