C&W touts ASP feature

Cable & Wireless PLC a-Services is hoping new browser support will provide customers with a simpler, yet more powerful way to access the application service provider's suite of hosted Microsoft applications.

This week the company will announce Webtop, a service that lets customers use any Web browser to access Microsoft Corp. Word, Excel, Exchange or Outlook applications hosted on servers that are fully managed by Cable & Wireless a-Services. The ASP is a partnership between Cable & Wireless, Microsoft and Compaq Computer Corp.

Until now, Cable & Wireless a-Services required users to run Citrix thin client software to access its applications. Citrix Systems Inc. or other fat clients typically require installation, configuration and ongoing maintenance. Most users have Web browsers on their PCs, which require no specialized configuration when used with Webtop services.

"It's nice because there's no need for client configuration, and employees can access their desktop from anywhere around the world," says Brian Karlisch, a principal at the Alexandria, Va., firm Buchanan+Edwards that advises and implements enterprise resource planning systems. The company migrated its users from Cable & Wireless' Citrix environment to Webtop last month, he says.

Cable & Wireless a-Services offers customers secure access using an ID and password system and Secure Sockets Layer, and RSA Security's RC5 encryption used to protect data as it travels over the Internet. Users have the choice of accessing their applications via dial-up, DSL or dedicated Internet connections. The applications are hosted in Cable & Wireless data centers in Reston, Va., London and Sydney, Australia.

The applications are available in three packages that each offer a virtual Windows 2000 operating system and 400M bytes of server storage. The packages consist of:

- Webtop Productivity, which includes Microsoft Office 2000.

- Webtop Productivity Plus, which includes Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Office 2000 plus an additional 175M bytes of e-mail storage.

- Webtop Collaboration, which includes Office 2000 and Exchange hosting plus 45M bytes of e-mail storage.

The Webtop packages also include Internet access, Compaq iPAQ PCs for each user and 24-7 monitoring and management. Users that have PCs for employees are not required to buy new computers.

The service provider says it plans to introduce additional software options as well as wireless access. A specific time frame was not available.

Webtop pricing ranges from US$20 to $200 per month per client.

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