At this very moment, one of your employees may be walking out of your
building with a complete set of word-processing documents, e-mail
messages, even Windows desktop settings.
This could actually be good. It probably means that your employees
have the benefit of new, little devices you’ve given them, called
keychain drives, that allow them to work away from the office
without having to carry a laptop computer.
The Keychain of the Future
Storage devices that fit on a keyring or belt — and fit into a
USB slot on any desktop or notebook PC — aren’t all that new.
But these little external drives are now being programmed to
support roaming workers in ways that add a whole new dimension to
Examples of the new breed of roaming devices are:
• Optimal Desktop.
This product is software that you install on removable media. The
ultra-portable device stores all your browser favorites, desktop settings,
and files you commonly work with, so you can access them at a different
computer. In addition to working with USB keychain drives of any capacity,
Optimal Desktop can be used with Zip or Jaz disks or the Flash memory
contained in handhelds.
A new entry into the market, Migo stores the same kinds of information as the
Optimal Desktop, but goes farther by also handling Microsoft Outlook e-mail
files. You can copy any or all messages and e-mail folders to a Migo from one
machine and then reply to the messages from another. Migo synchronizes
everything when the device is once again plugged into the primary PC. The
product is software that’s integrated into a specially “hardened,” secure
Optimal Desktop has been shipping for about the past 12 months, but
the Migo device became available only about eight weeks ago. Both offerings
go far beyond the ordinary cut-and-paste usage of plain USB keychain drives,
in terms of empowering office workers to be productive outside of headquarters.
A Whole Office in Your Pocket
Optimal Desktop comes in a Standard edition, which is downloadable free;
a Professional edition, which is $39.95 for one user; and a Mobile
edition, which is $49.95. In a telephone interview, Karan Bavandi, the
president and CEO of software maker Optimal Access Inc., said corporate
orders for 1,000 or more copies of Optimal Desktop Mobile would receive
a 50 percent to 60 percent discount from these prices.
Bavandi says any removable device that has Optimal Desktop Mobile installed
can be password-protected to prevent access if the device is lost or
stolen. In addition, the software can maintain a list of passwords
needed to log onto various Web sites, and that password application can
itself be password-protected.
A Secure Enterprise E-Mail Gizmo
By contrast to Optimal Desktop, Migo is somewhat more oriented toward enterprises
that have a substantial investment in Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server for
centrally managed e-mail. Once employees have been set up with Migo devices,
any important files and any selected quantity of their e-mails can go anywhere
with them on their keychains. Any computer at home or in an Internet café
can become a workstation, displaying each user’s familiar shortcuts and
This type of roaming requires that the “guest” computer the
employee is using have both Microsoft Windows (98 SE or higher) and Microsoft
Outlook (2000 or XP, with Outlook 2003 support coming soon).
Because Migo devices don’t ordinarily
store entire application suites, the outside PC also needs Microsoft Office
if Word and Excel documents are to be edited remotely.
Migo lists for $150 with a 128 MB USB drive or $200 for 256 MB. Josh Feller,
president of Forward Solutions Inc., the manufacturer of Migo, says the price
of the larger unit would drop to “the $140 to $150 range” for orders of 1,000.
The Corporate Interest in Roaming
Isn’t it dangerous for employees to take all that data outside of the
company itself? Not really. The people who work with this data probably
have many ways to save it or print it out if they ever wished to. If your files
are so sensitive that this concerns you, you should have adminstrator-level
alerts in place to prevent users from attempting to download an entire file,
whether to a USB drive or a removable hard disk.
Optimal Desktop and Migo are ideal for cases in which employees are
trusted to handle their day-to-day documents responsibly but can’t always
be sitting in front of the same desktop computer. Using intelligent keychain
drives, your company can stock a set of standard laptop computers, which are
then “brought to life” by employees who simply plug their traveling gizmo
into a USB port. If one laptop fails, the USB device can be switched to any
other machine that has the same suite of software, and the work can continue.
Forward Solutions’ Feller says the Migo is specially designed to give
confidence to enterprise IT leaders. The firmware of the device itself
protects the passwords, making it extremely secure against attacks on the data
if a device falls into the wrong hands.
Most enterprises have a need for some employees to work on documents while
traveling or during their off-hours at home. Software such as
Optimal Desktop Mobile and hardware such as Migo now makes
it exceptionally easy for users to do this without lugging with them a laptop
computer and all the usual transformers and cables.