A provider of global Net roaming service for consumers, iPass's new Corporate Access lets companies use server software to patch into iPass's network of 1,100 global access points, which are offered through a consortium of Internet service providers.
For companies that double as national ISPs for growing numbers of offsite employees, the new service could help customers cut costs in building remote network infrastructure. It can also eliminate steep toll-free access bills, analysts say.
"There are a very high proportion of people carrying around notebook computers who need this service," said Michael Goulde, a senior consultant for the Patricia Seybold Group, a research and consulting firm in Boston. "It isn't cost-effective for corporations to provide as many points of presence as this ISP group can provide."
Other national ISPs offer roaming Net services, such as Sprint, AT&T, and IBM. But these services don't allow users to access other Internet accounts or networks, such as their corporate email and servers.
Corporate Access works once server software is installed on a company's authentication server or behind its firewall.
To use the service, remote employees type in their physical location into the iPass Dial Wizard that sits on their desktops. They are then connected to a local ISP. Once connected, the ISP sends users' encrypted ID and password to iPass, which forwards the data to a corporation's authentication server. The company approves the access, allowing users to check email or surf the Net through the local ISP that connected them.
Employees could also tap their internal networks using the service. "Today, some companies are worried about providing remote access to their intranets. But there are virtual private network (VPN) technologies that provide a tremendous amount of security and are very well proven," said Chris Moore, iPass's president and CEO.
The service's start-up costs range from $2,000 for up to 200 users to $10,000 for unlimited users. Hourly usage charges range from 5 cents to 20 cents per minute.
Costs may be lower than companies' current overhead for offering remote access, which runs around $6,000 to $13,000 per mobile worker, according to estimates from Forrester Research and other analysts.