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Expertcity to debut remote file service

The online customer support company is planning to offer remote, Web-based access to files with the launch of its GoToMyPC service.

Hoping to put a dent in the market for virtual private networks, online customer support company will launch a Web-based service Thursday that frees people from lugging laptops.

Subscribers to Expertcity's GoToMyPC service will be able to access files on their main computer from any other machine by visiting the company's Web site and entering a series of passwords. A person would be able to see the desktop remotely, work on files located on the other computer, and collaborate with others who have access to the system.

People don't have to download software to set up the system, which works on platforms including Windows, Linux, Macintosh and some handheld devices. But they do have to leave their home-base computers turned on and connected to the Web.

"It's like we take your monitor cable, your keyboard and mouse and stretch it anywhere in the world," said Omid Rahmat, vice president of corporate planning and communications at the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company.

As connections become faster and more people use their computers from the road, a myriad of companies are jumping into the market to cater to remote workers. Conferencing, streaming and VPN (virtual private network) companies perform portions of those tasks already, but Expertcity is hoping to combine the features into one service.

The service takes a picture of a person's home desktop, captures and compresses it, and then streams it to for use on a remote computer. While a person is working on the desktop from the road, the service captures only the changes to the computer's files--for example, text added to a Word document.

The company is promoting the system as more secure than a VPN because access to the system follows the person, not the PC, similar to how a person can carry an ATM pin number and use it at different bank machines. That means network access is not extended to extra computers, which could open a security hole. Transmissions are scrambled using 128-bit encryption.

A beta version of the service will be available for free at until the end of April. After that, the company will release versions of the service for consumers and businesses that will cost between $15 and $19 per month. The company also plans a server-based release aimed at large companies in the third quarter.