Package passes mobile access chores to network administrator

Package passes mobile access chores to network administrator

Mobile Essentials' Location

Mobile Essentials increases remote workers' productivity by tracking and profiling network settings

By Jason Byrne

GCN Staff

Many government workers move around quite a bit, dialing in from one location or attaching to the network from somewhere else. How can they keep track of which settings go with which networks? One way is through Symantec Corp.'s Mobile Essentials 2.0.

The previous version of Mobile Essentials [GCN, July 13, 1998, Page 44] was aimed at the individual mobile user. The new version sets its crosshairs on the network administrator. Individual mobile users still do the installation, but support personnel can set up and distribute the user profiles.

For example: A Washington user travels occasionally to a field office in Denver. He can ask the network administrator to e-mail a handy profile that will attach him not only to the headquarters network in Washington but also to the local Denver network.

The profile can have settings for TCP/IP, dial-in telephone numbers and even default printers. Creating and distributing the location profiles eases the connectivity burden for the user as well as support personnel and systems.

Automatic switching between dynamic and static IP addresses by connection type is just one way Mobile Essentials cuts user error and raises productivity on the road.

Making the grade

The package's Location Administrator tool lets the network manager specify settings, distribute certain software and lock out users from changing the settings. The profiles can be flexible and, in my tests, handled all sorts of configurations and situations.

Box Score''''

Mobile Essentials 2.0

User connectivity profile software

Symantec Corp., Cupertino, Calif.;

tel. 408-253-9600

Price: $69.95

+Moves configuration tasks to administrator

+Profiles easy to create and distribute

+ Users can be locked out from configuration tools

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT 4.0, 32M of RAM, 15M free storage

The capability goes beyond taking care of a few settings. An administrator could, for example, control preferences for Novell Directory Services, Microsoft Windows NT domains, mapped network drives and applications to launch at start-up.

Location Administrator is a breeze to use and walks you through the setup via a series of tabs. You must have administrator privileges and be in possession of all the correct settings information, but otherwise it's easy.

Scripts can be invisible to the user, running applications and locking down their settings. Based on my own experience and that of the support personnel I hear from, user error is a big problem in supporting remote users. Carefully cutting off access to some parts of the operating system might sound a little draconian, but it is often good policy.

The administrator can use the configuration tools to create and distribute dial-in settings separately or as part of a full location profile. The settings and full location profiles can be e-mailed to users or be posted to Web sites for download and installation.

For the remote user, Mobile Essentials is pretty noninvasive. The Location Logon screen resembles the usual Windows network log-on screen, except that above the user name and password fields is a drop-down box for selecting a location profile. If a location change requires rebooting, such as a switch in the way IP addresses are assigned, it can be done with a quick Windows restart rather than a full reboot.

Mobile Essentials has tie-ins to other applications that might need different settings depending on location, such as Lotus Notes and cc:Mail, Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer, and Netscape Communicator. Symantec provides an application programming interface for download from its Web site.

Users can share the location profiles with each other, further easing the burden on support staff. And administrators need not worry that users will neglect downloading the most current profiles.

An optional e-mail agent on the client can automatically open and install any new profiles sent by the administrator.

Whether users are constantly on the go or simply want to attach from home or remote offices, Mobile Essentials 2.0 makes life easier for them and their administrators.

Users can attach whenever they need to, wherever they happen to be, without taking courses in networking or telecommunications.


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