FedSource replaces travel with e-meetings

FedSource, a government-wide services provider operating
under the Treasury Department Franchise Fund, has adopted a secure desktop meeting service to replace face-to-face meetings and conference calls.

Cost control is essential to Franchise Fund operations, which must cover their own expenses.
'We manage contracts for a variety of services and goods, and match up the vendors with the needs of federal agencies,' said Bill Chatwin, program manager in Los Angeles, one of nine regional FedSource offices.

The Los Angeles office provided $65 million worth of goods and services to agencies last year'primarily copiers, document management services, program services and contract labor.

'All of us are trying to reduce our travel schedules,' Chatwin said.

For the last six months they have been using the VIA3 E-Meeting Service from VIACK Corp. of Tempe, Ariz.

'We're on it constantly,' he said. 'It's a very powerful tool.'

VIA3 provides desktop videoconferencing, full-duplex audio, instant messaging and document collaboration. The company got into the collaboration market with desktop-to-desktop encryption, offering it as a managed service.

'The government has made a choice that they do not want peer-to-peer networking,' VIACK president Ronald I. Koenig said. 'They want a fully managed service.'

Chatwin said what sold FedSource on VIA3 was the encryption. 'We saw that as a real value.'

After a VIA3 user loads a 6M client module onto a desktop PC, its traffic goes through VIACK servers at two hardened AT&T Corp. data centers. The servers archive all documents shared over the system.

VIA3 has received Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification for its 128-bit encryption using the government's Advanced Encryption Standard.

The codec software requires 64-Kbps throughput for audio over a broadband network and 13 Kbps over a dial-up connection.

Video bandwidth requirements vary depending on the activity. The first image from a meeting is sent full-frame, requiring about 250 Kbps. After that, only the changed pixels in each frame are sent, so that head-and-shoulders images with a static background consume little bandwidth.

The current version permits sharing and editing of Microsoft Word documents; the next version will extend that to Excel spreadsheets.

Client software is free to meeting attendees. Hosts'individuals who initiate and run the meetings'pay a fee that starts at $200 a month, and the Los Angeles FedSource office has two hosts, Chatwin said. Video cameras and microphones are not included in the monthly charge.

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