Microsoft has unveiled DirectAccess for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, remotely connecting users to the workplace as if they were right there. Establishing bi-directional connectivity with the user's enterprise network, this solution keeps them connected to the office, forging a link whenever the user's computer - provided it's enabled by DirectAccess - is connected to the internet.
As the workforce transforms, with the information age evolving at an incredible rate, the needs of an organization adapt accordingly. Increasingly, employees are working from remote locations, the advances in internet technology affording them the ability to work from an off-site location - home, business meeting abroad, etc.
The mobility of our workforce has contributed to the success of those companies driving our economy, with new technologies facilitating the uninterrupted productivity of employees whose presence in the office is no longer a necessary component in the operations of an efficient and profitable enterprise. By 2011, the number of mobile workers is expected to have increased by 30.4 percent (IDC, "Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2007-2011 Forecast," Doc #209813, Dec 2007).
While technology has contributed to an outgrowth of wireless communication, with the internet acting as the backbone for those advances, corporate security - specifically, firewalls - obstruct the accessibility of those resources which are native to an office. This poses a number of issues, not the least of which being access to the network from those IT professionals tasked with managing the corporation's network.
In the past, VPN (Virtual Private Network) has been the solution employed for that purpose. However, as any IT professional will tell you, the use of a VPN can prove complicated. VPN requires users to wait for authentication, a process that can see the end user waiting for what has commonly amounted to several minutes. If internet connectivity is lost, the VPN connection will be severed, requiring the user to repeat the authentication process. With alternatives providing even less functionality and more problems to overcome, VPN has become the de facto solution, its issues notwithstanding.
Surmounting the challenges inherent to VPN, DirectAccess immediately creates a bi-directional connection between the user's PC and their work network. Using Windows 7, the DirectAccess client detects its connection to a network. The DirectAccess client will then connect to an intranet website designated during the initial configuration of DirectAccess. The process is seamless and automatic. Unlike VPN, which requires authentication with each use, DirectAccess authenticates the computer before the user even attempts to access the network.
Simpler to use than VPN, the efficiency of DirectAccess is a boon to the productivity of an enterprise's workforce. With a transparent connection to their corporate network, employees will no longer find themselves enduring the bothersome process that has soured many on the use of VPN. Using DirectAccess, the information on the company network - intranet, applications, file-shares - is accessible wherever the employee can access an internet connection for their portable computer, not just from their home connection.