By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2005-06-13 Print this article Print

Fiberlink Communications Corp.s Extend360 provides an excellent end-user interface that simplifies connectivity across multiple network types and back-end resources to ensure client security policy conformance. However, network administrators should be wary of Fiberlinks onerous hands-off management process.

The new Fiberlink product extends client control and policy conformance to machines connecting via unmanaged networks, in addition to supporting Fiberlinks existing stable of hosted dial-up and Wi-Fi hot-spot locations. During eWEEK Labs tests using home broadband, Wi-Fi and Sprint Corp. cellular data connections, the Extend360 interface cleanly presented available connectivity types, allowing us to simply connect and authenticate to corporate resources.

The Extend360 client and service costs $5.60 per user per month for 1,000 users; a Platform Access Fee, which includes administrative access to the reporting portal, costs $1,200 per month. The Access Bundle provides unlimited network connection via dial-up, Fiberlinks network of Wi-Fi hot spots and hotel broadband connections for $49.95 per month.

Before deployment, administrators fill out an extensive spreadsheet called the Customer e360 CIF to detail desired connectivity options, available infrastructure hardware and client operating systems, and supported client security platforms. Fiberlink representatives use this information to build profiles, and any updates or tweaks to policies must be submitted to Fiberlink so a new build can be created.

During tests, we found that Fiberlink reps work quickly to address customer policy changes. However, customers drawn in by the Fiberlink Web sites claims of "robust management tools" will be underwhelmed, to say the least. Administrators who prefer a hands-on approach (their own hands, that is) should look elsewhere.

After establishing connectivity, the Extend360 client automatically contacts Fiberlinks DNA (Dynamic Network Architecture) via a secure connection based on a one-time key that secures both user name and password credentials. Companies may choose to use Fiberlinks hosted authentication services or securely proxy identity information back to their own authentication servers via an IP Security tunnel.

Administrators can configure policies to ensure that desktop firewalls and anti-virus or anti-spyware software are running and up-to-date on a client machine before allowing access back to the corporate network. Policies and security definitions are updated automatically after users log in. Extend360 can automatically start IPSec clients for connection back to the corporate network if policy requirements have been met or deny client activity if they have not.

The Fiberlink Customer Resource Center portal connects to a wealth of documentation and reports, and the ConnectView application gives highly detailed service connection and performance data. The CostView reporting page breaks out billing data for Fiberlink users across the enterprise, and administrators can break out views into groups to simplify chargebacks to business units.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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