Piece by piece, Symantec is building out its software-as-a-service business.
Symantec announced Sept. 16 the beta program for Symantec Online Remote Access. The service is part of the Symantec Protection Network, the umbrella for Symantec's online services. The Protection Network was first unveiled in February, and includes Online Backup and Online Storage for Backup Exec.
Symantec Online Remote Access is built on the same core technology as the company's pcAnywhere remote access and control software. The idea is to provide access to applications and data on a remote desktop without the need for a VPN.
"Using a centrally hosted proxy server architecture, this service eliminates connection dependency on network attributes that point-to-point remote access solutions must often take into consideration, such as firewalls, use of NAT (Network Address Translation) and/or DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)," said Mike Baldwin, senior manager of product management for Symantec Protection Network. "The physical and network location of both the controlling and the controlled computers becomes irrelevant to the connection."
The computer to be controlled requires a preinstalled agent in order to be remotely accessed, but the controlling computer does not. To use the service, the user needs only to log in to the Symantec Protection Network Web site from any computer and click a single button to connect to the preregistered computer. The user can then access files and applications on the target computer.
"When a point-to-point software product such as pcAnywhere attempts to establish a connection ... it needs to know where on the network it's supposed to go-what IP address or computer to connect to-and it needs the path to that computer to be completely unblocked and unhidden," Baldwin explained.
In contrast, with a centrally hosted remote access model such as the one used by Online Remote Access, the servers within the service provider's data centers serve as a proxy for the connection, he said. The agents deployed on the target computers can be set to regularly communicate with those servers to convey availability.
"We absolutely plan to continue to leverage key security technologies and to create online solutions in the same market segments where we currently offer product-based solutions," Baldwin said. "The Symantec Protection Network platform provides a solid foundation for us to do just that going forward, and the release of Online Remote Access establishes yet another milestone towards that vision."