Proxy Server a Cost-Effective Route to a Private Network

Article excerpt

Small businesses are finding it a challenge to maintain an in-house computer network that allows employees access from outside the office.

In addition, office managers are routinely tasked with finding cost-effective methods to provide employees with Internet access.

One solution to both problems is buying "proxy-server software" to establish a gateway computer. Through one gateway computer, more than one employee at a time can dial out onto the Internet or employees who are on the road or telecommuting may dial into the office computer.

ITServ (www.itserv.com) of Gaithersburg provides small businesses with a cost-effective proxy-server package. Its RideWay PN software not only allows multiple employees the ability to access the Internet through one modem and Internet Service Provider account, but also allows the company to establish a secure and private network for a relatively low cost.

A competing solution, creating a "virtual private network," is more hardware-intensive, works with phone lines instead of the Internet and can cost from $3,000 to $18,000.

"As businesses worldwide continue to embrace Internet communications, there is an increasing awareness surrounding the security of information being transferred over the Internet; particularly file transfers, updates and e-mail messages," said ITServ President Ted Lau.

"A branch office or a remote telecommuter working from home can use RideWay PN to become an extra node on a company [computer system] from any point around the world without being charged long-distance fees," Mr. Lau said.

The first step in this process is to physically connect the in-house computers into a local area network, or LAN, using a product like 3Com Office Connect Networking Kit ($92.95 at www.compusa.com).

Once completed, RideWay PN licenses are priced from $80 for a single user to $1,000 for 50 users. An unlimited number of computers may be networked, but only the licensed number of users may access the Internet at any one time.

For Dave Murphy, president of Darma Group Ltd. of Columbia, Md. (www.dgl.com) - a provider of business technical training - the goal was to provide 20 stations with access to the Internet, as well as allow each to share information as affordably as possible.

After comparing proxy servers, Mr. Murphy chose RideWay.

"I think the biggest reason that I chose RideWay is that it is easy - I installed it and configured all of the PCs to work on the system in less than one-and-a-half hours," Mr. Murphy said.

The one-time cost was about $480 for the software, license and networking requirements.

Other companies offer similar types of software; among them, Wingate (www.wingate.com) of Australia and Winproxy (www.winproxy.com) of San Jose, Calif.

Searching keywords "proxy-server" (www.yahoo.com) will provide surfers with links to proxy-server software providers, most of which offer a free 30-day trial of their products. …