MtM Casts Absentee Ballot

The likelihood of street-clogging demonstrations from a quarter of a million protesters, the expected crippling of public transit due to increased security measures, and even the looming specter of an attack on the city all threaten to sap productivity from New York businesses during the four-day convention.

ANATOMY OF A SOLUTION>> COMPANY: MtM Information Technologies, New York
>> FOCUS: General IT integration
>> PROBLEM and SOLUTION: The 2004 Republican Convention is expected to slow traffic. MtM is helping set up businesses to enable employees to work from home.
>> PRODUCTS and SERVICES USED: Citrix MetaFrame software, Hewlett-Packard servers
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But creative New York VARs such as MtM Information Technologies spent the weeks leading up to the convention offering Manhattan businesses an alternative to the possibility of mass employee absenteeism. Getting the message out using television and radio advertising, promotional fliers and word-of-mouth, MtM made it easy for Manhattan businesses large and small to offer secure access via the Internet for employees wishing to work from home during the GOP's party.

"The idea of telecommuting has been around awhile, but the remote network we offered was attractive even to employers who've been hesitant about letting people work from home," said Howard Cohen, senior vice president of business development at MtM.

Offering a combination of server technology from Hewlett-Packard and thin-client software from Citrix Systems, MtM outfitted dozens of Manhattan businesses with secure Internet portals that will enable workers to log on to the corporate network and access applications remotely, Cohen said.

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Blending the server technology with Citrix's MetaFrame software was the most practical method when faced with the short amount of time many businesses had to prepare their remote work forces, he said.

The thin-client approach meant businesses equipping their people to work from home wouldn't have to spend the time and effort loading necessary applications on employee laptops or sending CDs home to install on PCs that might lack the adequate resources. Instead, employees working from home this week just log on to the Internet, go to the Citrix Web site, download a secure agent and then authenticate themselves with the HP server connected to their business network. From there, company applications can be accessed and run by the appropriate employees without having to move any of the applications out to users.

"All [the network] sends to the employee is the application's screen appearance and the mouse movements across it. The keyboard input is the only other thing moving across the Internet, so there's very little data actually transferred. The application stays safe on the network, and bandwidth doesn't become an issue for dial-up users," Cohen said.

Outfitting an entire department of around 100 seats starts at just less than $60,000, depending on services, and Citrix and HP pitched in to help make Manhattan a mobile work force. Citrix, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., offered discounts and free 30-day trial software packages for qualifying customers, while Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP made certain there would be plenty of servers to go around.

"It seemed like the closer we got to the convention, the worse the predictions of what would happen got. So we had latecomers. A lot of interested companies were running out of time to set one of these networks up," Cohen said. "So to provide server hardware to a company that simply couldn't get a P.O. cut in time, HP made available a pool of evaluation servers, [which] they didn't have to pluck out of general inventory and could just give to a customer."

Few of the remote-access networks installed by MtM for the convention will be ripped out after the GOP folds up its tent because customers realize that the money saved by centrally managing applications will continue to provide ROI over the long run, Cohen said.