Canapen Group reaches out to secure remote workers

Remote management systems for IT administrators have been around for some time, but an Edmonton-based property and asset management firm is taking it one step further.

The Canapen Group, which manages real estate investments on

behalf of CN Railway pension fund, uses a remote control application to keep an eye on building security systems and watch prospective employees perform practical exams.

The company has about 15 employees at its Montreal office and 20 at its headquarters at the Phipps-McKinnon building in Edmonton. Randy Redekopp, Canapen’s manager of information systems, uses version 11.5 of Symantec Corp.’s pcAnywhere remote control software to support employees working both in Edmonton, Montreal and from home.

For example, Redekopp said, he can access his chief financial officer’s home computer to make sure it has the latest anti-virus and Windows updates.

“I want to make sure everything functions on their systems as it should, and instead of having to do house calls, I can do it from work.”

Canapen accesses its wide-area network from its Edmonton office using a 100 Megabit-per-second connection, and provides connectivity to its Montreal branch through a 1.5 Mbps digital subscriber line (DSL) connection.

Employees from both locations can transfer content over a virtual private network (VPN) through Firebox appliances provided by Seattle-based Watchguard Inc.

Redekopp said it was “a bit of a hassle” to monitor machines at the other office before upgrading to pcAnywhere 10.5, because it was difficult to get to individual PCs behind a firewall. But the latest version of pcAnywhere lets IT administrators specify port numbers.

“As long as you know which port numbers you’re trying to hit … one IP address and you’re going to the right machine,” he said. “That’s been a really nice feature.”

pcAnywhere 11.5 supports Windows XP Home,  XP Pro, 2000 Pro, 2000 Server, NT version 4, Mobile Edition and 98.

It also supports several versions of Red Hat and SuSE Linux, plus PocketPC.

At press time, Redekopp was not using the PocketPC version.

“That’s on my list for this summer,” he said. “We have done a little bit of work with the Citrix client and things like that, coming into the office remotely, but I want to be able to do it by pcAnywhere too.”

Although version 11.5 works over dial-up connections, Redekopp said most Canapen users have high-speed access.

The software could allow a network administrator to open a building door from home for executives who want access to the office after hours but don’t have their security passes.

It can also let building maintenance staff access information on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“The building manager or maintenance guys can pull up and ssee the status of all the fans and air balancing and water temperature,” Redekopp said. “You can do that remotely instead of having to do a call-out and actually drive in to see what’s going on.”

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