Managing buildings by remote control

For Edmonton-based property management firm The Canapen Group, managing a building has become remotely convenient.

By deploying Symantec Corp.’s pcAnywhere remote access system, The Canapen Group can take control of all its properties from anywhere the remote access terminal is set up, according to Randy Redekopp, The Canapen Group’s manager of information systems.

“I chose Symantec’s pcAnywhere because it offered good throughput even over dial-up connections, it had smart file transfer capabilities, and because it worked without a lot of fuss or overhead,” said Redekopp.

Canapen’s pcAnywhere implementation followed the company’s migration from a Novell/DOS platform to Windows NT servers and Windows 95 operating systems in 1997. The old platform was running Microcom’s Carbon Copy Plus for remote access capabilities, according to the IT manager.

With the new Windows system came the need to adopt a “more sophisticated remote management software,” he said.

Recently The Canapen Group purchased the most recent iteration of pcAnywhere, v.11.5. With the new version, users can access remote systems from Windows Pocket PC and Pocket PC Phone Edition devices through Wi-Fi, cellular or Bluetooth connections.

Although The Canapen Group hasn’t turned on the new pcAnywhere features yet, Redekopp said the remote-access platform has proven its worth at his firm.

According to Redekopp, pcAnywhere gave the company greater possibilities in conducting its operations — providing technical support for its 15-person satellite office in Montreal, accessing all of the companies’ servers in both offices, controlling the buildings’ utility services and monitoring and accessing security systems.

The Canapen Group provides property and asset management services for the CN Railway pension fund’s real estate investments in Canada. Among its managed properties are the Hudson’s Bay Centre in Toronto, the Civil Aviation building in Montreal and the Phipps-McKinnon building in Edmonton.

Symantec’s pcAnywhere is a remote access and management tool that allows users to control their systems remotely through a TCP/IP connection. The system can be configured so that it only accepts host-specified TCP/IP addresses to prevent unauthorized access to remote terminals.

Using pcAnywhere gave employees in the Montreal office a higher level of confidence knowing that support is literally a click away, said Redekopp. “We can easily take a look at their screen and see what it is their doing. It’s much easier to help them when you can see what they’re talking about.”

By accessing its building automation server, pcAnywhere allows Redekopp’s team to monitor and control power, heating and cooling systems in the building. He said this kind of capability lessened the need for on-call personnel to be physically onsite, thereby saving the company “quite a bit of overtime pay,” he said.

Surveillance cameras installed at the entrances as well as the card-swipe system for entering the building are also set up for pcAnywhere remote access, said Redekopp.

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