Messageware boosts Outlook Web Access security

A Canadian company that creates software to enhance the Web version of Microsoft Outlook is using last week’s BlackBerry outage as a way of getting the attention of IT managers and users.

Toronto-based Messageware recently unveiled a pair of security tools, TimeGuard and NavGuard, which are designed to help IT managers more vigorously enforce usage policies with users that get at their corporate e-mail with Outlook Web Access (OWA).

The products are designed to address the login security feature in Exchange 2007, known as Forms-based authentication or FBA, which relies on the user to correctly select whether their computer is private or public when logging in to OWA. According to Messageware, users often choose the private option because it means they have a longer session before being logged off, and many don’t realize someone could get into their active OWA session when they navigate to another Web page. TimeGuard and NavGuard automatically close sessions or prompt users to block these issues. These tools can be set at different levels so that a field sales rep might not have the same limits as, say, a CEO whose notebook is always used in a secure location.

Armita Chandra, Messageware’s director of marketing, said the predominance of RIM’s BlackBerry device sometimes means OWA gets overlooked. But when a faulty software upgrade brought down access to BlackBerry e-mail for several hours in North America seven days ago, she said the company got a lot of inquiries about its products.

“When things happen it’s a nice way to remember that Outlook Web Access is a pretty robust solution,” said Chandra, adding converting those interested in alternatives means focusing on other aspects of the user experience. “We certainly think BlackBerries have their place, but there are times when you’re not going to be reading a document of a certain length on a BlackBerry.”

While e-mail is obviously a highly popular feature in the product, Outlook is becoming the front end for a number of high-end enterprise business applications. Microsoft has been partnering with SAP, for example, on technology called Duet to bring enterprise resource planning data into Outlook, and its own PerformancePoint product brings business intelligence software into Outlook and other Office apps.

Ryan Dochuk, who manages the BI products for Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said Outlook is one of several products in the Office portfolio that will make its analytics tools more compelling for business users.

“Because we deliver our BI through Microsoft Office System, what you’re going to see is less time potentially ramping up and training on people who use those apps,” he said.

Chandra said Messageware has yet to see BI and other advanced systems move through OWA, but she said the company is prepared to meet the increased security challenges they could present to IT managers. “Microsoft has certainly evolved Microsoft Web access with every version of Exchange,” she said, noting that Messageware recently came out with a product, AttachView, which protects SharePoint documents through OWA. “As they come out with new features, we will provide enhancements for those features.”

Chandra said Messageware will soon publish a case study on what she called the largest “OWA-only” deployments in a Canadian company. The emergence of cloud computing, where much of what a user needs is provided through a browser, may see other firms forgo desktop versions of Outlook entirely.

“They feel that it’s rich enough to just go with that,” she said. “One CIO told us that from an administration point of view . . . it’s much easier to install and upgrade if everyone’s using the same product.”

Messageware’s products are charged on a per-CPU basis.

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