Sesame opens guest Web access at Goodman Carr

Mark Bonner can access a wireless LAN at his workplace. The only problem is, it’s not his company’s network.

It belongs to a business that resides near Goodman Carr LLP’s Toronto office. Bonner is the IT director at the law firm.

Goodman Carr wanted to give clients wireless Internet access, a way for them to check e-mail and surf the Web while visiting the law firm’s premises. But the neighbour’s unlocked wireless door was a warning. Bonner had strict criteria for Goodman Carr’s implementation.

The solution would have to be secure, unlike the next-door system. “We didn’t want somebody sitting downstairs in a coffee shop sucking the life out of our Internet,” Bonner said.

It would also have to be separate from Goodman Carr’s corporate LAN, so visitors wouldn’t be able to access internal information.

It would have to provide usage stats. “We like to measure all the systems we put in,” Bonner said, adding that simplicity was important too. “We’ve heard of other law firms who attempt to make sure clients’ laptops are properly protected using antivirus, patches and all that. It’s a real mess. It’s far simpler to give the client access through an external service.”

Goodman Carr selected Sesame Networks Inc.’s wireless service for enterprise guest access. The Ottawa-based vendor’s offering met Bonner’s requirements.

According to Tom Hope, Sesame’s CEO, his company’s product is different from that of other wireless service providers. Whereas some vendors focus on installing “hotspots” in public places such as cafes and waiting rooms, Sesame’s system is meant for business-guest access first and foremost.

“We focus on giving people access when they’re visiting their business partners,” Hope said. “That’s where our research has indicated that people really want to get connected, when they’re having meetings with clients and partners.”

Sesame’s system stands apart from the customer’s corporate network for added security, and it presents a unique sign-on process to further separate a business’s LAN from this guest service. On screen, Sesame users enter their cell phone numbers, and receive passwords via SMS on their mobile handsets. Users then enter the identifiers on their computers for access, served up by Sesame itself, rather than the host enterprise.

Hope said Sesame stores user information, such as cell phone numbers and IP addresses. This makes for easy usage reporting — one of Bonner’s criteria.

It also makes life easier for the police. They called a Sesame customer one day, explaining that someone at the client’s office had sent hate e-mail messages. The client, in turn, contacted Sesame. The vendor matched the time of the distasteful mail-out to a user’s IP address and cell number, then directed the authorities to the alleged troublemaker, said Cliff Grossner, Sesame’s vice-president, product marketing. He said he doesn’t know if the cops caught the errant sender.

Bonner said the incident didn’t happen at Goodman Carr, but he pointed out that users must click “I agree” to a privacy statement before signing on, so they know their details reside with Sesame. “That is to protect them, and to protect us.”

Goodman Carr had Symtech Canada Ltd. install the system in six of nine boardrooms. The network consists of 802.11b-802.11g access points and a communication device (the Sesame Access Manager) for sending and receiving user details to and from Sesame’s data centre. Bonner said Symtech handled network planning to ensure strong connections no matter where the users happen to be in each boardroom.

“For the time being we’ve implemented it just in that area,” Bonner said. “Our main focus was to provide access to clients; it wasn’t really for lawyers. They have computers in their offices and they don’t roam around the building with laptops yet.”

Bonner said the service has proven to be successful. Usage is on the rise, and he’s even caught one or two lawyers hiding out in boardrooms, using the wireless connection there rather than the wired one at the desk, which is, of course, right beside an ever-ringing telephone they sometimes need to escape.

That said, Bonner wasn’t completely convinced at first that Sesame’s system was the right choice. “At the beginning we didn’t quite like the idea of the client having to have a cell phone to get onto the service….But when I saw that it worked every time we used it, and I noticed that everybody who brought a laptop in typically brought a cell phone too, it didn’t bother me so much.”

According Grossner, the system has a workaround for the cell phone deprived, so users lacking this otherwise ubiquitous business tool can also access the Sesame service.

Four months after turning on the system, Bonner has advice for other companies that might follow in Goodman Carr’s footsteps: get everyone on board to ensure success.

“We heard horror stories where Sesame had been implemented elsewhere, but because of a breakdown in communication — the reception staff didn’t really understand it, or the signage wasn’t clear — the service died on the vine. We made sure…all the parties involved are aware of the service and what it means.”

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