“MobiKey is the

world’s first USB thin-client for instant, secure remote computing. The latest

edition to Route1’s Mobi Solution family, MobiKEY simply plugs into a USB port

to turn any internet-connected Microsoft Windows computer into an instant,

secure Virtual Private Office, with computing, applications and data located

elsewhere behind a firewall.”

I had one demonstrated to me yesterday in my office and I

have to say that my interest has been piqued. The response was similar to a

Citrix session (meaning it is as good as your network and the latency between

client and host) and was easy to install and use.

The basic idea behind MobiKey is that a host (the PC to be

remote controlled) is set up and registered with Route1 as a device that can be

controlled by a particular MobiKey. The PC is left on (and hopefully locked by

the user) and can be accessed by the authorized user by inserting the MobiKey

into any USB port of any machine running MS Windows

2000 or later. The MobiKey then contacts MobiNET and the user is prompted for a

password. This password is validated using the MobiKEY’s SIM Chip granting

access to the MobiKEY. Then, further security credentials are authenticated and

MobiNET presents a list of available Hosts to the MobiKEY user. Once the user

chooses a host, MobiNET goes through a process of establishing an SSL session

with the host, which allows the user to control the host securely – as in most

thin client applications. The pricing given to me for the above was approximately

$400 per device and a $40/month fee.

So what is this device really? A

poor man’s VPN? A way to deploy thin clients in the field? Or a way to quickly

provide a secure connection to a machine in your network on the fly? Or maybe

all the above?

My first thought when presented

with the device was “cool, a VPN replacement.” But that’s not the

case. In an emergency or disaster that destroys the physical infrastructure,

knocks out power, etc.—if you have things set up correctly—you probably have

back-up power for your server room and major network components. Therefore,

even if all the power is off to your main offices, or your site no longer

exists, a traditional VPN or Citrix-style solution allows you connectivity with

the network and its resources. However, with MobiKey, the host PC has to be

powered up and have an Internet connection.

That being said, smaller offices

or organizations that do not have this standby capability could use it as a VPN,

realizing that if physical disaster strikes, they may be out of luck.

Notice I say physical disaster,

because Route 1 is positioning the device to be used during health/ecological

disasters in which your infrastructure is fine, but the people may be required

to leave the office. For example; an envelope containing a white powder is

discovered in the mailroom. The order to evacuate the building is given. Key

users who have already registered their machines with MobiNET grab their stuff

– (leave their PC ON and locked) and go home. Once home, they plug the MobiKey

into their PC and—ta da!—they are working securely from home as if they had not

left the office.

Not a bad idea if your number of

“key” individuals is fairly low, and you do not have a VPN or Citrix

style solution already in place for those individuals. This could be very

important in your pandemic flu planning. My guess is that once your numbers

start to grow greater than 50, deploying a Citrix server may be more cost

effective. However, giving Route 1 the benefit of the doubt, I have not asked

them about volume discounts, so I am not sure where the break point occurs and

when it would be more cost effective to deploy a larger-scale thin client


I can also see keeping a few of

these around for individuals that suddenly need to work from home because of

illness or injury. This way, you can assist HR in making special accommodations

without having to have a corporate laptop or desktop to give to each person

that needs to work from home.

There are more creative ways to employ

the device for sure, and I am going to acquire a couple just because of their

flexibility. But it certainly is a device/service that can be a valuable

addition to your tool kit.