For many of today’s workers, it’s no longer enough to simply
wait until they get to the office to check and handle their corporate e-mail,
or even to have the ability to get their mail at home. In a competitive
business climate, a few hours can make a big difference, and executives, sales
reps, and other employees want to be able to get their messages whether they’re
on the road or out on the town.

There are a variety of portable devices that make it easy
for them to do so: notebook computers, handheld devices (often called PDAs, but many of them have much more computing power and
capability than a true PDA) and “smart” phones of different types.

A few years ago, accessing the Internet over your cell phone
wasn’t a pleasant experience; network speeds were excruciatingly slow and
access services were excruciatingly expensive. Today, prices have come down and
performance has improved. The old GSM connection speeds of under
10 kbps are now up to 54 kbps or more. As using mobile devices to connect to
the Internet has become easier, network users in many cases have come to prefer
them over the traditional laptop computer, especially for simple tasks like
getting e-mail. To get their corporate e-mail, they need to be able to use
these devices to connect to the corporate network.

As your business grows, more and more of your network users
are likely to want to connect remotely with a growing diversity of devices. The
problem is how to make e-mail and other corporate resources accessible to those
who need them while maintaining control and security.

Mobile client types and protocols

Mobile clients include not only the typical laptop/notebook
computer, but a variety of other devices, including:

  • Handheld computers running Pocket PC and Palm
    operating systems
  • Cellular mobile phones running the Microsoft
    Windows Mobile Smartphone OS, Symbian
    OS, Palmsource and other mobile operating systems
  • Research in Motion (RIM) devices, also known as
  • A mobile connectivity solution needs to take
    into account the protocols and services used by the mobile clients. These can
  • WAP: The Wireless Application Protocol, a
    standard for Internet access (Web, e-mail) from mobile phones
  • SMS: Short Message Service, used on digital GSM
    phone networks for sending text messages of up to 160 characters.
  • WTLS: Wireless Transport Layer Security, which
    handles privacy and authentication for WAP services (similar to SSL)
  • Mobile devices can also function either as “thin” or “fat”
    clients. Thin clients rely on a server to do all processing. For example, WAP
    browsers are can be used by thin clients to display Web sites that use the
    Wireless Markup Language (WML), which is an XML language, or XHTML-Mobile
    Profile (XHTML-MP). The former was used by WAP 1.0 and based on the Handheld
    Device Markup Language (HDML) created by Unwired Planet/Openwave.
    The latter is used with WAP 2.0 phones, although they also support WML.

    The point is that a scalable mobile connectivity solution
    must support many different protocols and services that are not normally used
    by standard desktop and laptop/notebook computers.

    Mobile VPN solutions

    VPN client software is available for mobile devices. For
    example, phone vendors such as Nokia make VPN clients for their phones and
    other mobile devices (in Nokia’s case, these are Symbian

    Pocket PC devices include built-in VPN client functionality.
    VPN clients are also available for Windows Mobile devices from third parties
    such as Apani Networks, to work with their own VPN
    gateways. You can get third party VPN clients for Treosmartphones and Palm OS handheld computers from Mergic and movianVPN. There are
    VPN clients available, either built in or from third parties, for most popular
    mobile devices.

    The VPN clients let users connect seamlessly to your
    company’s VPN servers, without any requirement for changing your VPN and
    authentication infrastructures. They’re compatible with popular VPN gateways such
    as those made by Cisco and CheckPoint. This lets you
    scale your VPN accessibility to mobile device users, and they include security
    measures to protect your data as it’s transmitted to or from the mobile

    Mobile connectivity gateways

    Mobile gateways allow your users to use WAP and SMS
    protocols to connect to servers and access services and content. The gateway a
    standard interface for connecting to e-mail, calendars and other applications
    via mobile devices such as GSM and GPRS phones. They can also support
    connections from PDAs and handheld computers via the
    Wireless LAN (WLAN) or even Bluetooth.

    The Realwow Mobile Gateway works
    in conjunction with their Mobile Connectivity Server (MCS). The gateway lets
    SMS services interface with the HTTP protocol and allows for messages longer
    than the standard 160 characters by concatenating or splitting longer messages
    automatically via the software, without any requirement for user action. Such
    messages appear as a single message on phones that support this feature. The
    mobile gateway works with all HTTP Web servers. Trial versions of the Mobile
    Gateway and Mobile Connectivity Server software are available for download from
    the Realwow Web site at

    Managing mobile traffic

    Products such as Big-IP, a hardware-based solution from F5
    Networks, can help you to route application traffic to the appropriate server
    as it comes into the network, so that SMS traffic goes to SMSC gateways,
    traffic from handheld computers can be directed to specific servers, and so
    forth. It can also increase performance by offloading SSL processing, perform
    health checking and enforce security measures. It allows you to integrate your
    mobile applications with the rest of your IP applications in a centralized

    The need for scalability

    It’s particularly important, when planning a mobile
    connectivity solution, to plan for scalability. It’s likely that only a subset
    of your company’s employees will take advantage of mobile connectivity at
    first, but as capable devices become more affordable and thus more ubiquitous,
    more of them will want to avail themselves of the technology. You need to be
    ready to add the capacity for supporting more mobile users as demand grows.
    Before deploying a mobile connectivity solution, ensure that it can handle that