During the course of our NAC reviews, we also tested Cloudpath Networks' XpressConnect. XpressConnect is a small, browser-delivered agent that can reconfigure wireless access profiles and 802.1x supplicants. Placed on a captured portal page for guests or staff, it automatically configures systems for access to your 802.1x network, be it wired or wireless. As a result, 802.1x authentication is much easier to deploy than has been the case in the past.
XpressConnect saves the initial settings of your system and has a number of ways for you to change the settings back to their original states, including an XML-driven visit to the Cloudpath Web site. If you are considering an 802.1x roll-out -- a step we recommend before rolling out a comprehensive NAC solution -- and you’re looking for a simple way of getting everyone configured, XpressConnect will be an aid in your effort.
In addition to XpressConnect, we also took Great Bay Software's Beacon appliance for a spin. The Beacon is a network discovery tool that assists in determining the extent to which 802.1x can be deployed within a network. Using device profiles provided by Great Bay and configured by each customer, the Beacon provides real-time reports on the capabilities of the devices in the network to various degrees of assurance. Using the Beacon, some enterprises have discovered that more than half of their systems are non-Windows devices, and so must be managed differently from the approaches the typical Windows NAC solutions provide.
The Beacon not only saves time in helping the IT team determine what is on the network, it also uncovers surprises that typically would not have surfaced until mid-deployment. Like XpressConnect, it can reduce the difficulty, and possibly even the cost, of an 802.1x rollout.
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