ClairMail makes mobile app access easy as e-mail
ClairAccess provides one-click remote entry into enterprise systems -- without recoding
Sure, it’s possible to rewrite applications and user interfaces to run on smartphones or PDAs. Unfortunately, however, rewritten apps often result in click-heavy, unintuitive navigation and code that sucks up a mobile device’s limited memory when your salespeople, service staff, and customers just want simple access to data.
That last point is something ClairMail understands -- and its ClairAccess 2.2 platform provides a clever solution. From any mobile device, users simply send an e-mail to a particular address with their query in the subject line. The ClairAccess appliance (a 1U Linux-based server) receives this request and runs a script that executes an action. This script accomplishes almost anything, from retrieving information from several back-office applications to updating a database record. Finally, a response is prepared with the requested information and returned to the mobile user.
This is a good approach for several reasons. Users don’t need to load software on their mobile devices, and the IT staff isn’t burdened with onerous reworking of desktop applications to shoehorn them into mobile devices.
I found that ClairAccess succeeds where more complex mobile application access methods have generally failed. In my testing, I used the company’s hosted service to gather data from, and update, a Salesforce.com account. I also used the service with a Palm Treo 600 and HP iPAQ 6315 Pocket PC to search Google and interact with other public services. Moreover, I crawled under the system to inspect its technology and security.
Request and Retrieval
For end-users, ClairAccess’ hosted service requires little setup and no training. Requests for information (called ClairActions) are nothing more than descriptive e-mail references placed in your address book. For example, I sent an e-mail to “cmSFAccountInfo” along with a client name in the subject field. The ClairMail server retrieved the client data from Salesforce.com and responded almost instantly with the account details in its e-mail reply. To test more elaborate interaction, I entered text in the message body to log my meeting note, then sent it off; the details were saved to the Salesforce.com system without any problem.
The same general scenario works for retrieving information from other ClairMail partner sites, including Hoovers and Dow Jones VentureSource (separate subscriptions required). ClairMail also maintains strategic partnerships with Caneum, HP, Seven, and RIM.
As an alternative to the hosted service, organizations can place ClairAccess appliances on premises, providing a mobile gateway to enterprise systems. ClairMail offers prebuilt scripts (Clair Productivity Packs) for accessing 20 popular enterprise applications, including Siebel, SAP, and BMC Software’s Remedy Help Desk. ClairMail’s staff implements the scripts to connect your systems to ClairMail, a process that typically takes a few days to a week. In both hosted and in-house solutions, your organization’s administrators have basic access to the system to maintain user accounts and view logs for troubleshooting.