Secure office links from anywhere
TCS devices give remote network, phone connections a boostFollow @infoworld
Most of us think of the enterprise in terms of sterile, air-conditioned, cubicle-ridden office space, yet much of the business world isn’t like that at all. Workers in industries such as construction, consulting, and the media frequently find themselves outside the reach of traditional phone lines, without high-speed Internet or cell service.
But the need to communicate doesn’t diminish as you range farther from a home office, and neither does the requirement for secure communications to protect critical business data or private personal information. TeleCommunication Systems (TCS) originally developed its SwiftLink series of secure communications products for use by the U.S. government, but with the explosion of the Internet, VoIP, and new demands for protecting business information, these products are filtering into the private sector.
I looked at three of TCS’s devices, taking them out into the wilds of central Florida with two TCS engineers to test the products’ usefulness and performance. I was especially interested in communications reliability -- how well the connection stays up -- as well as the security of the connections and the devices’ ease-of-use.
The devices I tested fill a wide range of remote communications needs. The SwiftLink 2300 is designed to be an office on the go: It includes everything you’re likely to need to connect your computer and VoIP phone to any of a variety of communications media -- and to make sure the connection is encrypted. The SwiftLink 5110 eliminates cell service outages by putting an entire cell site into a briefcase. The SwiftLink DVM-90 -- also known as Mongoose -- ensures high-speed Internet access by providing a satellite terminal that fits into two backpacks.
These three devices can be used together or separately to address various communications needs, from boosting a remote office’s Web access to creating a completely portable field office.
TCS bills the SwiftLink 2300 as an office on the move, and it’s not far off. This is a highly portable communications and productivity center that can provide Internet and voice communications anywhere in the world. It’s designed to be carried in a backpack and can be set up and operational in 10 minutes, along with a satellite or other communications device.
Because we were testing both government-level and commercial encryption, we used an Inmarsat M4 Nera World Communicator in this test to provide satellite data and voice connectivity. If you’re only using commercial encryption, the Inmarsat device is not required -- you can use the SwiftLink DVM-90 Mongoose or another means of communications instead. One nice touch with Inmarsat’s product: The satellite terminal folds up to the size of a laptop computer and will fit into the backpack with the SwiftLink 2300.
The 42-pound 2300 has a four-port Ethernet switch, WAN interfaces for ISDN and the M4, and ports for VoIP connections. It also includes a Panasonic CF-18 Toughbook rugged laptop that installs neatly into a slot next to the Ethernet ports.