Remote access and online collaboration tools that facilitate meetings between geographically dispersed participants have long been taken for granted by big firms. Various start-ups have attempted to use the internet to bring such tools to smaller businesses with varying degrees of success but such tools could go mainstream thanks to the efforts of US software company Citrix.
It has established Citrix Online, a dedicated division that provides remote access, support and online meeting technologies as a service. The services are billed for on a monthly basis and do not require any investment in expensive infrastructure hardware or software by users. The two main services that are likely to prove popular for SMEs are Go To My PC (www.gotomypc.com), which expanded its customer base 56 pc last year and Go To Meeting (www.gotomeeting.com). Prices start at €17.50 and €39 respectively per month and can be purchased on the website with a credit card.
“One of the reasons people like our e-commerce model is that they can come in and buy it for a month or two and then they can lapse and return,” says Brett Caine, president of Citrix Online. “We retain all the information about those customers so that when they come back we can re-instate their account.”
Go To My PC, which analysts IDC recently ranked at the leading remote-access service, enables a running PC to be accessed over an encrypted connection from any other PC running a web browser or even a wireless device such as PDA. To use the service you need to install a piece of software on the remote PC that establishes a connection to Citrix Online. The beauty of the service is that it uses the internet standard HTTP for communications so it won’t be blocked by corporate firewalls, while the remote PC can be running on a dial-up connection.
The costs for Go To Meeting do not rise regardless of the number of times you use it each month and up to 10 users are supported with the basic package or up to 200 with the corporate version. Suitable for live sales demos, collaboration between teams and online training it offers features such as document sharing, chat windows, the ability to send meeting invites through instant messaging and a comprehensive set of reporting tools on your company’s usage.
“There’s massive headroom in that market,” says Caine. “Some 50pc of our customers are switching from other marker players because they like our ease of use and our ‘all you can meet’ price plans. There’s no guess work involved.”
Citrix is more usually synonymous with providing the software necessary for thin-client or server-based computing and the Citrix Online offering has come about as a result of its acquisition of start-up Expert City. It is now pushing the products strongly in Europe, with 10 of Citrix’s major distributors signed up to support them, with at least the same number in negotiation, attracted by the recurring revenue model.
By John Collins