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Accessing Corporate Networks
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2002
 Version 1.00  Revised 6/10/2002

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As part of assessing how each enterprise can best maximize the capabilities of the Pocket PC, they need to assess changes to their systems.  During the normal course of events of working with Pocket PCs, IT Managers and Network Administrators will be faced with making decisions about how best to integrate these changes into their network environment.  While each network environment is different, this article focuses on explaining different options to integrate Pocket PCs more tightly into the enterprise 

Synchronization

I’m sure you recognize that the main reason you want a device like a Pocket PC is to store information on it.  Well this requires you to assess what software you are using for your Personal Information Manager (PIM).  Right now Microsoft only supports synchronization with Outlook 2000 and 2002 with ActiveSync 3.5 that is included out of the box on the Pocket PC 2002. If you need to synchronize with another PIM, you will need to consider a 3rd party synchronization solution like Intellisync from Puma (www.pumatech.com).  Also, if you are accessing Lotus Notes then you may prefer to use the application called Commontime from Cadenza (www.cadendza.com).  Microsoft offers a server based synchronization solution in their Mobile Information Server as does Extended Systems does with XTNDConnect.   In my previous article, I have discussed the features and capabilities of these applications. In all cases, you need to decide what type of connection you are willing to support for synchronization. 

Connection Options

These connections range from serial, USB, infrared, Ethernet, 802.11b, Bluetooth, modem and Virtual Private Network (VPN).  Part of the decision is whether or not to support distributed synchronization vs. centralized.  I suggest that you review your network’s capabilities to support these scenarios so you can inform your users what you support and what you do not.  In almost all cases, the use of serial, USB and infrared do not offer any security compromise since they are point to point and the user already is authorize to use the PC.  

Network Based Options

The decision to support Ethernet and 802.11b is easier since the user has to be on your premises and their PC turned on if you are not using a server based solution.  The Pocket PCs support DHCP assigned IP addresses and use WINS to identify the PC to synchronize with.  If you are using an original Pocket PC you must enter the IP address of the WINS server or the desktop PC’s IP address as the WINS server in the Pocket PC to sync. In the case of Ethernet all the user needs is access to an Ethernet port.  In the case of 802.11b they could be outside the building in the parking lot or even next door.  So if you need high security, network based solutions should be limited to staff that are trusted not to abuse their access.  If you choose to use 802.11b you need to asses your network security for wireless since the built-in wired encryption privacy (WEP) included with the hardware has been easily compromised. 

Remote Access Options

The Pocket PC 2002 supports the ability to connect to your network an synchronize with a PC or server remotely. This can be accomplished by using the built-in RAS support found in Windows NT or 2000 servers as well as using ActiveSync’s support for a modem attached to a PC. If you choose to use a Windows NT or 2000 server you need to install the WINS service in order to synchronize since this is the way the Pocket PC will identify the PC to sync with.  Also, you can use 3rd party RAS solutions from vendors like Intel and Cisco however you need to make sure that their configuration supports bridging Netbios traffic on ports 137,138 and 139.  Also, the Pocket PC supports 3 different authentication methods called PAP (insecure), CHAP (secure) and MSCHAP (Secure).  The Pocket PC does not support encrypting the whole data stream or proprietary clients.  I do not suggest supporting modems attached to PCs since they can not be monitored and managed centrally.  Since the network administrator can not prevent the use of a desktop modem, they should develop a policy that clarifies how the modem is to be used in their environment.  In addition the Pocket PC supports the use of wireless cellular technology to dialup to your RAS server or desktop modem using standard GSM or CDMA cellular phone.  This solution does not support the use of high speed data services like GPRS or 1xRTT which also use cellar to communicate.  Bluetooth also fits into this category since it provides a local wireless solution to communicating between your Pocket PC and your cell phone.   It is much simpler to use once it is setup, however that may require additional steps initially that the IT staff must perform to make it easy for the end user. 

Virtual Private Network Options

The Pocket PC 2002 has built in support for the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).  A VPN is method of accessing a network via the internet using an encrypted data stream. Microsoft chose only to support their Windows NT and Windows 2000 based VPN solutions.  If you want to access other VPNs other vendors, I suggest investigating Movian VPN from www.certicom.com, which supports vendors like Cisco and Nortel.  Also, Checkpoint is beta testing a Pocket PC client as well.  Users can use a VPN from a network connection to the internet or dialing up to the internet on phone lines or via cellular.  Also, VPN based solutions are compatible with GPRS and 1xRTT high speed cellular wireless as well however you should check with your cellular vendor to make sure they have tested it for compatibility.

Conclusion

Now you have some direction on how to integrate the Pocket PC into your networking environment.  I have created help pages for communications via modem (http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/wce/isp-tshoot.htm) and networks (http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/faqs/networktrouble.htm) which you may find helpful in diagnosing your communications. Next month I will cover the topics of configuring your e-mail and websites to be compatible with the Pocket PC.

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