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NAC vendor Bradford Networks offers simplified product for guest and contractor access

NAC vendor Bradford Networks has announced NAC Director GCS, a scaled-down version of NAC Director that manages network access for guests and contractors.

When organizations decide to grant guests and contractors access to corporate networks, IT departments are burdened with the task of screening and authenticating these individuals and their devices.

Bradford Networks is offering a scaled-down version of its network access control (NAC) technology that helps companies that do not want to invest in a full NAC product to manage network access of guests and contractors.

NAC Director GCS is a simplified version of Bradford's NAC appliance. It sells for $7,995, about 40% of what a full NAC deployment with Bradford would cost, according to Jerry Skurla, the company's vice president of marketing. Skurla said customers that buy GCS will have the option of buying a license upgrade that will boost the appliance to a full NAC product. Existing customers of Bradford's NAC product will get GCS free of charge.

Eric Maiwald, senior analyst with Burton Group, said guest access is the main driver for companies that are investigating NAC adoption.

"What we found in recent research is that guest access is a big deal for a lot of companies," Maiwald said. "They're trying to find out how to do it properly. Most of the NAC vendors are using guest access as one of their marketing pitches, along with controlling malware and running health checks."

Skurla said his company's full NAC product has had guest access capabilities for several years. The GCS edition includes more guest and contractor access functionality, such as some self-service capabilities that allow organizations to offload routine administrative functions from IT to nontechnical staff.

Paul Roberts, senior analyst with The 451 Group, said Bradford -- which has seen a lot of success in the education market -- is trying to reach the enterprise market by offering an affordable product that addresses a specific pain point.

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Bradford is trying to "get a foot in the door" with companies that may not want to invest in a full NAC product, Roberts said. "Then, once [Bradford is] in there … maybe they can talk to them about expanding the license to include a full NAC product," he said. "That's an advantage for [Bradford]. They're not going to give away their enterprise product. They're not going to slash the price to get into these accounts. They'll keep NAC as a higher-tier product but have this more simplified product to address these pain points and then have an upsell opportunity."

Guest access was the pain point that drove IT Director Craig Richard to adopt NAC at his company, NaviMedix, about a year ago.

"One of the biggest administrative nightmares we had was unauthorized people plugging into our network and the management of those devices and that access," Richard said. "Basically, we had policies and procedures in place that every time someone would come into the facility in our corporate headquarters, IT had to be made aware. They would have to inspect the machine to make sure they had the right antivirus and patches and put them on the correct VLAN that a guest should be placed on."

NaviMedix, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that manages electronic communication between health insurers and physicians, has to be especially careful with guest network access because the company must comply with the patient privacy requirements of HIPAA. With visiting sales representatives, external auditors and business partners coming and going, Richard was dealing with 100 to 200 guests a week.

"I had a full-time person dedicated to [managing guest access]," he said. "It was tough sometimes. To process one guest, it took 10 minutes to do a visual inspection of the machine to make sure it had all the adequate software installed. Then another five minutes to make sure they connect to a port on the correct VLAN. It was not a trivial issue at all."</>

Now, visitors can plug their laptops into the network and request access. With NAC Director, Richard's help desk staff can quickly scan visitors' devices, granting the level of network access stipulated by a visitor's employee sponsor. And each access request is run by Richard or the company's chief security office. Using NAC has allowed him to remove a dedicated staff member from managing guest access.

"If we were looking for a scaled-down version [of NAC], this is a fantastic opportunity," Richard said. "The original problem we were trying to solve would have been solved by GCS, which was getting the guests and contractors under control. Now, we've gotten more out of NAC Director and we've seen tremendous savings in more than one area."

Guest and contractor access is a part of the marketing message for nearly all NAC vendors, Roberts said. Other vendors may offer scaled-down products like Bradford's if they can, he said, depending on whether the architecture of their products allows them to remove other NAC features.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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