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Neoteris launches Web-conferencing software

Today, Neoteris plunged into the Web-conferencing market with a new product that will compete directly with market leader WebEx. The Neoteris Meeting Series utilizes the company's existing secure remote access technology, and beta users have given the product positive reviews.

Today, secure remote access vendor Neoteris Inc. announced a new Web-conferencing product that launches the company's foray into the market.

The product, the Neoteris Meeting Series, uses the San Francisco-based company's remote access technology, which is based on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.

The company plans to compete directly with Web-conferencing market leader, San Jose, Calif.-based WebEx Communications Inc. Jason Matlof, vice president of business development at Neoteris, said his company will emphasize pricing differences between the products and tout Neoteris' reputation as a provider of secure remote access.

The online collaboration market is relatively young and small, generating only about $500 million in revenue annually. Even though WebEx, which, with 64% of the market, is the dominant player, there are plenty of opportunities for new companies, said David Alexander, industry manager with San Antonio-based research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Neoteris has an advantage over other industry upstarts, he said, because it has an installed base of remote access customers to which it can sell the new product.

Price was one of the significant factors that drew the Chicago-based law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP to Neoteris' Web-conferencing product.

The company currently uses WebEx to allow its 1,500 employees (including 650 attorneys) to use the Web to conference among the firm's nine offices. Since the firm is reluctant to spend on travel, online collaboration is becoming an increasingly important tool for the company, said Adam Hansen, lead information security engineer.

Unfortunately, the bills from WebEx have become prohibitively expensive. Sometimes, attorneys are encouraged to forgo WebEx because of the cost. While WebEx does offer unlimited-use subscriptions, Hansen said that his company pays for each session it initiates.

The company already uses Neoteris for remote access, which has been popular with employees, so when Hansen learned that Neoteris was launching a meeting product, he decided to beta-test it.

"It's a good business decision to go with something like this because it reduces our overall costs," he said.

Neoteris is also hoping to distinguish itself by offering better security than WebEx, Matlof said. But there is less room there for the company to differentiate itself, Alexander said, because WebEx and many other Web-conferencing vendors take security very seriously.

"WebEx is not a vulnerable solution," Alexander said.

However, Jeff Posluns, an information security management consultant with the Montreal-based consultancy SecuritySage Consulting, said that Web conferencing can present some minor security challenges. A feature that allows a remote user to gain control of a participant's desktop opens the user -- and potentially a network -- to some vulnerability, he said, but only to a limited number of users in a particular Web conference.

Another problem is that the vast majority of Web conference users are not familiar with the intricacies of the products they use, and so they may create vulnerabilities that they could otherwise easily avoid. Overall, he said, Web conferencing is not commonly associated with major security breaches.

Nonetheless, security concerns are what drove Lancaster, Pa.-based health care provider Lancaster General to beta-test Neoteris' product. Theresa Grogan, Lancaster General's director of operations and technical services, said that her company does not subscribe to WebEx but often uses it to communicate with its vendors. The idea of opening up her network to an online session initiated outside of the company is of increasing concern, she said.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires Lancaster General to ensure that some level of encryption or password protection protects the data the organization sends over the Internet. The disclosure of protected patient information can result in fines of $150,000 or more, not to mention plenty of bad publicity.

Like Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Lancaster General uses Neoteris for remote access. The solution was easy to implement, Grogan said, and it was a hit with employees because it allows access from any device, including Apple machines. Unlike other server-based solutions, Neoteris' product did not require a lot of back-end work to get it running.

Plus, because Neoteris' product is HIPAA compliant, Grogan is satisfied that the security will protect the hospital from liability.

However, WebEx's product is also HIPAA compliant, and information from a WebEx session is only briefly moving over the Internet, said Praful Shah, a spokesman for WebEx. From the start, he said, the company has always moved the data across its own private network to help enhance security. Data is also encrypted.

Neoteris Meeting Series pricing starts at $14,995 as a standalone product. The offering costs $1,995 for companies purchasing it as an add-on to Neoteris' secure access product.


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