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Wireless Requires Flexibility, Security

CHICAGO -- Globalcomm 2006 -- Andrew Farkas, AVP of Emerging Technology at Capmark Financial Group, says wireless technology can be the cornerstone of a corporate infrastructure as long as companies remember "one size does not fit all."

Farkas outlined Capmark's wireless infrastructure today during his keynote, "Mobilizing the Enterprise," at Light Reading's DataComm Enterprise Conference at Globalcomm.

Capmark (formerly GMAC), a commercial mortgage company that originated $30 billion in loans in 2005, uses wireless to increase productivity of its workforce on the road and in its three-building campus at its Horsham, Pa., headquarters.

"We view wireless as a utility," Farkas says. "Based on security, based on credentials, and based on policies, we let people access our network."

Farkas maintains flexibility and security are two of the major requirements to make wireless work: "One size does not fit all."

For instance, Capmark gives visitors to its campus wireless access through a WiFi mesh network, but their access is restricted compared to employees' access. (See Secrets of the Mesh.) And employees' access levels change according to job function. The network includes wireless security videos and wireless VOIP.

Capmark's loan officers and inspectors probably get the biggest productivity boost from wireless access. Capmark created a loan officer portal available on handheld devices. The portal gives officers a Web-based interface to their customer information and records on handheld devices.

Inspectors can visit a property, enter their information electronically, and save trips back to the office to file paperwork. "In the old days, it was in and out, in and out, in and out," Farkas says. "Not very cost efficient."

Sticking to the "one size does not fit all approach," Farkas says Capmark's mobile force has its choice of the i-mate SP5m, Audiovox Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: VOXX) 6700, BlackBerry BlackBerry 7250, and Palm Inc. Treo 700w devices. (See Where's the WiFi, Palm?) All can take advantage of BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows Mobile Device security features that let IT set password controls or wipe the device if lost.

"It's easier to give out one [type of] device to everybody," Farkas says. "But we give out multiple devices because it makes it easier for them. We leave it to the users to decide which device they need. Accounting once asked, 'Why are we giving them such expensive devices?' Well, a deal worth a couple hundred million dollars was saved because somebody had information at his finger tips."

Employing a mobile workforce brings more security threats than lost devices, though. Farkas says most of the interaction with viruses, spyware, and malware comes from users on home PCs or public networks on the road. That makes it crucial to keep up with the latest firewalls and patches.

Although obviously a big proponent of wireless technology, Capmark has yet to embrace WiMax, Farkas says. "We are looking at certain products. Some work better than others, but it's not fully baked. We're using point-to-point between buildings and WiFi off that instead of WiMax."

— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

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