Wi-Fi Network Security SMBs Can Afford

Corriente Networks, a small, privately held software developer in Berkeley, California, recently releases its first product, Elektron, software designed to authenticate people who access your wireless network.

The key difference is that Elektron offers enterprise-grade capability, which is priced and designed to provide security for SMBs with Wi-Fi networks. It provides RADIUS /802.1Xauthentication services &#151 most large enterprises running wireless networks use some type of RADIUS software &#151 and offers support for the popular Wi-Fi security authentication protocols, including PEAP and TTLS. Another key distinction: Elektron supports not only Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.3 clients using built-in Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), but also open source and third party software.

They say it’s so easy to set up that clicking through a simple software wizard makes it fully operational. Perhaps more importantly, SMBs won’t have to pay through the nose to take advantage of its high-end security options. What’s it cost? $299 direct from Corriente.

“We are targeting small companies that may not even have an IT staff,” says Chris Hawk, one of the principals at Corriente. “Customers just double-click the installer, and it interviews you, and then you’re done.”

The roughly $300 price tag&#151with none of the hefty per-seat fees charged by enterprise-focused companies&#151may start a new trend in this segment of the Wi-Fi security market. Enterprise-level competitors offer solutions that cost upwards of $5,000, out of reach for most small businesses. Direct competitors for SMB dollars include LucidLink, which offers a product varies in price from $99-$895 (or more), depending on the number of users. Wireless Security Corporation’s WSC Guard provides a security service for roughly five dollars per-person per-month. Both LucidLink and WSC Guard require special clients&#151Corriente doesn’t.

How Do They Do That?
So, how has Corriente managed to offer a product whose features compete with solutions that cost more than ten times as much?

“I can’t tell you our secret,” says Hawk. “It’s not like we kidnapped a bunch of programmers and stuck them in the basement. We’re taking a different approach to the sales aspect. I can’t imagine what other companies are doing at that [$5,000] price level. They have some features we don’t, but we had them, and then we actually took them out of the shipping version because we wanted to make the product easier to use.”

Making a product that was easy to use was the primary goal for Corriente. While most users in Corriente’s target audience are pleased by the simplicity of configuring Elektron, some potential users have requested more freedom to customize settings.

“In the future, we’ll have a pro version you can configure the hell out of,” says Hawk.

How It Started
Corriente, which was founded three years ago, sees LucidLink and WSC Guard as its primary competitors, but with some clear distinctions between those products and its own.

“We started out with the idea that we’d make security products&#151we all come from a security background,” says Hawk. “There was nobody in the [SMB Wi-Fi security] market at that time. Now there’s LucidLink and WSC Guard. WSC Guard is a service. You pay them a fee and they host the server for you. It doesn’t require a lot of expertise because someone else manages it for you. But here’s the downside: if your Internet link goes down, you can’t get on your Wi-Fi network, although they may have a client that acts as a backup. With LucidLink, you get their server [software] and install it, but you have to use their client software. Ours works with whatever is built into the OS you’re using, as well as a whole bunch of third party software.”

A fully functioning 30-day free trial is available at the Corriente Web site. Elektron can either pick up a list of users from the local machine on which it’s running (Windows 2000, Server 2003, or XP, or Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later), or accounts can be entered directly.

Looking ahead, Corriente does not plan to rapidly expand its product line or seek a public stock offering. “We’re going to concentrate on doing one thing well. We’re self-funded, and we’d like to stay that way,” says Hawk.

Adapted from wi-fiplanet.com.

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