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Convenience in Computing

Shouldn’t you be working where you want, when you want, and without limitations?

I’ve been in the computer business for over 20 years. I’ve owned laptops, desktops, PDAs and about every other computing device one can imagine. Mostly, I’ve owned desktop alternatives because I’ve wanted computing on the go; I’ve wanted to work whenever and wherever I’ve wanted, unbounded by place or time of day.

Until recently, though, I have been less than satisfied with the results I have obtained: with my PDA I could use my calendar and perhaps receive e-mail, but I could not use my word processor; with my laptop I could write letters, but synching my contacts and calendar caused problems; and when it came to spreadsheets, I always found that the file I really needed was back in the office, stored on the file server.

Worse, my enterprise applications were unavailable. If I needed to send my banker an income statement, check on receivables or enter time in our time keeping system–well, with my laptop, PDA, cell phone and all the other road warrior devices at my disposal, nothing seemed to compute.

Often, I found myself going back to the office after coming home for dinner, missing the kids’ sports events or school functions. In short, lost business opportunities and workday frustrations aside, not being able to work on what I wanted when I wanted wherever I wanted degraded the quality of my family life as well.

Over the years products have been introduced to give me access to everything I have at the office when I’m away from my desk. PC Anywhere is one that is the oldest and best known. Recently, Microsoft embedded a PC Anywhere-like product into Windows XP, and a similar, Web-based product — GoToMyPC — is gaining in popularity.

With any of these products I could take remote control of a desktop PC at the office and run it from another PC in a remote location. Essentially, I could simulate being in my desk chair in front of my office PC if — and this was a big if — I had a modem, an operable internet connection or some other communications scheme implemented on my PC at work, the PC was turned on, and all else went extremely well. It was the “all else,” though, that usually caused the problems.

If only I could eliminate the PC at work; if only I could create a virtual PC that could be anywhere I might have an available monitor, keyboard, mouse and internet connection and would give me the opportunity to run any applications I needed with any data at any time; I thought to myself as I checked my settings on the remote connectivity option of my choice.

Some years back I discovered and began using a product from Microsoft that allows me to do just this. It is called Terminal Services and is a part of the server editions of Windows. Add to this Citrix Metaframe, a product published by Citrix Systems, and wow! The virtual PC I dreamed of was born.

Now, with my cable modem at home or my Verizon Aircard (a cellular modem similar to products sold by Sprint, T-Mobile, and other cellular providers) and my laptop on the road, I can be working at my desk in the office regardless of place so long as the Internet is available.

This flexibility allows me to be more responsive to my customers and at the same time spend more time with family and friends. The impact of this change of work habit is really far more dramatic than one might think.

Frank Butler is CEO of Super-Server Inc., based in Richmond, Va.

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