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Big Blue workers connect under the golden arches

IBM is helping McDonald's deploy Wi-Fi access points in its restaurants and letting Big Blue employees sink their teeth into the program at the same time.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- IBM recently took the leap into wireless hot spot usage with a new program that allows its employees to connect wirelessly at select McDonald's restaurants.

IBM is also working with the fast food chain to help it deploy wireless access points in its restaurants. As part of that effort, IBM employees are testing the service and have been given permission to use their work notebooks to log on.

While many IT departments discourage their employees from using hot spots because of security concerns, Big Blue sees value in encouraging it, said Brian Dalgetty, director of marketing for global wireless e-business at IBM.

Of IBM's more than 300,000 employees, about 120,000 are deemed mobile employees and do not have a permanent desk, Dalgetty said. Many of them work remotely full time.

Given the high number of mobile employees, Dalgetty said, many may be more productive if given the opportunity to use hot spots. Since some would likely use hot spots anyway, it makes sense to ensure that they do so in a secure and organized manner, he said.

After logging onto the McDonalds's Wi-Fi network, employees use a virtual private network (VPN) to sync up with IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager. A company portal page greets users, providing simple links to the latest security, firewall and antivirus software updates.

Once logged in, employees can check e-mail, send and receive instant messages and retrieve files. The system also allows users to shut down their computers, switch networks and still maintain their sessions, Dalgetty said.

While IBM is happy with the results thus far, Dalgetty did not know whether the company plans to subscribe to more hot spot services in the future.


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