We had a problem in our advanced computing center. We needed to provide remote desktop access (RDP) connections to remote users all over the world, and doing that through an SSL VPN turns out to be fairly unreliable. What we really wanted was native RDP, or at least an SSL connection that would support a robust RDP session. We tried several gateways and some we liked a lot. Those we liked, however, apparently didn't like us because they tended to be a bit cantankerous under certain circumstances. Trouble was, we couldn't avoid those circumstances, so we went on a quest. What we found was Array Networks DesktopDirect.
DesktopDirect is a simple – though not at all simplistic – RDP gateway. It is secured by SSL, but the remote device, not being a VPN, never becomes part of the network. We tested this in our environment and we could not break it. It ran flawlessly and was very straightforward to set up.
The rationale behind the need for DesktopDirect is that there is not a rich assortment of business applications for mobile devices. The company believes that obituaries for the desktop computer are premature. Laptops, they contend, are just elegant desktops, and more and more users are leaving the laptop at the office and using a tablet. That is where DesktopDirect comes in.
It connects to the desk/laptop securely without punching a hole in the firewall, and gives the mobile user access to the applications on the bigger computer, as well as the data on the network. Because it is a secure RDP connection, the data stays inside the network and never ends up on the tablet, a device notoriously prone to being stolen or lost.
DesktopDirect is an appliance that acts as a gateway, requiring authentication. The user can self-register, since the gateway talks to Active Directory or lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP). It also accepts dual-factor authentication schemes. The user can even power down their computer and let the gateway wake it up on demand. Another winning feature is device-based authentication that consists of a unique signature for each user, as well as each device permitted on the system.
DesktopDirect comes in the Array Network AG gateway appliance, and that device is scalable to well over 125,000 concurrent users. Pricing for the appliance is remarkably reasonable compared to the other devices we considered. It covers all of the types of devices with which we need to deal and it does that seamlessly.
We were equally impressed with Array's service. When we needed questions answered, we had answers with a phone call. In our evaluation unit, we used a virtual appliance, but we recommend the physical appliance, even if the user is connecting, as we were, to a virtual environment. In that way the virtual environment does not become a single point of failure and users have one more level of security between their clusters and the outside world.
Overall, we liked this package. It gave us exactly what we needed and it did so simply, reliably and at a reasonable price.
At a glance
Company: Array Networks
Price: $4,995 for 10 concurrent users.
What it does: Secure RDP gateway.
What we liked: Simplicity, security and reliability.
What we didn't like: Nothing. This is an attractive package for organizations that want secure RDP access from outside the network.