Barclays and NatWest banks, with venture capital firm 3i, have poured #3 million into a UK startup dedicated to outsourcing the management of mobile workforces.
NetStore opened for business in 1996 but has recently caught the eye of several major PC and network vendors including Cisco, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. The company provides services such as backup, recovery and software distribution to remote workers.
Cisco is one of NetStore's customers, with 2,400 of its employees backing up to NetStore every day. IBM and HP are currently testing NetStore technology.
Ian Catlin, IS product manager at Cisco, said: "Our server in London is real-time mirrored to NetStore's server in Bracknell, so when writing to our server the software simultaneously writes to the NetStore server giving us off-site storage and back-up security."
Cisco also uses NetStore's PCRefresh service to complement its policy of replacing laptops every 14 months. PCRefresh delivers an encrypted copy of the user's data to the new laptop and only the user knows the decryption key. "This is much more efficient than our old system, which involved sending engineers all over Europe to upgrade software and replace lost data," said Catlin.
Other NetStore services include online data back-up and recovery over the Internet and intranets; archiving; electronic software distribution; virus management; secure PCRefresh; asset tracking and PC Lockdown, which ensures software standards and licence compliance thoughout the organisation.
Peter Smaill, director of the NatWest IT Fund, said: "We were immediately attracted to investment in the emerging market for secure electronic storage.
Banks have historically provided vaults for the storage of tangible assets and it is natural for us to be involved in this market."
Gartner has predicted that the laptop market is to grow from its current level of 50 million users to 108 million users worldwide by 2002.
"Customers are demanding a totally new level of systems management support for the rapidly growing population of mobile laptop users," argued Gary Smith, Netscape's CEO. "The laptop has become an essential business tool and business people need the same access to data and level of communication as they would from the office."
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