Ok... so you don’t have to… but why wouldn’t you? (note: the author is also the product manager for UAG and is obviously biased). As we all likely know by now one of the most exiting technologies shipping in Windows Server R2 and Windows 7 is DirectAccess. It’s really the next step in the “Anywhere Access” vision that Bill Gates outlined a couple of years ago and provides the best remote user experience possible... Wherever you may roam, you are simply connected, always-on, to your corporate network. There is no need to open a VPN client, wait for connectivity, etc… You simply login and you are connected! How cool is that?!

So if you have a corporate laptop (and more and more of us do) and you take it home or on the road with you, DirectAccess will make your life MUCH simpler… It will also make your network administrator’s life simpler too… Because now instead of worrying about where your laptop has been and what other network it may have strayed to, they’ll know that it was always connected to corpnet, always managed and always protected… They’ll also know that you always had access to all your resources so basically you were able to be productive wherever you go… Going on vacation? They got WiFi – keep working! ;-)

At any rate – this is where UAG can factor in. It’s not required for DirectAccess… but fries are also not required with hamburgers J What UAG brings to the table is a variety of capabilities to help simplify deployment and management, extend access to older servers and clients and grow the scale of the deployment. Bottom line: If you’re not yet looking at DirectAccess for your organization, you should…. And if you’re looking at DirectAccess you should look at UAG!

Forefront Unified Access Gateway Beta 2 is available for download from here . This beta release marks an important milestone in Microsoft’s remote access strategy as it brings together a host of access technologies into one environment.

So here’s how UAG solves the problem…. It brings together a variety of remote access technologies such as DirectAccess, SSL VPN, Remote Desktop, web publishing, etc. under one roof and one user/admin experience. This way, administrators can easily roll out access to every type of user (employees, partners, etc) from virtually every location (corporate laptop, home PC, borrowed PC, kiosk, PDAs, etc). Users, in turn, get a simple and straightforward experience that adapts to the level of security of device they are using. If they come in from a corporate machine, they can get full connectivity through DirectAccess or for pre-Windows 7 PCs - SSL VPN. If they come from home PCs or borrowed PCs access policies will be tailored to their specific security. For instance, if they don’t practice safe-computing and don’t have an Anti-Malware software installed, running and up-to-date – UAG can decide to block access to uploads so no potentially harmful files will reach the network. If the user has an updated AV we may allow uploads but consider blocking downloads based on whether or not the Endpoint Session Cleanup (formerly: Attachment Wiper) can run to clean up any residue or temp files. The policy options are limitless but they are also simple. Built in policies and administrative wizards help guide through setting up SharePoint, Exchange, DirectAccess, Terminal Services and much more….

I could go on and on about the features and capabilities but why hear it from me?! Go and download the beta and see for yourself. If you happen to be in New Orleans July 13-16, join me at the Worldwide Partner Conference where we’ll unveil UAG Beta 2 and a few other cool technologies… If you can’t come to New Orleans – check out these links instead:

· The Forefront Team Blog

· The UAG engineering blog

· UAG website

· UAG TechNet Center

· DirectAccess site and UAG DirectAccess page

Uri – UAG Product Manager