Services and applications continually move to the cloud; so why not networking? Pertino allows you to create an on-the-fly network in the cloud. You can add to your network devices you use everyday such as file servers, computers, printers, and fax machines. Then invite others users to connect to the network and share these devices no matter where you, the devices or invited users are located. Pertino is an example of the emerging Networking-as-a-Service (NaaS) trend, and it’s targeted at the smaller end of the small and mid-sized business market. Pertino’s sweet spot is that it could eliminate the need for SMBs to invest in traditional networking hardware or hire someone to manage a network.
Innovative and easy-to-use for non-networking gurus, Pertino—currently available in Limited Release— has a lot of promising benefits for the SMB and is an exciting development in Networking-as-a-Service, However, this still nascent solution needs some feature enhancements and is best suited for those with lighter networking needs.
What It Does
Once your Pertino network is created, you can add servers and computers to your network and invite others on the network. Those other users can also add their own devices. Such a network, allows all individuals to share files off of each other’s devices and also remote desktop to machines within the created network.
What’s great about adding devices is that they do not have to be physical devices. I was easily able to add a Hyper-V virtual machine to my network. For those who have cloud servers created in hosted platforms like Rackspace, 8×8, or Amazon EC2, those server instances can be added to a Pertino network, as well.
For security, the service uses 256-bit encryption for data protection. Pertino’s file and desktop sharing is integrated tightly with the Windows operating system, so you are using the local folder permissions in Windows. You can only access files in remote device’s folders that are shared in Windows and you must have network discovery enabled on all machines. Remote Desktop also has to be enabled on every machine you want to remotely access. For sharing files and remotely connecting, a user has to have the local Windows login credentials to the machine he or she wants to access files from or remote desktop into.
For ease-of-use, Pertino’s service leverages Windows’ inherent functionality: customers use Windows’ Remote Desktop Service for remote access and use Windows Explorer to access folder shares. If you are familiar with Windows tasks such as enabling remote desktop sessions, or setting up folder shares, you will have no problem with configuring Windows properly to work within your Pertino network. Mac users and others not as familiar with Windows settings may be a bit confused by what is required to configure within the Windows operating system. Luckily, Pertino’s website features videos that walk you through the needed steps to share files and use remote desktop.
Subscribing and Pricing
Pertino’s subscription model begins with a free Personal plan that allows customers to build a cloud network with up to three members with three devices each. This level of subscription is not only targeted to small businesses, but a family for example, could build a network for sharing photos and files or remotely troubleshooting another family member’s machine.
From there, pricing is $10 per month, per user as networking needs increase.
Getting started is as easy as clicking the “Try It Now” button on the Pertino site. Once clicked, the Pertino setup wizard launches. The wizard installs the Pertino Connect software, the Pertino network protocol, and a Pertino virtual network adapter.
The next step is setting up an account. This is free to setup and only requires entering in your name and an email address (which gets associated with your Pertino network).
You also are sent a validation link which you must click on to fully use Pertino.
The wizard’s last step is to click the “Finish button” and you are redirected to the Pertino login screen. The next phase is setting up your network.
Setting up a Pertino Network
After logging into Pertino, I saw a message congratulating me that I now had a network of one and was able to click a link to take a tour of what to do to next. The text dialogue within the interface is light-hearted and fun, and makes using Pertino an unintimidating experience. Once the Pertino software is installed on the machine you use to initially setup Pertino, that machine joins your Pertino network.
Based on the tour’s instructions, the next step in getting my Pertino network established was to add more devices to my network, because as the text in the interface points out, a network with only one machine is hardly a network. A Pertino icon is added to the System Tray where you can quickly see the state of your connection, disconnect from your network, or switch between networks (Pertino allows you to create multiple networks).
The on-screen instructions walk you through adding additional machines to expand the network. From another machine you want to add— in my case I wanted to add a physical Windows 2012 server I have running on my test network— browse to https://app.pertino.com. This will bring you to the Pertino login screen and you can login with your account from the machine you want to add.
After I was in the Pertino interface on this additional machine, I went to a drop down menu located on the right side of the screen where my username is also displayed. From the menu, I selected “Download Installer” which allowed me to run the Pertino setup wizard on my server.
I also added a Windows 8 Enterprise virtual machine to my network. I was a little concerned about potential conflict between the virtual adapter that Hyper-V uses for virtual machines and Pertino’s virtual adapter running on the VM, but I was and have been able to connect to Pertino’s network and my Hyper-V environment without issues.
However, I had a problem viewing a specific screen in the Pertino interface in both Windows 8 and Server 2012. Both Microsoft’s latest OSes use Internet Explorer 10. When I tried to view devices added to my Pertino network by selecting the, “Manage My Devices,” option, I only saw a black screen and not the list of devices in my network as I can see using IE9 in Windows 7.
I tried setting IE10 to IE9 compatibility mode as well as lifting all possible restrictive settings and I still could not see my device listing. Apparently, there is some incompatibility issue with the Pertino web interface and Server 2012 and Windows 8.
I have another gripe about adding machines. When you view the list of devices added to your network, the devices show up with generic information making it difficult to identify the device. For example, a second Windows 7 laptop I added was listed as “Computer 1450.” There is no information in the Pertino interface about the type of machine added: the OS, any system information, etc., making it difficult to tell one device from another if you add multiple machines to the network at once. You have to go to each individual machine’s local Pertino install, click on the Pertino icon running in the System Tray, get that machine’s client ID, and then match it what you see in the device listings in the Pertino interface. This is kind of a hassle for keeping track of devices as they are added.
I would also prefer a notification system for whoever is administering a Pertino network to be notified whenever a machine has been added. I realize the idea behind Pertino is cloud-based networking with almost zero need for administration, but that should not mean complete eradication of administrator controls.
Pertino’s intent is to make a network so easy for a small business to set up that there is less focus on administrator control. For example, I was easily able to bypass the need to login to my company’s VPN to access my corporate workstation, just by installing and configuring Pertino, in under ten minutes. Most users will be delighted by that level of freedom in a service like Pertino, but network administrators will doubtless be wary.
In addition, there is a lack of more granular lockdown of user permissions within a Pertino network. Ideally, Pertino should allow you to specify which devices a user you invite may or may not access on your network. The Pertino team did mention that security enhancements are on the roadmap. In my opinion, they are a must-have, and certainly need to be implemented before Pertino leaves limited release.
Pertino currently lacks mobile device support which is crucial for the service to be widely-embraced. The company has plans mid-year to add Mac and mobile device support as well as enhanced security capabilities. Linux support is also vital, because then it would be easy for customers to add NAS devices for file sharing and most NASes use embedded Linux for the underlying file system.
As far as performance, with smaller files and everyday file sharing and access, users will have no complaints. It wasn’t until I tried doing a file copy of a 1.5GB video clip from one Pertino-connected device to another that I ran into the same sort of latency issues we usually see when transferring large files through any typical VPN service. Pertino is not a service for bandwidth-demanding tasks such as VoIP or multimedia streaming.
Still, Pertino is an exciting development in NaaS. The interface is simple to use and the ability to utilize Windows file sharing and remote desktop without having to do any back-end setup is a plus. There are some issues to iron out, such as my security/administration concerns and the black screen I got when trying to view the device list using IE10, but the service is promising, so far. Pertino earns 4 out of 5 stars as a business cloud and networking service, one that’s bound to mature by the time it’s updated. We’ll revisit the review as Pertino matures.
More Small Business Software Reviews:
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc