Managed DSL VPN cuts costs for risk management firm

GAB Robins has hundreds of sites and bandwidth-intensive users and applications. When Frame Relay just wouldn't cut it anymore, the company's network architects went with a managed broadband VPN from virtual network operator Virtela.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like many companies, GAB Robins North America's IT staff had been reduced over time. And the old Frame Relay network wasn't cutting it.

The company has 676 sites in 58 countries and is responsible for roughly 3,300 users. Network architects at GAB -- a provider of global risk management services and solutions to insurance companies -- needed a way to accommodate bandwidth-intensive applications and users, improve the network and application experience, drive down networking costs, and increase network reliability.

But according to Tom Broccoletti, GAB Robins' assistant vice president of systems, speaking at Burton Group's Catalyst Conference, the company's IT staff did not have the resources for a DIY approach and needed an answer that came with round-the-clock technical support.

"Well, you're looking at the staff," Broccoletti joked. "It's me."

GAB Robins' network infrastructure was also limited. SOHO users were experiencing poor application performance because of dial-up connectivity. Workers on the road needed multiple remote access clients.

Broccoletti said the problems sent GAB Robins on the hunt for a fix that could support the needs of single users, small offices and large offices. GAB also needed optimal access per location, some of which – Alaska, for instance -- were extremely remote.

"There were several areas in the company that were not well networked," he said.

Another killer was the old solution's billing method. According to Broccoletti, the bills would come in to headquarters and have to be allocated to the specific branches. That alone became a full-time job.

GAB Robins turned to Virtela Communications, a virtual network operator. Initially, that choice was made to offload the management of its old routers. But choosing Virtela also led to adding a managed broadband VPN for more than 350 locations. Virtela also acts as a single point of contact for more than 35 DSL access providers.

Now, the fully managed Virtela SSL VPN supports 1,000 workers. It eliminated the need to install and maintain client software for those workers to get secure remote access, Broccoletti said.

Virtela's virtual network operator offers the broadest selection of managed network and security services; aggregates and integrates local, regional and global networks; and optimizes performance and redundancy.

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With the migration complete, GAB Robins ended up with three times the network bandwidth at roughly half the cost of its prior solution. Using the business-class DSL VPN, claims now upload in seconds rather than hours, Broccoletti said. The company has also seen faster resolution of network issues, and the billing has been streamlined to eliminate administrative overhead.

All was not exactly right with the world, however. After the install, security became an issue when GAB Robins started experiencing performance degradation caused by work attacks and other threats generated by the large remote workforce. The company needed to prevent DDoS attacks from crippling corporate firewalls but didn't have the staff to dedicate to security.

With help from Virtela, GAB Robins installed intrusion-prevention solutions to block both inside and outside threats. Virtela handled the two-phase install, and now all traffic in and out of the Internet goes through managed TippingPoint devices.

Overall, Broccoletti said, GAB Robins is pleased, and the DSL-based IP VPN has played a significant role. And the results the company achieved would not have been attainable with a DIY approach.

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