Visiting executives to GuideWorks, a joint venture between Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. and Comcast, needed Internet access to check their email and keep up with the latest communications from their co-workers back home as well as suppliers and customers while they were on-site. You need to wait until you get back to the hotel, was the standard reply from Gregg Reiser, network architect at GuideWorks.
But that refrain got old fast, so GuideWorks, which writes the software that provides set-top boxes with interactive features, began searching for a way to provide visiting users secure access to its network and the Internet. GuideWorks has a distributed business model, with a few hundred full-time employees and a bevy of contractors, some of whom travel from office to office. The corporations business functions are handled in Radnor, Penn. Much of its programming is done in Englewood, Colo., and a group of contracting professionals in Portland, Ore., also pitches in.
The key was finding a solution that could accommodate both GuideWorkss own mobile users and executives from TV Guide and Comcast, who often visit the offices, as well as managers from top video companies such as Sony, who show up on the companys doorstep as well. But the company had to be sure it didnt jeopardize the security of its own network in the process -- and not add any major overhead. We needed something simple, something that did not require a lot of administrative intervention, says Gregg Reiser, network architect for GuideWorks.
GuideWorks had been monitoring emerging network access control (NAC) solutions since about 2004, and had intermittently spoken with TippingPoint, which sells a NAC solution. NAC is designed to help companies add client security checks to their networks without deploying something as complex as a VPN.
The limitations of not providing Internet access to mobile users and visitors became more and more pronounced, so GuideWorks began a trial of TippingPoints NAC gateway in the summer of 2006. We showed the system to a few Comcast executives, Reiser says. They quickly understood how easy it was to get visitors up and activated so they could work with their [own] VPNs and email.
With firsthand knowledge of the potential benefits of that, the executives gave their stamp of approval to move from an NAC trial to an operational deployment. So GuideWorks last year invested under $10,000 for the TippingPoint solution and began rolling it out in the Inglewood office.
While NAC tools are often advertised as plug-and-play, GuideWorks found that the NAC setup required a high level of networking expertise. Fortunately, the Inglewood site had plenty of technical expertise because thats where many of the companys developers are stationed. In addition, GuideWorks put one of its front-desk employees in charge of setting up new accounts. But because her technical background was limited, the company had to walk her through a learning curve.
Now the company is planning to deploy the system at its Radnor office, which will be a bit more challenging since theres less technical expertise there, and that office gets a greater number of visitors. So GuideWorks has been on the search for employees to support the NAC system there. The company expects to have NAC up and running there by the end of the summer.
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