Check Point Software: Jekyll, Meet Hyde

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-10-01 Print this article Print

Check Point Software gets complaints about poor support and high pricing, but other customers rave about its service and management tools.

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Customers of Check Point, once the gold standard for network security, report such wildly different experiences that it almost seems as if they're describing two different entities.

Among the unhappy campers: Pamela Fusco, chief security officer of Merck & Co. "Check Point does not treat the customer very well," she says. "They're not responsive, and they make up excuses. Check Point always promises to do better, and they never do." Moreover, she says, Check Point's licensing fees make its software up to 25% more expensive than competing products: "They nickel and dime you for everything."

The pharmaceutical giant runs primarily Check Point firewalls; Fusco won't say how many, but she previously managed more than 1,500 when she was in charge of network security for hosting provider Digex.

Meanwhile, Check Point's technical support is pricier—and less helpful—than other vendors', says Doug Kluth, systems administrator at Landmark Credit Union in Waukesha, Wis. "Check Point can never seem to get a problem solved," he says. The credit union plans to switch next year to a Juniper NetScreen appliance for its primary firewall.

Then there's the experience of M&T Bank, based in Buffalo, N.Y., which runs 24 Check Point firewalls. "When I've had to use their support, it's been there for me," says Matt Speare, the bank's chief information security officer. And, he says, Check Point "did actually listen to customer feedback" in designing its next-generation firewalls.

Scott Loach, global information security architect at investment firm Raymond James Financial, is also pleased with Check Point's products and services. When his team had technical issues late one evening with one of its firewall clusters, he says a Check Point support engineer jumped out of bed and stayed on site half the night. "Check Point definitely feels more like a partner than a vendor," he says.

Plus, Loach adds, Check Point's management tools "are far superior to the competition's." Raymond James has deployed VPN-1 Edge appliances at about 120 offices, and key to that rollout has been Check Point's SmartCenter management software, which lets Loach's team group devices together and apply the same policies in a single step: "That makes it very easy to set up a large number of branch offices."

Network Security

Check Point software
800 Bridge Pkwy., Redwood City, CA 94065
(650) 628-2000


Employees: 1,340

Gil Shwed
Chairman & CEO
Founded the company in 1993. A former member of the Israeli military, he holds several firewall-related patents.

Jerry Ungerman
In charge of worldwide sales, marketing, business development, product management and technical services. Before joining Check Point in 1998, Ungerman spent 27 years at storage company Hitachi Data Systems.

FireWall-1 software inspects both network- and application-level data to provide access control, authentication and other services; it's available for Windows, Linux, Unix and Check Point's own SecurePlatform operating system, and in appliances from partners. VPN-1 Pro software combines FireWall-1 and virtual private networking encryption. VPN-1 Edge appliances provide secure site-to-site communications for remote offices. SmartCenter management software lets administrators configure, monitor and set policies for security devices.

Reference Checks

M&T Bank
Matt Speare
Chief Information Security Officer
Project: Bank in Buffalo, N.Y., with $53 billion in assets and 15,000 employees, maintains 24 FireWall-1 firewalls on Sun Solaris servers.

Haverty's Furniture
Pat Zurica
Mgr., Technical Services
Project: Atlanta furniture retailer with 115 stores in the southeastern U.S. runs a Nokia IP380 appliance configured with FireWall-1.

Raymond James Financial
Scott Loach
Global Information Security Architect
(727) 567-3864
Project: Financial services company runs 12 firewall clusters on HP ProLiant servers and is deploying VPN-1 Edge devices to 2,200 locations worldwide.

Golden Gate University
Keith Rajecki
Mgr., I.T. Infrastructure
(415) 442-6560
Project: San Francisco university has seven Dell Linux-based servers running FireWall-1 on SecurePlatform.

Equitable Bank
Mike Block
I.T. Officer, Assistant VP
Project: Wisconsin community bank runs SecurePlatform-based Check Point firewalls on HP servers in each of its 10 branches.

State of Michigan
Dan Lohrmann
Chief Information Security Officer
(517) 241-4090
Project: State government's central information systems group, which provides services to 22 agencies, uses Nokia's FireWall-1-based appliances for "inner ring" security and Cisco's PIX devices for perimeter protection.

Check Point Operating Results*

Gross margin95.3%95.6%95.2%
Operating income$111.52M$255.68M$255.01M
Net income$105.19M$243.88M$255.08M
Net margin43.3%56.4%59.7%
Earnings per share$0.40$0.96$1.00
R&D expenditure$19.51M$29.31M$28.71M

* Fiscal year ends Dec. 31; YTD reflects first six months
Source: company reports

Other Financials**

Total assets: $1.92B
Stockholders' equity: $1.64B
Cash and equivalents: $231.08M
Long-term debt: None
Shares outstanding: 266.80M
Market value as of 9/24: $4.57B
**As of June 30, 2004, except as noted


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