Bank Uses VPN to Streamline the User Experience

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2015-10-30 Email Print this article Print
User experience

The Needham Bank deployed a more sophisticated VPN to improve help desk functionality and speed ticket resolution for secure, user-friendly remote access.

IT administration presents challenges—particularly for smaller businesses with limited staff and resources. However, few issues complicate things more than keeping up with constant technology changes and managing computers and other devices across the business.

At Massachusetts-based Needham Bank, which operates eight branches and oversees approximately $1.8 billion in assets, the task had moved to front-stage center. "We were facing a core challenge of dealing with rapid growth and helping the tech team keep up with things without getting run over by them," reports James Gordon, the bank's senior vice president of information technology.

In fact, the financial institution, which now has about 200 employees, had reached a crossroads a few years back. "We had to decide whether we were willing to burn down the information technology forest every 18 months or develop solutions that were flexible enough to scale," Gordon explains.

The bank did not want to sink money into an expensive patch management solution nor remote access software that required complex and expensive licensing. "When we had only a few computers and users, these were not issues," he says. "But these solutions did not scale well with a relatively large number of users that are in need of updates, patches, software and troubleshooting."

Deploying a VPN and Secure Remote Access

Needham Bank turned to Array Networks for a virtual private network (VPN) and secure remote access solution. It initially switched on the vendor's SPX1800 solution in 2010, and, in April 2015, it upgraded to a more advanced AG1000 system that works within a clustered environment and delivers load balancing and other features.

The primary goal was to improve help desk functionality and speed ticket resolution for remote access. As the bank moves away from legacy Java and ActiveX components and toward VMware View and HTML support, a more streamlined user experience is paramount.

"The system keeps up with all patches, updates and vulnerabilities," Gordon says. "We do not have to troubleshoot as long as a user has a modern browser."

The solution will soon extend to Chromebooks, iPads and other mobile tablet devices. "We're looking to deliver a desktop interface over the air to the user's device," he adds.

An added benefit is that the system handles privileges and rules seamlessly. "The underlying processes take place dynamically," Gordon explains. "If a user assignment changes, the privileges and rules change with the person automatically. We no longer have to dig down and find the MAC address and IP address. and we don't have tickets floating."

As the bank continues to grow, he says that it will eventually make sense to switch from delivering virtual desktops to managing virtual applications within the Array Networks platform.

Gordon says that Needham Bank will soon expand the use of the system to deliver full HTML access within VMware View. "When we get to that point, the entire IT and device framework will become device agnostic," he says. There will be no dependencies on any particular operating system or device platform, but there will be a high level of availability, administrative controls and security.

"The solution isn't particularly sexy, but it works extremely well," Gordon reports. "And it has helped us become more technologically sophisticated and efficient."

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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