Establishing a broadband network that addresses today's heightened security concerns can be costly. So, when Equitable Bank (Wauwatosa, Wisc.; about $430 million in assets) decided to upgrade its frame relay network and extend broadband service to employees at its 10 branches, the bank sought a cost-effective firewall to secure network traffic among the locations.
"We wanted to be able to safely and securely transmit the data from one point to another point," says Mike Block, the bank's assistant vice president and IT officer. "We didn't want to compromise or subject any customer data to a dangerous situation where the confidentiality might be breached."
To take advantage of the available broadband speed of its new Ethernet optical network, which was provided by Internet service provider (ISP) Time Warner Telecom (Littleton, Colo.), Equitable turned to Check Point Software Technologies (Redwood City, Calif.) - a vendor the bank had used previously for other firewall solutions - for a secure virtual private network (VPN) solution, according to Block. In addition to already being familiar with the vendor, Block says, Equitable chose Check Point because the vendor's Express product provided a comprehensive, affordable solution that meshed well with the bank's new network.
"The firewall product allowed us to take advantage of the Time Warner solution," Block says. The bank began installation of the Express product in September 2003 and completed the project in 90 days, Block adds.
Block says Check Point's secure VPN benefits the bank's bottom line. Previously, the bank could only take loan applications at its main branch - customers were forced to travel to Equitable's headquarters to meet loan officers, rather than apply at their local branches, Block notes. Now, loan officers can do the traveling and bring more business in to the bank.
Employees "are now able to get at data at other locations," Block says. "We can move some of those employees - particularly loan originators - instead of having customers come out to the branch."
According to Block, the bank also relies on the Express solution for disaster recovery. In the past, Block says, Equitable maintained a geographically separated disaster recovery site at which tape backups were made and stored, but the process did not allow for business continuity. "We could not have the tape backup at the end of the day if a disaster struck, and we view this as unacceptable," he says.
Still, the tape backup system was a reliable source of disaster recovery, so the bank now uses its broadband network to transmit the data for recording - and delivery of backup data when necessary. Now, "We have a live data situation," Block says. "Even for maintenance purposes, we can take down a critical server here and switch people to a secondary server, and the data is identical."
Since the implementation of the Express firewall solution, the bank has added Check Point's SmartDefense product, a solution designed to protect against application-level attacks. Equitable Bank is also using the secure firewall to extend more services to each branch. "Customers can go into a branch now and should be able to do everything that they would have had to do at the main site," Block says.
Institution: Equitable Bank (Wauwatosa, Wisc.).
Assets: About $430 million.
Business Challenge: Provide secure broadband connection among branches.
Solution: Check Point Software Technologies' (Redwood City, Calif.) Express network security solution.