SSL VPN keeps news breaking on multiple platforms

Remote access became a necessity for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and many other Cox Newspapers. The company weighed several SSL VPNs that had to work with a variety of platforms.

The news never stops. It may take a break now and again, but it's never idle for long.

And major newspapers recognize that remote access from the field, from foreign countries and from the road is not just a luxury, it's a necessity. For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and 17 other Cox Newspapers, that necessity culminated in a project to provide remote access.

According to Phil Groen, senior networking analyst at the AJC, the need for remote access became apparent almost three years ago. The news side needed to access its publishing and editorial applications, out-of-office workers had to read email, and reporters had to file stories from off-site locations.

Groen said something was needed, but whichever remote access solution was selected had to be able to adapt to a newspaper environment. The AJC already had a limited installed base of IPSec VPN clients but wanted the ease and security of SSL VPN.

"One of the challenges in the publishing field is that we have to support two distinct and different operating systems: Mac and PC," Groen said, noting that the AJC is roughly half Mac and half PC. "We needed a remote solution that could easily support our users accessing the intranet from an extensive variety of platforms."

The solution, he continued, had to allow "multiple departments across the United States and overseas to access email and other important applications on our intranet from virtually any end-user device, including network layer tunnel support on our new Intel-based Macs."

Cox Newspapers evaluated several remote access solutions, weighing tools from Aventail, Caymas Systems, Cisco, F5 Networks and Juniper Networks. Groen said the company was looking for secure remote access and needed to protect the network from worms, viruses and other threats that could enter from remote sites.

"In the industry in general, there are spiraling events of insecurity," he said. "There's just been an astronomical amount of threats. We're trying to tighten that up."

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The AJC didn't really have too many iron-clad security policies in place, Groen added, but evaluating SSL VPNs made the paper evaluate its policies.

"We made policy the linchpin of the SSL VPN deployment," he said.

Having conducted rigorous tests, Groen and his team decided on Secure Access SSL VPN appliances from Juniper. He said it came down to Juniper's ability to support Windows, Mac and Linux platforms for intranet access.

Cox Newspapers is now about three quarters of the way through its deployment. The company has about 2,200 secure ID accounts using RSA tokens that users can use for remote access.

Recently, Juniper added Instant Virtual Extranet (IVE) version 5.4 into its Secure Access SSL VPN appliances. Groen said he still uses version 5.3, but he's planning to add in the updated version soon.

According to Juniper, IVE version 5.4 supports a greater range of devices and platforms, including Windows Mobile 5.0 and Intel Mac. It provides Web-based and client-server application access for apps such as Pocket Outlook with Active Sync and Windows Mobile 5.0. The thin-client support for Windows Mobile also allows seamless roaming without requiring users to re-authenticate when they move among networks such as GPRS, EDGE and Wi-Fi.

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