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Long-Distance Relationship

PartnerRe adopts SSL VPN technology to safely and conveniently keep employees all over the world connected to the company's network.

To improve productivity, Bermuda-based reinsurer PartnerRe ($3.87 billion in revenue) decided in 2003 that it needed a better way to provide easy, secure access to data and internal application resources for its more than 200 remote users. "Our business users include partners and consultants working from anywhere in the world, as well as our own executives, underwriters, claims examiners and day-extenders - users who are typically non-technical," explains Desmond Lee, project manager for PartnerRe's group IT and infrastructure and operations team. "We needed our workers to have remote access while traveling without having to be tech savvy."

PartnerRe's existing IPSec (IP security) virtual private network (VPN) application from CheckPoint (Redwood City, Calif.) did not support the remote initiative because of the solution's heavy reliance on customized client software, and proprietary gateways did not interoperate well with the company's critical business applications, Lee relates. This created access difficulties for employees, who were often locked out of the network because hotel firewalls can block essential IPSec VPN communication ports.

Ultimately, the reinsurer chose to upgrade its system to Sygate's (Fremont, Calif.) Secure Enterprise Solution in combination with secure sockets layer (SSL)-based VPN appliances from Juniper Networks (Sunnyvale, Calif.), a Sygate partner. "We did a lot of research and testing with other vendors like CheckPoint and Windows [Microsoft; Redmond, Wash.], and the winner from our evaluation tests and studies is the current combination," Lee says. With SSL-based VPN, he notes, a client only needs a Web browser, so there is no need to maintain separate configuration files, making almost any published internal resource available over the Web.

To cover all access points globally, just two sets of Sygate Servers and Juniper Networks appliances were needed. Lee estimates that this simplified architecture contributed to up-front savings of $100,000 in end-point security investments. Evaluation and testing of the solution began in October 2003, including a pilot period in the U.S. that began in December '03 and lasted about four months, Lee says. That was followed by the implementation of a European SSL VPN gateway, which covers PartnerRe's more than 900 remaining clients worldwide. "Total implementation took a little over six months," according to Lee. "The only area not yet added is Asia, which depends on growth in the region," he adds.

Safe and Sound

"This technology provided not only remote success, but also enhanced security," Lee continues. Compared to a classic IPSec VPN, the SSL VPN limits the network's exposure and decreases potential attack points, according to Sygate. Moreover, it allows PartnerRe to check the host integrity of clients' machines before granting them access to the reinsurer's network.

The solution also reduced the amount of time employees spent on the phone with the IT help desk, Lee says. And, the new technology helps PartnerRe comply with international regulations concerning the sharing of information.

The implementation has been so successful, Lee notes, that PartnerRe also is looking to use Sygate to support a future wireless initiative for in-house access.


Case Study Profile


PartnerRe (Bermuda; $3.87 billion in revenue).

Lines of Business

Multiline reinsurance including P&C, catastrophe, life, alternative risk transfer and specialty lines.


Sygate (Fremont, Calif.) Secure Enterprise Solution and Juniper Networks (Sunnyvale, Calif.) SSL VPN Appliances.

The Challenge

Provide easy, secure access to internal application resources for more than 200 remote users.

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