Cisco Looks to Lock Down Remote Workers

Remote workers are proliferating in organizations around the world. Yet how do you
easily ensure that they are connecting seamlessly and securely to the enterprise

It’s a question that networking juggernaut Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) believes it’s already
answered for more than 12,000 of its employees across 70 countries. After seeing success
with a server, hardware and software bundle, it’s now taking the same solution it uses
internally and selling it under the name “Cisco Virtual Office” (CVO).

The CVO includes a router and VoIP phone that together sit in the remote office, along
with a services router that’s housed in the enterprise.

As remote workers become an increasing presence in businesses — thanks to the cost
savings, ease and environmental benefits of trends like telecommuting — the setup is
intended to help distant workers become seamless, secure extensions of the enterprise in
ways that a traditional virtual private network (VPN) alone cannot provide.

“One of the things we’ve really gone after here is, ‘How we solve the security
problem?” Fred Kost, director of security solutions marketing at Cisco, told, adding that one of the ways it seeks to address the issue is by
simplifying setup.

“Maintaining the secure environment can be a challenge, expecting end users to
configure it and maintain it,” he said. “With this solution, we can really enforce a lot
of the security beyond just the VPN and have a much more secure environment.”

For one thing, Kost explained that the CVO solution is intended to be what he called a
“zero-touch” deployment.

“When I plug the Cisco router into my broadband connection, it automatically connects
to the Internet, and in my case, Cisco establishes a secure tunnel, downloads
configuration information and basically builds a sustained VPN tunnel,” he said. “The
phone plugs in and also downloads configuration information, so all services are on the

He added that with a traditional, off-the-shelf VPN approach to remote office worker
connectivity, there are still configuration issues that could lead to insecurity.

The CVO’s persistent connection differs from the classical VPN connection due to
Cisco’s long history in VPNs. Cisco has been a leader in the VPN market for years, and has
been on a path toward making the technology simpler for users to deploy and use with its
Cisco AnyConnect VPN

Since remote workers often are at home, the CVO solution also has extra port for
existing home traffic. The solution creates a split tunnel, ensuring that the home
traffic has its own separate access to the Internet and isn’t “backhauled” across the
corporate VPN.

Kost argued that by separating out the home network, risk to the enterprise is further

CVO is built on hardware solutions that Cisco already has in the market. Among them
are the Cisco
Internet Services Routers and the Cisco 7970G IP phone for the remote
worker. At the head end, CVO relies on a Cisco 7200-series router for managing the remote
connections. Then there is the software, which enables the policy management and access
control to the network.

Kost noted that while the hardware was all available publicly before, the software and
the integrated bundle are both new.

He also said the solution continues to be extensively field tested, with some
thousands of Cisco workers already using CVO. It’s proven so successful that Cisco also
expects to expand that figure dramatically within the next two years.

“Our intention is to take it to 30,000 by 2010,” Kost said. “So we will have 50
percent of our workforce enabled.”

Article courtesy of

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