Virtela targets pandemic readiness

* Virtela's Pandemic Readiness Solution

In light of widespread health threats such as Bird Flu, Virtela Communications has announced a new suite of network services aimed at pandemic readiness.

The new offering combines Virtela’s existing network services including VPNs, remote access, geographic diversity and load balancing with special capabilities such as emergency software licensing, WAN acceleration, dynamic bandwidth allocation and security posturing.

"We provide overall business continuity solutions for large multinational corporations," says Kathy Lynch, senior product manager at Virtela. "We’ve received a lot of interest from our customers in terms of how they should be positioned during a pandemic…They want to have a system ready at their fingertips to turn on if needed."

Virtela already has two customers - both globally distributed manufacturers - for its Pandemic Readiness Solution, which was formally announced May 9.

"Both of our implementations that are specifically engineered for pandemic capacity involve a large number of end users - 65,000 in one case and 90,000 in the other," says Bill Dodds, vice president of direct sales for Virtela.

What companies are looking for is networks that can be rapidly scaled up to support thousands of users who can’t get into their offices because of an epidemic.

"We can put in emergency licensing so you can scale up your VPN for a particular length of time," Lynch says. "This is a much more economic solution than overbuilding your network to handle the extra capacity."

Companies also want a geographically dispersed network using multiple carriers so that traffic can be routed around problem areas.

"At each one of our policy centers around the world, we have ISP redundancy, multiple SSL VPNs and load balancing," Lynch says.

Another aspect of pandemic readiness is dealing with thousands of users who are dialing in from home computers that may not have the security profiles required to hook up to corporate networks. Virtela’s security offerings include antivirus, firewall and remediation to make sure these home computers meet corporate security policies.

"What you need for pandemic readiness is the flexibility to support a huge influx of users for a temporary period of time…and the ability to pay for this incrementally rather than overengineering your network," Lynch says.

Virtela executives describe the Pandemic Readiness Solution as similar to an insurance policy. The service is offered at a relatively low per user, per month fee and then it will rise when the service is turned on.

Virtela said that it can provide a pandemic insurance policy that can scale temporarily to support large users for as little as 15% of the baseline solution for standard remote access.

"Every part of the world needs to be concerned about pandemics," Lynch says. "The World Health Organization says that North America is the only untouched area, but because of air travel and our troops in Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until we're hit."

She adds that companies may need to rely on a pandemic-ready network for longer than they think.

"The Centers for Disease Control says a pandemic could last from weeks to months to as much as 18 months as to when a region may be down and when social distancing may be in effect," she adds.

Virtela isn’t the only service provider to offer a pandemic readiness solution. IBM introduced a contingency planning assessment service for pandemic outbreaks last year.

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