Banking on Bandwidth: Microsoft Holds “Hands-on Labs” to Help Financial Firms Maximize Branch Connectivity, Security

REDMOND, Wash. — April 26, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. today is kicking off a series of worldwide “hands-on labs” to help financial services institutions such as banks and investment firms bring better bandwidth and security to branch offices — without breaking the bank.

While central offices within financial institutions boast high-speed Internet access and complex security safeguards, branch offices often suffer from limited bandwidth and are more susceptible to threats. In addition, as older branch applications rooted in 3270 green screens migrate to Web-standards- and browser-based applications, banks and other financial firms are concerned about how to maximize bandwidth at the branch, while maintaining secure connectivity to headquarters in a security-enhanced environment. A recent boom in branch build-out has exacerbated the problem, as institutions spend an increasing percentage of their budget toward labor versus IT infrastructure.

“Our surveys have shown that more than half of the 18,000 banks and related institutions nationwide have a 56Kbps connection or slower to the back office,” said Jerry Silva, senior analyst, delivery channels, with financial services analyst firm The TowerGroup Inc. “Many of these are smaller community banks and credit unions. But even offices of larger financial services firms have concerns over bandwidth, and this is increasingly driven by a desire at the branch to perform videoconferencing, voice over IP or the transmission of check images due to Check 21 legislation.”

Microsoft’s hands-on labs, which kick off today in New York and will be held in major U.S. and European financial centers, are workshops on how to use many of the features included in the Microsoft® Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 platform. As part of Microsoft’s Channel Renewal initiative for financial services, the labs will teach senior IT staff and other attendees how to bolster intraoffice bandwidth via the server’s caching features, while also taking advantage of ISA Server’s built-in application layer firewall and virtual private network (VPN) to help secure communications between branch office and headquarters.

“Microsoft’s vision for the branch office is to empower financial institutions to attain the end-user productivity benefits of a local branch server, while improving performance and cost,” said Bill Hartnett, general manager of strategy and solutions for the U.S. Financial Services Group at Microsoft. “By using Microsoft ISA Server at the branch, employees gain productivity, while IT departments benefit from built-in security, and lower infrastructure and bandwidth costs.”

Features of Microsoft ISA Server 2004

ISA Server 2004 offers a unique and compelling branch solution. Key benefits include the following:

  • Application-layer filtering that helps provide deep content inspection in addition to layer-4 firewall protection technologies

  • Increased protection against common network-layer attacks through stateful packet filtering

  • Remote VPN access so branch employees can connect to their branch office network while working from home or on business trips

  • Web caching for frequently accessed content to increase the efficient use of bandwidth

  • HTTP compression that delivers a faster browsing experience while reducing bandwidth consumption

  • Traffic prioritization that provides business-critical applications with network precedence

  • Improved support for Microsoft Update to help ensure branch office desktops are kept more secure in a bandwidth-conscious manner

More information about Microsoft’s branch office vision involving Microsoft ISA Server can be found at

About Microsoft in Financial Services

Microsoft’s Financial Services Group provides software that helps financial firms transform the customer, employee and operations experience so they can maximize opportunities for increased market share and profitability. Microsoft software helps empower people and IT staff within financial firms — and across key focus areas such as advisor platforms, channel renewal, insurance value chain, enterprise risk management and compliance, and payments. Through a combination of Microsoft- and partner-provided solutions, customers enable their employees to turn data into insight, transform ideas into action and turn change into opportunity.

More information about Microsoft’s Financial Services Group can be found at

About Microsoft

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