The Barracuda SSL VPN Provides Secure, Clientless Remote Access for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a 77-acre, naturalistic habitat facility that is home to thousands of animals representing hundreds of different animal species. Committed to education, research, and wildlife conservation, the zoo is actively involved in 32 Species Survival Plans and proudly exhibits threatened and endangered species. The Pittsburgh Zoo employs approximately 300 people, including seasonal staff.

Jon Hilliker, IT guru for the zoo, provides VPN access for employees who regularly rely on it to get their work done. He also has events, such as animal births or close animal observation, where an entire department uses the VPN to monitor animal camera feeds, share vital information, and complete related tasks. Because the number of VPN users can vary greatly from day to day, Hilliker needs total scalability and an easy-to-understand pricing model that does NOT have per-user fees.

"The Barracuda SSL VPN... was very costeffective, even for our small-scale deployment."
- Jon Hilliker, IT Guru, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium


  • Previous PPTP VPN solution not secure
  • Hard to manage
  • Difficult for users to make it work
  • IT group bogged down with VPN help tickets
  • Lost employee productivity
  • Previous vendor’s SSL VPN solution was cost-prohibitive


  • Barracuda SSL VPN 180


  • Totally secure access
  • Easy for employees to use
  • Simple for IT to manage
  • Affordable
  • Scalable
  • More productive employees
  • Comprehensive reporting
  • Excellent technical support

VPN Access Challenges

While using a PPTP VPN from a different vendor, Hilliker said his team encountered many challenges previously. The company provided an SSL VPN option, but it was cost-prohibitive. The PPTP VPN was not secure, and the initial connection was plagued with problems. VPN users were constantly contacting Hilliker for support, and the IT department was bogged down with requests for help getting the VPN to work. For many users, it meant not being able to work remotely, so they could not get work done if they were not able to be physically in the office. These problems also discouraged other employees from trying the VPN to work on projects while out of the office, greatly reducing overall employee productivity.

In his search for a new VPN solution, Hilliker evaluated the SSL VPN offered by WatchGuard in addition to the Barracuda SSL VPN. Ease of use for the IT group as well as the end users was a very important evaluation criterion. Hilliker found the WatchGuard solution to be very cumbersome, requiring several network adapters. Also, stand-alone software had to be manually installed on each computer to use the VPN. “It just seemed bulky and overly complicated,” said Hilliker. “The Barracuda solution is as easy as opening a web browser and logging in.” From there all the network resources and files employees would have if they were in the office can be launched with just a couple mouse clicks. No other set up is required. Being able to easily manage the VPN solution was also a consideration for Hilliker, as he has a small IT department.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and Barracuda: Happy Together

The Pittsburgh Zoo IT team is very happy with its Barracuda SSL VPN 180 for many reasons. With the intuitive web interface, ease of use, and minimal installation requirements, the solution is incredibly user friendly. On the backend, Hilliker was able to customize the experience for users by including custom resource groups and applications. The team was also able to integrate its Active Directory user database, which made setting permissions and groups simple.

The extensive reports that are easily accessible from the admin dashboard were extremely helpful for monitoring activity and identifying any potential problems. “Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Barracuda solution was the comprehensive reporting, complete with pretty charts and graphs for management to drool over!” said Hilliker.

The IT team later discovered that Barracuda support also exceeded their expectations. “If we ever have an issue we cannot resolve on our own, we simply contact Barracuda Support and work with a tech to resolve issues quickly and with minimal downtime,” said Hilliker.

"If we ever have an issue we cannot resolve on our own, we simply contact Barracuda Support and work with a tech to resolve issues quickly and with minimal downtime."
- Jon Hilliker, IT Guru, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

The Barracuda SSL VPN 180 provides the Pittsburgh Zoo with a substantial increase in performance, security, scalability, ease of use, and affordability. “Perhaps the greatest selling point of the Barracuda SSL VPN was that the solution was very cost-effective, even for our small-scale deployment,” said Hilliker.

About Barracuda

Protecting users, applications, and data for more than 150,000 organizations worldwide, Barracuda Networks has developed a global reputation as the go-to leader for powerful, easy-to-use, affordable IT solutions. The company’s proven customercentric business model focuses on delivering high-value, subscriptionbased IT solutions for security and storage. For additional information, please visit or follow us on Twitter: @barracuda.

About the Barracuda SSL VPN

The full-featured, scalable Barracuda SSL VPN provides users with easy-to-use, web-based client-to-site VPN access to internal web applications and network file shares. It provides comprehensive security and works with any firewall. Powerful, policy-based resource management allows administrators to define granular access policies. In addition to having no per-user fees, installation and administration are fast and easy, and it’s virtually maintenancefree, saving IT time and resources. To learn more, visit:

Barracuda SSL VPN Fast Facts

  • Integrates with third-party authentication mechanisms to provide granular access controls
  • Easy to deploy and use
  • Added security with built-in malware scanning
  • Works with any firewall
  • Fast and secure access from mobile devices