The really interesting thing about herpesviruses is that they can establish lifelong persistant infections in immunocompetent hosts. At first glance, they would seem to have very different ways of doing this. Here we will use as a model our current understanding of how the human herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus establishes and maintains such an infection. We apply information from a wide range of sources including laboratory experimentation, clinical observation, animal models and a new computer simulation. We propose that the detailed mechanisms for establishing infection are dependent on the virus and tissues involved, but the strategy is the same - to persist in a long-lived cell type where the virus is invisible to the immune system and nonpathogenic.