Case Studies

Bowens boosts internet security across Victorian branch network with WatchGuard

Monday, October 21, 2019

As a fully independent, family-owned company, Bowens has been providing building supplies to clients across Victoria for more than 125 years. Through a network of 16 branches, the company offers everything from timber and pre-made frames to hardware and hire equipment.

The challenge

Like organisations operating in every business sector, Bowens has experienced a rise in the use of information technology to support its day-to-day operations. Many paper-based processes have been replaced with digital alternatives and communications with suppliers and customers are increasingly taking place online.

As a result, the company has needed to ensure its increasingly complex IT infrastructure is secure and able to withstand malicious attacks. IT Services Manager, Brendan Hart, says it’s a task that is particularly challenging as the number and type of cyber threats continues to grow.

“Security is not something that you can fix once and then forget about,” he says. “We needed to be sure we had the best tools in place and that those tools would be enhanced and improved over time.At the same time, we wanted to work with a leading managed security services provider who could best advice, consult, guide and recommend the best security tools for our business.”

The solution

Bowens has been working with WatchGuard for the past eight years, during which time a growing number of security components has been deployed with the industry leading experience of managed services provider, Viatek.

By taking a planned and thorough approach, Viatek has enabled the organisation to significantly reduce the likelihood it will fall victim to security threat.At the same time, through a combination of appropriate tools and the ongoing education of staff, the security of vital corporate data and systems has been properly maintained.

The process began with the installation of two WatchGuard firewalls in the company’s data centre.

“We have been very centralised in our approach to IT and security,” says Hart. “All our sites connect to the data centre via an MPLS network, which reduces complexity as only routers are needed at each site. Having two firewalls means we can reboot and upgrade when required without interrupting our network traffic.”

Hart says to provide effective security protection as the company continued to grow, a decision was taken to adopt the WatchGuard Total Security Suite. The Bowens’ IT team could see that this portfolio of products and services would meet all security requirements both now and in the future.

“We worked closely with Viatek, to match the components of the suite with our particular needs,” he says. “This was a relatively straight-forward process as the suite comprises all the tools that we need but we were assured of this strategy through Viatek’s experience in working on cyber security projects with similar organisations.”
One of the first new tools to be deployed was WatchGuard DNSWatch that provides protection against phishing attacks. “This product has been amazing,” says Hart. “It was literally a five-minute job to point our DNS servers to DNSWatch and it was up and running.
“If any staff member clicks on a link to a potentially dangerous web site, access is automatically prevented and an alert generated.”

The IT team is also taking advantage of WatchGuard Threat Detection and Response which continually analyses network traffic and identifies any suspected anomalies.

“This effectively adds another layer to our security as it monitors all activity on our endpoint devices and is triggered if anything unusual is spotted,” says Hart. “You can also use it to set up policies to restrict who has access to certain applications and data stores.”

Always on the hunt for ways to further improve security within the company and working in partnership with Viatek, the IT team is currently rolling out WatchGuard Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS). Once fully operational, this will protect the company’s Wi-Fi networks at each site which are used to connect portable devices such as Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals and stock scanners.

“As WIPS is cloud-based, it means I can manage all my Wi-Fi access points and connected devices from a single console which is very efficient,” he says. “If an access point needs replacing at one of our sites, a new unit can be plugged in by a staff member and I can configure it remotely.”

The benefits

Throughout its multi-year relationship with Viatek and WatchGuard, Bowens has enjoyed some significant business benefits. One of the most welcome has been the ability to keep a lid on IT security costs.

“WatchGuard is very cost effective for us,” says Hart. “They keep adding to their portfolio each time they introduce a new technology or tool, however it doesn’t cost any more for the additional functionality.”

Hart says having a web portal for management is also a big plus. Being able to monitor and manage everything from a central point reduces the need to travel between sites and ensures that all components are always properly configured and providing the required protection to the infrastructure.

“WatchGuard also gives me the confidence that we are able to comply with the requirements of Australia’s data breach regulations. Thanks to Threat Detection and Response, we have comprehensive logs of all connections being made and all data being transferred. If we had to report a breach, we could be very clear about what had happened and the data that had been accessed.”

The IT team is currently working on deploying WatchGuard AuthPoint multi-factor authentication to add yet another layer of security. This will prevent unauthorised people from connecting to systems and accessing data.

Bowens continues to work closely with partner Viatek as a trusted advisor rather than as a technical provider to identify other ways in which the company’s infrastructure can be improved. “They understand our business very well and are in a good position to identify and recommend new products and services that can add value

“Ultimately, our proper planning and research ensured that we found a partner in Viatek who could offer the security required to protect our data and business, adhered to security and privacy standards and ensured disasters wouldn’t impede our business workflow.At the same time, they are secure enough to do business with moving forward,” says Hart.
In summary, Hart says Bowens’ ongoing relationship with WatchGuard and Viatek will ensure the company continues to have a robust and secure IT infrastructure. “Having WatchGuard makes it easier for me to sleep at night,” he says. “Networks now are so big it’s not possible to monitor every user, but by putting a portfolio of tools from WatchGuard in place, I know we have the security layers that we need.”