Monday, February 07, 2022
Established in 1991, Jellis Craig has grown to become one of Melbourne’s leading Real Estate groups. Operating from 28 offices across Victoria, the company has 750 staff and more than 350 sales consultants.
During recent years, Jellis Craig has expanded its operations through a strategy of acquisition. Each office is then supported by centralised operations, marketing, and IT services.
As the company’s network of offices has grown, the challenges faced by the Jellis Craig IT team have also increased. Each new office needs to be fully equipped with effective security measures and robust data links to ensure both business and client information remains protected at all times.
IT team head, Christian Marotta, says his company has been a user of WatchGuard technology for more than a decade. Prior to that time, the firm had relied on an ageing Wide Area Network (WAN) infrastructure to connect each office to company headquarters.
“Back then, I could quickly see that deploying WatchGuard firewalls would allow me to remove the expensive legacy WAN connections,” he says. “These days, we are making use of fibre NBN connections which deliver much better performance and data speeds.”
Marotta says the challenge then became finding an efficient way to monitor and manage a quickly growing fleet of devices.
The fleet includes a WatchGuard Firebox M470 appliance in the headquarters equipped with WatchGuard Total Security Suite. This provides services including support for content filtering, intrusion prevention, application control and ransomware protection. The network of offices uses a mix of WatchGuard Firebox M270 and M370 devices, depending on the number of staff at each location. WatchGuard AP325 Wi-Fi access points are also currently being rolled out to provide improved wireless LAN coverage in each office.
WatchGuard’s managed services partner, Greenlight, has been working with Jellis Craig for three years and assisting with equipment selection and purchasing. Prior to this, the real estate company had been a WatchGuard customer but served by reseller Solution Plus Australia which Greenlight acquired.
“Greenlight’s support has been very helpful,” says Marotta. “Their technical knowledge and speed of service has been second to none.”
Marotta says that, while the WatchGuard gear was working well for the company, the IT team realised it needed a more efficient way to manage it. “With just a small internal team and almost 30 different locations to cover, remote monitoring and management was really the only option for us,” he says.
After considering a range of options, the Jellis Craig IT team made the decision to deploy the WatchGuard Cloud management platform. This enables the team to manage all Wi-Fi access points through a single portal. WatchGuard Fireboxes are currently being managed through WatchGuard System Manager.
“In the next six to 12 months, as the capabilities of WatchGuard Cloud increase, we will be looking to use that for managing the firewalls as well,” says Marotta.
With the firewalls, access points, and management portals in place, Marotta says ongoing management of the entire infrastructure is very straight forward. The portals allow the team visibility down to a device level in each of the office locations.
“We can see everything that’s connected to our Wi-Fi networks, the connection speed they are achieving, and the signal strength,” he says. “If someone calls us to report that their Wi-Fi network is running slowly, we can quickly jump on and determine what is causing the issue.”
Each WatchGuard firewall has a backup 4G dongle in place. This means that, if there is a fault or disruption to the internet connection, traffic can be automatically routed over this alternative connection instead.
“Security is enhanced by the fact that we only have one Microsoft Active Directory instance for the entire company,” he says. “In some offices there is nothing in place apart from the firewall and some access points. Our VPN connections also make working from and accessing head-office resources simple, reliable, and secure.”
Marotta says his internal team continues to undertake deployments of additional WatchGuard devices as required. Greenlight continues to provide support by supplying the devices and ensuring the internal team is fully briefed on technical developments in the market.
“They help us to decide which products best suit our requirements,” he says. “They also assist with deal registrations and ensuring we take advantage of the best trade-up and trade-in options as WatchGuard devices are upgraded.”
Marotta says he has also been impressed with the service offered directly by WatchGuard. He recently had to go through the process of equipping a new large two-level office with a Wi-Fi network and WatchGuard assisted by examining floor plans and determining the optimal location for each access point.
“Our future plans include setting up a virtual WatchGuard appliance on the AWS cloud platform,” he says. “We plan to move our head office infrastructure onto the cloud platform as part of our strategy to shift from on-prem equipment.” Marotta says the company is not expecting its growth rate to slow, due to ongoing strong demand for real estate services. “I expect both WatchGuard and Greenlight will continue to be valuable technology partners for Jellis Craig for many years to come,” he concludes.