Case Studies

Riverland Group boosts network security and performance with WatchGuard

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Established in 2006, Riverland Group operates six hospitality venues in Melbourne’s central business district and the inner suburbs of Elsternwick and Brunswick. The venues offer a mix of bar and food services and cater for locals and visitors alike.

Riverland’s first venture was the iconic Riverland Bar located on the edge of the Yarra River, directly below Federation Square. The group employs between 150 and 400 staff, depending on the season, with over 50 endpoints for administrative office staff.

The challenge

During the past few years, as the group grew in size and turnover, it became clear its existing data networking capabilities were no longer able to provide the level of support required.
Riverland Group Finance Manager, Rohan Brodie, says the company had been reliant on ageing network links that were struggling to provide the level of performance and reliability needed in each venue and within the company’s head office.
“We had been using a remote desktop environment through which staff accessed file servers, our Bepoz in-venue point-of-sale system, and our back-office applications,” Brodie says. “Increasingly, they were finding this setup very clunky and slow to use.”

As a result, growing numbers of staff were turning to services such as Dropbox and Google Drive to store company data. This was far from ideal and was causing increasing concerns when it came to data security.

“We had no effective way to manage our network links or monitor usage,” says Brodie. “As a company, we also had a desire to take advantage of cloud-based resources including Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.
“For these reasons, we knew we had to change and so, in early 2020, we began the search for an alternative.”



The solution

The first step taken by Riverland Group was to engage an external technology consultant to advise on the options available for the company. A request for proposal (RFP) was issued and a short list of four potential managed service providers (MSPs) was drawn up.

“After carefully reviewing the responses, we took the decision to engage itro as our new MSP. We were impressed with their responsiveness and the network solution that they proposed to deploy and manage for us.”

Once the contract had been designed, work began on network design. A decision was made to deploy a WatchGuard FireBox T40 firewall appliance with Total Security Suite at each venue with virtual private network (VPN) links back to the Microsoft Azure cloud where applications and data would be located. WatchGuard’s DNS WatchGo was also incorporated into the design to provide content filtering and DNS-level protection.

However, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in delays to the project’s rollout. While work continued during the lockdowns, the final launch did not take place until late October 2021.

“We were pleased to confirm the initial design was still in progress after the lockdown period,” says Brodie. “This demonstrates an academic approach to project resolution.”
“Although we were delayed, we were still very pleased that our initial design remained appropriate for our operations after the lockdowns were eased,” says Brodie. “Once work was able to continue, everything was completed in a very short period of time.”



The benefits

With the new VPN network links in place involving cloud solutions, Riverland’s staff had full function capacity that focused on performance and reliability with the level of advanced service to patrons.

According to Brodie, this academic approach to project management was used to deploy an order from table to service to patrons who did not have to queue at bars to order food and drinks.

“The performance of this application is critical for our operations and it runs flawlessly via the WatchGuard firewalls and over the network links.”
Brodie says the new network infrastructure has also enabled the company to create a “work-from-anywhere” environment. Staff can move between venues and expect the same level of service while back-office staff are now able to work from any location including at home.
“This sort of flexibility is going to become increasingly important when it comes to attracting and retaining good staff,” says Brodie. “Seamless access to applications and data is essential for a company like ours.”
Brodie says the WatchGuard firewalls and DNS monitoring capabilities have served to significantly improve the overall level of IT security at all venues and within head office. It is now possible to monitor all data traffic and have better oversight of resources at all times.
“Our patrons also benefit because the data traffic from public Wi-Fi networks in each venue is also routed through the WatchGuard firewalls. This improves their level of security and reduces the chances of them receiving malicious code.”
Brodie says having itro in place as the company’s MSP means Riverland will be able to continue to invest in new technologies and services as they emerge in the future.
“We don’t have a dedicated in-house IT team and so itro provides us with the level of technical expertise needed to keep our infrastructure running. They also keep an eye on what we might need in the future as the business grows.”

At this stage, future plans include the use of SD-WAN technology to provide fail-over networking capabilities for each venue using public mobile networks.

“Our venues are very reliant on network connectivity and having this capability in place will ensure we can serve our patrons efficiently at all times,” says Brodie. “At the end of the day, that’s what Riverland Group is all about.”