Australia, with its vast distances and sometimes brutal climate, can be a tough country in which to do business. The most difficult locations of all are found in the Northern Territory, a huge geographical area that traverses cities through to remote townships, tropical bush to arid desert. Providing services across this massive area invokes particular challenges, as CatholicCare NT knows only too well.
CatholicCare NT is a social services agency operating under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Darwin. Offering support to individuals and communities across the Territory, CatholicCare has offices in six major locations including Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Bathurst Island. It also employs staff in three remote communities.
Until three years ago, the problems of distance and an ageing head office infrastructure meant that each of CatholicCare's offices ran its own small local area network. There was no central repository of documents and applications were individually installed and maintained at each site. Collaboration involved sharing documents via email. For a social services agency dealing in sensitive information it was far from ideal. Security – of each network and of individual documents – was an ever-present concern. Document integrity was another issue, with the potential for multiple versions of documents to be saved on hard drives in each location.
When agency growth forced the organisation to move headquarters to a newer, larger building, it was no surprise that ICT Coordinator Jason Cubillo embraced the opportunity for change. A completely new voice and data infrastructure was needed. CatholicCare selected an Avaya solution to optimise resiliency, increase productivity and reduce costs.
Cubillo explains, "Our key requirement was security. Besides creating a network we needed to lock down data and make our sites more secure. We also wanted web filtering to block out unnecessary websites. This was for productivity reasons and to reduce the cost of unnecessary bandwidth."
Following a recommendation from local information technology supplier, Territory Technology Solutions (TTS), CatholicCare took a look at WatchGuard, the developer of affordable, all-in-one network and content security solutions. "We did quite a lot of research, looking at how WatchGuard Firebox Core and Edge devices would work in geographically spread-out organisations. We found they catered for all our necessities," Cubillo says.
The fact that TTS had extensive experience with the solution was also important. "TTS has engineers who service the products and who've worked with WatchGuard for quite some time. They knew the hardware and software and that gave us confidence to go ahead," he adds.
Deployment of the WatchGuard VPN and firewall began in Darwin before gradually moving on to other CatholicCare offices. In addition to creating the VPN, the implementation had to ensure integration with CatholicCare's new telephony system - an Avaya IP 500 complete with 150 Voice over IP (VoIP) handsets. Cubillo says, "The way it's set up we have SIP trunks in each branch that connect to WatchGuard. When someone picks up a handset and dials a number, WatchGuard recognises it as a phone call and knows that Avaya takes priority. It's a really good piece of technology and very secure."
Management and administration of the system are controlled centrally by Cubillo with the support of TTS. "I can change or reset a WatchGuard device anywhere while sitting at my desk here in Darwin. I just click a switch and it resets itself without someone having to go out and physically do it," Cubillo enthuses. Three terminal servers, also located in Darwin, provide the entry point for remote users seeking access to the IT system.
For staff the network has brought new security and even more flexibility. Users can access the system from anywhere, any time, as long as they have an Internet connection. At CatholicCare's three most remote sites, this is achieved using wireless communications. WatchGuard provides user authentication, ensuring no intruders gain access to the network.
All branches have access to documents via the central file server. This has removed the need to separately email documents around the organisation and minimised the problems of version control and document security. "We're not leaving a paper trail lying around," Cubillo says. "Documents such as client files used to be put on desks, tossed in bins, saved on different desktops. All data is now in a central location, documents can be shared or we can put security around them. The firewall provides protection for anything going to or from the main server. This is the main reason we got WatchGuard."
Web filtering, although greeted skeptically at first, has proven its value by reducing Internet costs. Cubillo explains, "Once everything had been implemented we spoke to staff and gave a justification of why we were introducing filters. We explained what it meant and how it would be applied. They saw the broader picture and accepted it. At the end of the day, an open Internet line such as we had before does cost the organisation quite a lot of money."
Thousands of dollars in savings are also being generated by the new telephony system. "Previously we had a telecommunications system in each site. We make a consider-able number of phone calls so invoices were quite high. Once we introduced VoIP, this dropped noticeably. All the systems are set up in a virtual private branch exchange (PBX), so staff can call other branches without using the normal landline and without incurring the cost of an external phone call," Cubillo says. The introduction of internal extension numbers has delivered additional time benefits, with staff no longer having to first go through a switchboard.
The sophisticated infrastructure has also brought personal change for Cubillo. "Before, if there were any problems I'd have to travel out to remote locations to fix them. That is, providing there weren't any floods and the roads were passable. It often involved being away over the weekend. Now, with WatchGuard we can do a lot of the maintenance and support locally. I spend less time travelling and have more proactive, productive time in the office. WatchGuard is doing the job really well," he concludes.
For more information on WatchGuard's powerful network security solutions, visit www.watchguard.com.
Before, if there were any problems I'd have to travel out to remote locations to fix them. ...with WatchGuard we can do a lot of the maintenance and support locally. I spend less time travelling and have more proactive, productive time in the office. WatchGuard is doing the job really well.
Jason Cubillo, ICT Coordinator,