Healthcare Organization Secures Remote Outback Network with WatchGuard
Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) is an Aboriginal community-controlled health organization that supports the work of more than 12 healthcare providers in Australia’s remote northwest. From a headquarters in Broome, KAMS provides back-end services in a range of areas including finance and accounting, corporate services, IT support, training and education.
As KAMS has grown during the past decade, the scope of its IT infrastructure has also expanded. A data network has been created that links KAMS headquarters with offices and medical facilities across the region, as well as establishing secure links to additional medical services in Perth. A big challenge for KAMS was supporting remote locations, and getting to those locations can sometimes be difficult.
“Our data network underpins everything that we do,” says Shane Dahlstrom, executive manager of ICT Services. “It’s a critical part of delivering health and medical services to residents across the region.”
About six years ago, the KAMS IT team realized the data security tools within the organization’s infrastructure were no longer providing the level of protection required. Firewalls were complex and difficult to manage and there were gaps when it came to securing traffic to and from remote locations. “We didn’t really have a strategic approach to security,” says Shane. “We had some Linux-based boxes with command-line interfaces installed and, while this had provided some protection, we realized that it was far from ideal.”
Shane adds: “Also, there was only one person in our IT team who could drive the system without needing to check the manual for the proper commands. This was a clear weakness and something that we had to overcome.” Shane explains the issue came to a head when KAMS began the rollout of Microsoft Office 365 to staff. The legacy security equipment could not readily cope with the required traffic and was unable to support the deployment.
KAMS evaluated a range of options before choosing WatchGuard as its new security vendor and has been working with WatchGuard Gold Partner Silverfern IT for the latest upgrades. WatchGuard Firebox M370 appliances were selected for the KAMS headquarters, while Firebox T35 appliances were the perfect fit for smaller, remote locations. Additionally, KAMS decided to deploy WatchGuard Total Security Suite to all appliances.
Due to the remote location of many facilities, the rollout took about six months to complete. “Our most remote site is 1,200 kilometers away and more than 300 of those are over gravel,” states Shane. “While it’s challenging to get to the locations, WatchGuard makes it easy to get the appliances set up.”
With the WatchGuard infrastructure in place, KAMS quickly began enjoying some significant benefits. The user interface of the Firebox appliances – a major step forward from the command line – has made configuration and management of the firewall appliances significantly easier.
“WatchGuard’s sophisticated management capabilities have also reduced the need for us to travel to remote locations,” Shane comments. “If we do need to replace a device, it can be preconfigured and then simply connected to the network on delivery. Monitoring and management can then be done from our HQ.”
Because a number of the locations also have restricted bandwidth, there is also great benefit in the fact that WatchGuard provides the ability to manage network activity to ensure critical traffic can always get through.
Shane notes WatchGuard’s load-balancing and fail-over capabilities have also made a big difference, both for KAMS and the organisations it supports. “We are located in a region that experiences extreme weather such as very heavy rain and cyclones. If we have an outage at one site, we are able to quickly fail over to another so that critical medical services can be maintained.”
There have also been improvements in the security around medical records. While the records are not held within the KAMS IT infrastructure, WatchGuard has allowed traffic to and from the Perth-based data center where they are stored to be secure at all times. Traffic from each remote facility around the region is also channelled through the KAMS headquarters and via the WatchGuard platform, removing the chance of unauthorized access to or loss of sensitive files.
“WatchGuard has given us the ability to grow our network while ensuring it provides the support that the organization requires. It has also allowed us to take back control of our network rather than being reliant on external providers to assist with its management. At the end of the day, when you are talking about medical facilities, it’s about keeping things operating in a business-as-usual way at all times. WatchGuard enables us to achieve that, which is very satisfying.”