Case Study - Tacoma Housing Authority


Tacoma Housing Authority Makes the Switch from Cisco to WatchGuard


Tacoma Housing Authority (THA), based in Tacoma, WA, is a governmental organization that strives to provide high quality housing and supportive services to persons and families in need, and in so doing, foster stronger communities.

THA owns and rents out affordable apartments and homes, develops real estate, provides rent support, and helps provide and arrange for supportive services, such as for elderly or disabled persons.

Through its 115 employees and volunteer workforce, THA serves over 12,000 individuals within the Tacoma area.


With just a three-person IT team to support an organization spread over 10 buildings that serves a sizable community, manpower and budget-consciousness are top-of-mind when tackling security and networking challenges. According to Aaron Tripp, Help Desk Technician at THA, "Network attacks today seem to be trickling down more to small and medium-sized businesses because cybercriminals probably figure we don't have the manpower and huge budget to keep everything secure.

"Another trend confronting us is the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) wave," says Tripp. "People are increasingly bringing in laptops, tablets, phones—and we're tasked with trying to make sure loose ends are tied up. Basically, how do we keep those devices secure?"

Difficulties with Cisco Prompted a Security Wish List

Tacoma Housing Authority used Cisco ASAs at their headquarters as well as at seven remote sites. "One of my biggest complaints with using Cisco is that, unless you're someone whose entire job is based on switching and routing, it's challenging to have to know every command line interface (CLI) command for a Cisco device," related Tripp. "On top of that, the Cisco graphical user interface is bulky, difficult to navigate, and just hard to locate the information you need.

"When I got here [THA], we had multiple devices performing all different functions," continued Tripp. "We had Cisco ASAs doing firewalling, we had a spam and firewall filter for email, and we also used a separate web filter device. So, for us, another motivation when searching for a replacement solution was to find a device for firewalling that would also allow us to use other features. With WatchGuard we found that device. Having one device that can do the work of all of our various security needs and not get overloaded makes IT's job, and mine specifically, way easier. Being in such a small division, I needed something I could rely on that would be easy to train others on. WatchGuard just simplifies everything so much," declared Tripp.

MSSP Partner helps Evaluate Contenders

"Because of our IT group's small size, and the many different roles each of us already play, when it comes to some of the major projects, we contract out," explained Tripp. "We frequently collaborate with BlackPoint IT Services (an Expert Level WatchGuard partner) and we have a great relationship with them."

So, when THA wanted to learn more about upgrading their network security, they turned to BlackPoint. "Even though they are WatchGuard resellers, BlackPoint is pretty neutral in their approach," asserted Tripp. "The Senior Engineer, who grew up using Cisco, gave me the rundown on WatchGuard versus Cisco. Then, when he showed me the demo of the WatchGuard XTM devices, I was floored. I was amazed at all the features and really impressed to see how far WatchGuard had come in the security space."

Deployment Made Easy

According to Tripp, the switch from Cisco ASAs to WatchGuard XTMs was straightforward, and with BlackPoint's help, went off without a hitch. By March 2011, THA had fully implemented the WatchGuard solution, which includes an XTM 520 for the headquarters, and seven XTM 2 series devices for each of THA's seven remote locations. THA also makes use of the XTM VPN tools and utilizes WatchGuard's security services, including Gateway AV, IPS, web URL filtering, cloud-based Reputation Enabled Defense, and Application Control.

Benefits Enjoyed Immediately

"With WatchGuard, we haven't really seen any downtime and it's been pretty easy to troubleshoot issues," stated Tripp. "The Cisco ASAs, on the other hand, would randomly drop our VPN connections, and then it would take forever to rebuild the tunnel. This was frustrating for me as well as for my co-workers, who obviously were impacted the most by these issues.

"The Cisco ASA device interfaces were terrible," continued Tripp. "Usability with the WatchGuard devices has just been a night and day improvement from Cisco. I really enjoy looking at the WatchGuard interface. The WatchGuard System Manager (WSM) is easy-to-use, it displays the information you need, and it is intuitive to work with.

"I also love WatchGuard's help features," Tripp continued. "If you're ever in an unfamiliar area, you can hit the help button and it takes you right to where you need to go in the manual. I can't remember seeing that with other devices."

WatchGuard: Best-in-Class by Design

One of the reasons THA and other organizations chose WatchGuard, is WatchGuard's best-in-class approach to security. WatchGuard partners with the industry-leaders, including AVG, Kaspersky, Commtouch, Websense, and BroadWeb, for many of its security services and seamlessly integrates all these technologies into one powerful device.

"WatchGuard security is reliable, and their partner relationships are absolutely huge," declared Tripp. "To us, it's very significant. It's like WatchGuard has brought together this coalition of security experts in one device. By using multiple security layers powered by these different partner technologies--what one misses, other layers will catch."

WatchGuard: A Security First Company – And it Shows

Nearing the year-and-a-half mark since implementing WatchGuard throughout Tacoma Housing Authority, Tripp has only had to use WatchGuard's customer service, LiveSecurity®, once. "I called LiveSecurity and got a response in half an hour that solved my problem," said Tripp. "I love the fact that someone in Seattle picks up my calls, and the personal relationships WatchGuard tries to cultivate.

"WatchGuard provides better performance with one device than Cisco does with multiple point devices" asserted Tripp. "If you're looking for an all-in-one network security solution – WatchGuard is it. It's nice to have a product that actually performs as advertised. The box [WatchGuard device] is definitely rock-solid."



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WatchGuard provides better performance with one device than Cisco does with multiple point devices. If you're looking for an all-in-one network security solution – WatchGuard is it. It's nice to have a product that actually performs as advertised.

Aaron Tripp, Help Desk Technician,
Tacoma Housing Authority (THA)



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