Easy does it

Not all technology projects should strike fear into the heart of the IT team, as ACN found out when it spoke to Leo Burnett MENA about its WAN optimisation system implementation.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  March 2, 2008

Not all technology projects should strike fear into the heart of the IT team, as ACN found out when it spoke to Leo Burnett MENA about its WAN optimisation system implementation.

Most IT projects call for a lot of work. They require extensive planning and testing, followed by lengthy implementation, often accompanied by integration challenges and finally, a pressure-filled go-live date.

To get through all this, the IT team may need the assistance of a wide range of outside professionals, including business and/or IT consultants, vendors and integrators.

When I first got the appliance, I was so keen to see what it did and put it on a separate network that I tested it. I took it home and played around and it was so easy that I put it on the network the second or third day.

The infrequent IT project that doesn't necessitate all of this and manages to deliver on its objectives is a blissful experience for all involved, as Leo Burnett MENA discovered when it implemented a WAN optimisation system.

The network that IT staff at Leo Burnett MENA operate supports more than 700 employees across nine sites, located in Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Kuwait, Riyadh and Jeddah.

And as an advertising company, Leo Burnett uses the internet extensively for research and communication, including downloading music and video files.

On top of that, the network is also used by staff to access web applications which are centralised in Dubai, Paris and Chicago, and it was that aspect of the network that drove the IT team to consider how to optimise the network.

"We have a few applications that are centralised here in Dubai," explains Bassem Aboukhater, regional IT director for Leo Burnett MENA.

"The guys in the region, for example, use a timesheet application on our ERP system out of Dubai, so accessing that was a bit slow for a place like Beirut."

"We also use it internally for communication between the offices, because we do have VOIP. We're planning to have more of a centralised model out of Dubai so this is definitely a big piece of the whole equation," he adds.

The company was finding that its network operating costs were escalating as the network carried over 400Gbytes of data per month, growing at a rate of more than 20% a year.

In addition, the network's application response times were degrading because of latency and congestion, particularly for those users located in remote offices.

"The network was slow in some places, like Beirut and Saudi, and when it comes to small offices, they can't afford high-speed links," Aboukhater continues.

What the IT staff wanted was to monitor the network usage in order to understand it better and they attempted to do this through their security provider.

"We have managed firewalls and those firewalls are monitored 24/7 by an outside company and we never really had a real-time overview, put it that way, about what was going on."

"We always had alerts coming from them that something was going on but we never had traffic information that could tell us, for example, if someone was downloading a lot of stuff or people were listening to music online," says Aboukhater.

"Although we do allow these things, there are constraints because of the speed, there are people who have more privileges than others due to the nature of their work so we needed to make sure that it wasn't being abused and we needed to make sure that if there were any suspicious activities going on we could easily pinpoint them," he adds.

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