Connection central

Abu-Dhabi based Universal Group forms new network links to improve branch connectivity and increase operational efficiency.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  January 5, 2009

The decision and the deployment was done in the last months of 2006. The project involved installing Cisco's products and solutions, including Cisco's ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance) Firewall.

SSL encryption was used where the VPN was hosted, and Cisco 877 ADSL security routers were installed for remote sites and branches. These routers are dedicated to the DSL connection provided by Etisalat. The entire VPN went live in 2007.

"We did an initial pilot test at one of our sites to remove basic glitches and make sure that this was exactly what we needed. During this period, we ran both VPN and retained the original ISDN connection at the location, to compare pros and cons, and ensure that everything was working smoothly," says Mubarak.

The deployment took around three months time, and according to Mubarak, the group kept its ISDN connection for two months after the VPN went live, in order to have a back-up for connectivity in case anything should go wrong. By early 2007, all the sites were connected via VPN.

"We brought in a leased line from Etisalat initially at 256KB/sec, which was later increased to 1MB. This involved a cost but it was a good solution for us and has increased our connectivity. With the VPN we were able to provide 512KB/sec speeds to most of our locations and upto 2MB of connectivity speeds at some of the bigger locations that needed such speeds. We were also able to bring internet to remote locations," points out Mubarak.

Following the VPN implementation, the Universal Group added to its server capacity to handle the increasing load, ensure consistent connectivity and enable better movement of data between the centralised applications and the branches.

Team and group

The four-member IT team of the group, which was originally shared among the entire set of companies, was moved to become a part of the firm's Universal Technical company in April 2007. The move was part of a conscious measure by the management to add value to existing services.

"With the move, we began operating with the idea of becoming a profit centre. Now, we serve the companies of the group, just as if we were another IT service provider. We also offer services and our expertise to companies outside the group. In this way, we are able to bring in a steady revenue, and have been able to transform from a cost centre to a profit centre," says Mubarak.

According to him, the company calculates its services for each user of a particular application. For example, it works out the cost of an ERP user for a year, and then multiplies this with the number of employees from each company of the group that uses the ERP system. This amount is charged to the firm, and in this way, the IT team is at a ‘breakeven point' now.

Universal Group companies

Universal Electrical Equipment Est.

Universal Est. For Trading Agencies

Universal General Transport Est.

Universal Real Estate

Universal Rent A Car (EUROPCAR)

Universal Service Centre

Universal Technical L.L.C.

Universal Trading Company

Universal Voltas L.L.C.

Universal Weathermaker Factory L.L.C

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