With a small IT team aviation company ARABASCO still has to deliver smooth and consistent IT services for end-users including pilots and passengers. Challenges standing in the way of this included bandwidth management and a colossal amount of spam the network was being hit with. Julian Pletts finds out from IT manager Jaweed Patel how these issues were solved
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Having amounted almost 30 years of experience in the Middle East aviation industry, Saudi Arabian-based ARABASCO is skilled in offering a range of services for private and business jet airlines. Its business includes aircraft ramp services, flight operations and load control, the providing of group support equipment and passenger and traffic services which also includes hosting VIP lounges. The latter, the lounges which offer passengers luxury and convenience including Wi-Fi internet access, in addition to the internal IT set-up of the corporate entity of ARABASCO, is a focus of this article which looks at how the company researched and deployed an end-point gateway security solution to enhance the running of the network and reduce SPAM.
The IT team at ARABASCO is relatively small. There is the IT manager Jaweed Patel who oversees the company's small IT network. Patel has got two team-members that help him maintain and run the network which serves up to 300 staff, as well as the passengers, that pass through its locations in Jeddah, Riyadh, Medina and Yanbu. One member of the IT staff takes responsibility for the working in a dedicated fashion on applications and the other tackles support.
A smooth and uninterrupted connection to the internet is entirely vital to the seamless running of ARABASCO, says Patel: "The internet is a crucial resource for office administration and pilots alike. Not only do we need it for internal communications but also our passengers and crew members need access to the internet to file their flight plans and keep abreast with the latest weather changes," explained Patel. "We have to make sure that there is no intentional or inadvertent misuse of the internet."
ARABASCO has two ISP links that ensure full internet connectivity and load-balancing and failover for both became a critical need.
"Actually back two years back we were using, Microsoft ISS server and it was just a normal thing as if it was installed on the server and it was acting as a firewall basically so it was not doing that much more specifically, so we definitely something to fill or act as a solution, we are in the airport side," said Patel.
"We didn't have a solution that can have two ISP connections and load balancing, so we got something from Cyberoam and we ran some demos and we worked on the initial stages and it works very well for us."
Closing the can
As well as on the load balancing front, one of the major issues that ARABASCO's IT men knew that they had to go about counteracting was the massive body of spam that the company network was being bogged-down with and its users were being affected by on a regular basis. According to the company a staggering 70% of the total inward mail traffic was unwanted or unsolicited mail. This was costing the organisation, both in terms of storage space, and also in terms of wasted employee man-hours.
After surveying the market Patel elected to deploy a Cyberoam CR100i in gateway mode at ARABASCO's headquarters, a UTM solution that he says has offered the company a host of security and load balancing options.
"The most important thing is that before the deployment, the reporting was not very clear at all and the most important thing for us was that in the Cyberoam solution, we have got antivirus, anti-spam and ITS modules which is most better than anything that we had before. We have to rely on the solution for all of these things and that was one of the major concerns, that it matched our needs. We also considered the cost as well as the fact that it had to be user friendly," said Patel.
As someone who keeps up with the technological developments in his field Patel felt that it was not just the Cyberoam solution that was best suited to the company's requirements, but so was the support which he says surpassed the vendor's competitors.
"The support in general, frankly speaking in the Saudi market, there is no local support in the Saudi market. It is very hard when you buy something; it is hard to get it. IT takes a lot of time and we don't have the expertise over here that can provide this instant support."
Whilst Patel suggests that it can be very difficult to find local support in Saudi for some IT products he says that the remote support that he has received and the quick responses from Cyberoam sealed the deal.