Changing gears

Saudi Arabia-based vehicle leasing outfit HANCO’s business has expanded tremendously, bringing some network growing pains

Tags: FirewallHanco ( ArabiaSonicWALL Incorporated
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Changing gears Bharat Singh Senwal (l) with Shanawaz Sheikh of SonicWall.
By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 4, 2011 Network Middle East Logo

Saudi Arabia-based vehicle leasing outfit HANCO’s business has expanded tremendously in recent years, but there are times when its IT department has come to rue that growth. Faced with daily attacks on its network, the company enlisted the services of security specialist SonicWall. Andrew Seymour reports.

Network downtime is an issue for any organisation, especially one that operates a large number of branch offices and employs an increasingly mobile workforce. Without a network infrastructure that runs smoothly, the day-to-day operations of a business can soon be derailed if the IT department is not able to intervene in time.

Saudi Arabia-based Al Tala’a International Transportation Co Limited (HANCO) is one company that suffered its fair share of network pains, leading the firm’s IT staff to work around the clock in order to deal with outside attacks on its systems.

As one of the top three car rental, leasing and fleet management companies in Saudi Arabia — with more than 10,000 vehicles to its name - HANCO’s IT needs have expanded in line with the growth of the company’s sales operations throughout the country.

The Jeddah-headquartered outfit, which has branch offices in Riyadh, Khobar, Jubail and Yanbu, as well as Bahrain, also runs 12 workshops and around 50 front-of-sales operations. Its network is accessed by around 300 regular system users, although the total size of its workforce exceeds 1,400 people.

Initially, HANCO’s network followed a distributor-based architecture consisting of more than 20 databases and five e-mail domains, but it has since evolved into a more centralised arrangement. In terms of its core IT set-up, Oracle provides the ERP suite, hardware and storage comes from HP, and its network generally runs on Cisco.

While the company’s rapid growth has elevated its position within the highly competitive sector it operates, the downside for its IT department has been an unwanted increase in spam threats to the network. This led the organisation to suffer congested bandwidth and lower levels of productivity.

“We would face a network breakdown every day — either the data server or the e-mail server,” explains Bharat Singh Senwal, assistant general manager for IT at HANCO. “We would have to install the entire server, which was time consuming and raised our costs.”

Given its large vehicle fleet and the rising number of branch offices and workshops it manages, Senwal and his IT team set about the task of identifying a solution that was both comprehensive and cost-effective in nature.

It tested solutions from industry heavyweights Cisco and Symantec, but after feeling unsatisfied with the results it eventually settled on products from SonicWall. The company’s most recent SonicWall project marks the latest in a long line of solutions based on the vendor’s technology. HANCO deployed a Sonicwall Network Security Appliance (NSA) 4500 at its Jeddah headquarters, NSA 2400 appliances at its branch locations, and NSA 240 appliances at six additional workshop locations.

The NSA 4500 is a high-performance firewall that utilises a multi-core hardware design and ‘Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection’ technology for network protection.

In a bid to fight the high levels of spam it was receiving, HANCO also installed a SonicWall E-Mail Security Appliance (ESA) 500 to support 350 mailboxes across the organisation.

The solution has virtually eliminated all spam and virus attacks, which in turn has ensured network throughput and security, according to Senwal, who oversees a team of around 10 IT staff that includes system and support engineers, a network manager and a couple of in-house application development experts.

“We used to face congested networks and low performance at every branch, which was a challenging issue for us,” he says. “Post-implementation of the SonicWall firewall solutions, our bandwidth has increased by 80%, resulting in higher productivity.”

The solution has also had other benefits, including enabling HANCO’s IT team to control the usage of peer-to-peer applications and access to non-business-related websites.

With a firmer lid on security breaches, Senwal says HANCO’s next objective is to look at ways in which it can ensure the back-up and recovery of mission-critical data. It is currently evaluating the deployment of a SonicWall Continuous Data Protection (CDP) site-to-site back-up solution, which automatically transmits and stores data using secure AES 256-bit encryption to a secondary CPD appliance at a remote site.

This focus on providing a further layer of protection to its expansive network looks set to become a major project as HANCO bids to enter neighbouring Gulf markets and eventually enlarge its fleet to more than 30,000 vehicles.

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