Since the pandemic began, many stories have emerged about why some Australian organisations IT systems were so suited to adapting quickly to the disruption. Those stories include how one of Australia’s leading providers of hydraulic and electrical equipment successfully modernised its network and office systems in the lead-up to the global crisis.
Cross Hydraulics is a family-owned business employing more than 140 people across Australia and New Zealand, also manufactures a range of customised products. The company’s growth meant it needed more reliable IT solutions to support its day-to-day operations, which had grown to cover offices across six sites in Australia and New Zealand.
The advent of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, including the Microsoft Office 365 suite, had changed the way employees accessed critical applications, so it was no longer efficient to use a centralised data centre model, which forced users to access the internet through the head office and was creating workflow bottlenecks.
The addition of more offices also expanded the company’s exposure to security threats, adding to the work to protect the business.
Cross Hydraulics’ work to address those issues provides a lesson for other companies facing similar challenges. It was also well-timed, considering the importance of IT networks and security to keep businesses operating during the pandemic.
Securing the distributed network
Cross Hydraulics’ IT infrastructure was initially provided as a centralised resource with the majority of its applications residing in the company’s Victoria headquarters. That changed as more offices were added.
Changing the network configuration to a more distributed model was the obvious solution, but this required securing all company sites, not just the main data centre, while maintaining secure intra-office connectivity and backup.
Cross Hydraulics IT manager Alex Burrows said the company wanted a different approach to security for the larger network. Each office needed protection, and everything had to be managed as a cohesive whole, including a new office in New Zealand that required strengthened IT security infrastructure.
“Our general security posture had to change just as the world changes with new threats every day,” Burrows said in 2021. “Moreover, the migration to Microsoft 365 required us to deploy internet links to every site as opposed to a MPLS network back to a single firewall in the data centre. This gave us efficiency for the workforce and the direct connection to our SaaS business tools. Each office needed protection as we broke away from the traditional data centre server model and everything had to be managed by my managed service provider, GPK Group.” GPK is a Barracuda-certified partner and it raised the Barracuda solution design with Cross Hydraulics and completed the implementation on their behalf.
Flexibility and continuity across a number of sites
Cross Hydraulics had been using Barracuda’s CloudGen Firewall models since 2018, and the company turned to it to solve its security challenge. Using software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology, Barracuda’s security solution provided Cross Hydraulics with a flexible network design enabling direct internet access through Barracuda’s firewalls, while at the same time offering dynamic and secure intra-office connectivity.
The firewalls are also sufficiently flexible to scale with the company’s continued growth. “We now run a high-availability firewall configuration, as recommended by our Managed Services Provider GPK,” Burrows said. This was achieved by “placing multiple firewalls in a group and then configuring them to be synchronised, thus preventing a single point of failure in any office location. At the same time, we could see the firewalls were able to meet our new requirements and so took the decision to deploy additional appliance.”
Comprehensive security for greater peace of mind
According to Ben Holian, General Manager of GPK, “At GPK, we have a policy of evaluating security and resiliency regularly with our partners. We always make sure partners who are making the change to cloud have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Barracuda Email Protection (Premium Plus) is an excellent balance of features, protections and price. In fact, virtually all GPK partners have Barracuda Email Protection, with most of them leaning toward Premium Plus for full capabilities with Cloud-to-Cloud Backup and Cloud Archiving, not to mention Impersonation Protection.”
“With Cross Hydraulics, the cost impact of even one hour of downtime meant that Barracuda's SD-WAN capability, Email Protection and Barracuda Backup Server tied together were simply a ‘no brainer’,” Holian said.
Barracuda CloudGen Firewall and Barracuda Email Protection were implemented to provide a holistic solution across all potential threat vectors.
With Barracuda solutions live across its offices in Australia and New Zealand, all Cross Hydraulics offices are protected from attacks and can seamlessly share data.
“We’re using Barracuda Cloud-to-Cloud Backup to protect our critical Office 365 data as well as Barracuda Backup Appliance to protect our other core servers and applications,” Burrows said. “This means we are able to back up our data to a managed appliance and also send a copy of those backups to the cloud. This helps us protect our data by having it in multiple locations.”
Barracuda Email Gateway Defense has also helped the company to cope with email traffic that regularly reaches 10,000 messages a day. “Of those, around 2000 are usually found to be malicious and capable of causing harm to our systems,” he said. “Barracuda automatically stops these messages and sends us a report if any look particularly nasty.
Barracuda Message Archiver has also helped to automate the archiving of sent and received email while Barracuda Sentinel continually scans user inboxes using artificial intelligence to identify potential threats. “We now have in place a comprehensive security and archiving infrastructure across all of our office locations,” Burrows added.