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Pacific Hydro finds UTM improves its environment

Simon Sharwood

Renewable energy company Pacific Hydro has adopted Watchguard's unified threat management appliances and says the quality of their firewall and ease of administration have improved security

Daniel Hayward has some unusual security challenges.

The Global IT Manager for Melbourne-based renewable energy company is in charge of offices around Australia, but also controls presences in the USA, Chile and Brazil.

Pacific Hydro operates in these far-flung locations thanks to its expertise in the creation and operation of hydro-electric and wind power facilities, which have seen it win business in locations including the Philippines and Fiji. The company has five new wind farms under construction around Australia and seven hydro-electric under way in Chile, in addition to many existing plant around Australia and the world.

"These sites can hold a lot of data that is very confidential," Hayward explains. "We do not want that data exposed. It could be potential ideas and proposals or information about operating assets."

"Security is a big concern and a breach would impact revenue."

IT resources are another concern that Hayward decided to do something about when the company's firewall fleet reached the end of its working life.

"One of the most important things we wanted was a better graphical user interface so we could make the immediately, without needing consultants."

"Hiring people is costly and

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slow: we want to be able to make changes on the fly and make changes for our different offices in different time zones instead of waiting for local support. We need to be able to make changes ourselves and we need office to be able to administer the system for the world."

Hayward assessed the market and felt that unified threat management (UTM) appliances from Watchguard were the best fit for the company's needs, with the devices' intrusion detection capabilities standing out.

Ease of use was another important consideration.

"We needed an interface we could all work on together without a week long course," he says. The UTM devices offered the ease of use the company needed, making it possible for all of the distributed team to work on the machines.

While the new machines did just the job Hayward hoped for on the firewall front, he soon notice other benefits even though he had not intended UTM to replace the company's other security tools.

"We decided the UTM is the point of entry and the more things you can do there, the better. With things like spam and anti-virus we have made Watchguard our first line of defence and left the other measures in place. This means we block things before they get to the network and to the servers. It has taken a huge load off the gateway servers."

The appliances' content filters have also proved useful.

"We have started to realise what sites were being blocked," Hayward says. "We like to be a relaxed organisation. Staff are allowed to use Hotmail or Facebook. But we saw some sites we needed being blocked and some others we did not want getting through."

"Bandwidth is costly and some sites could represent a risk," and the unlooked-for content filtering tools in the UTM are now helping on both fronts.

Even though the company now relies on a single appliance for so many functions, Hayward does not feel at all exposed or that the company has taken on extra risk.

"I feel confident with so much resting on one device because I have researched the product," he says. "We tested it and have not been disappointed."

"And it is ten times better than what we had."

"We now have integrity of data, ease of management and therefore reduced costs. We have cut bandwidth costs and increased available bandwidth due to the reduction in traffic going through," he says.

"The biggest factor is peace of mind," Hayward concludes. "We're very happy with our decision."