For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated serious shortcomings in their business continuity plans and challenged their ability to maintain operations during a crisis. This was not the case for Master Automatic, a leader in the precision machining industry with over 75 years of experience.
Over the last twelve years, the company has experienced explosive growth resulting in the doubling of its operations. Although the company had an existing security deployment in place, it was designed for a much smaller organization. On the advice of its partner, Folco Communications Corporation, and after a highly competitive request for proposal (RFP) process, Master Automatic decided that Fortinet’s solutions best suited its security needs.
This upgrade, completed just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic, could not have come at a better time. The company was able to seamlessly transition to remote work, and as a result, has grown more competitive.
The Need for an Integrated Security Solution
With its rapid growth, Master Automatic is now a business with 250 associates and three sites. However, the company’s entire IT infrastructure is monitored, maintained, and secured by one person. Finding and deploying a solution that could both scale to meet business growth demands while keeping management overhead to an absolute minimum was a significant challenge.
Bill Wilson, IT Project Manager at Master Automatic, needed a security platform that would enable him to single-handedly manage and secure the company’s entire infrastructure. He also wanted one vendor capable of meeting all of the organization’s security needs. “When I need support, I want a single phone number to call,” said Wilson.
For Wilson, the Fortinet Security Fabric was a major factor in his decision to choose Fortinet. With single-pane-of-glass visibility, he was able to monitor and manage his entire network from a single console. Additionally, Wilson is now able to leverage Fortinet’s integrated machine learning (ML) and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) capabilities to automate processes that would require a much larger team to manage manually.
A Painless Transition to Telework
The decision to transition to Fortinet solutions could not have come at a better time for Master Automatic. “We could never imagine how well this decision would serve us during these unprecedented times,” says Wilson. Two months after the solution was fully installed and in place, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to rapidly transition to a remote workforce.
The company did not have a telework policy in place, and was concerned about their ability to support a large remote workforce. However, when management asked how they would handle the transition, Wilson was unfazed. “I was able to say, ‘All is well. We are ready for this,’” he recalls. “I was in such a strong position to say we are not going to miss a beat, and we did not.”
Wilson’s preparation for the switch to telework mainly consisted of a series of emails. In one email to his Fortinet support team, he asked how much it would cost to support 150-200 simultaneous virtual private network (VPN) connections for employees working from home. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that his existing FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) were capable of managing up to 500 simultaneous connections without any additional costs. “With Fortinet and the partner [Folco], there was a whole team available. They just made it happen.” says Wilson.
Configuring the company VPN only required a few lines of code on Master Automatic’s Enterprise Management Service (EMS). This code added a VPN button to the FortiClient, and configured it with the proper IP addresses. When this was complete, Wilson sent his second email, telling homebound employees how to install FortiClient and use the new button to connect securely to the company network.
As a result, Master Automatic was able to fully support their remote workforce. And because FortiGate and FortiClient also seamlessly integrate with the company’s local directory access protocol (LDAP) server, remote users are able to use their existing credentials to access the network. Additionally, FortiClient supports all operating systems, enabling employees to work remotely from Windows, Mac, Linux, or tablet computers.
VPN connections are computationally intensive, and the addition of full traffic decryption and inspection can slow throughput on most firewalls, significantly impacting application response times. Fortinet’s hardware-based VPN acceleration minimizes that latency, which is vital when the number of inbound VPN connections and the volume of encrypted traffic surges due to a sudden increase in remote workers. According to Wilson, though the entire front-office staff now connect to the network over VPNs, the performance impact has been negligible. He adds, “One month into the shelter-in-place order, Fortinet products have kept us working in constant communication and have proven that ‘all is well; we can do this.’ We have experienced zero downtime as a result.”
An Opportunity for Company Growth
While Master Automatic did not anticipate the need to ever move to a fully remote workforce, their existing security investment made the transition quick and painless.
In fact, the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic have also enabled Master Automatic to grow as a company. The unexpected shift to telework has enabled employees to grow more familiar and comfortable with online collaboration tools and with working securely from off-site locations. These new skills make the company more competitive and will open up new opportunities when business-as-usual resumes. “The company is talking about using the technologies that Fortinet provides for us to expand on our efficiency, and it will help us grow as a company to expand in the marketplace.”
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