24×7 Connection Safeguards Citizens and Keeps Government Running

BACKGROUND

Protecting 35,000 citizens on a tight budget — that’s the reality that Monroe Township, New Jersey, faces. The Gloucester County government provides the police dispatch system and wireless connections to the township’s patrol cars, but announced it was giving up responsibility for linking the township’s police headquarters with the system. Monroe needed a high-availability connection in a hurry. They solved the problem quickly and affordably while getting a major security upgrade thanks to two-time WatchGuard Partner of the Year, eMazzanti Technologies, a local consulting firm.

CHALLENGE

The county communications department had managed the point-to-point connections with its townships, but decided to shift those to VPN connections and transfer the management responsibility to the local IT departments. For Joe Varalli, IT Manager for Monroe Township, this meant he needed to supply a fully available, 24×7 Internet/VPN connection for the chief of police, his staff and rest of the local police administration. Each police desktop needed access to the VPN to connect with the portions of the police system that were still maintained by the county, specifically the dispatch system and laptops in the patrol cars.

At the same time, Varalli knew it was time for an upgrade on multiple fronts. In addition to the special security and availability needs of the police, he was also responsible for protecting the general township administration and various departments. “All I had was a Symantec server as far as antivirus, and we were getting too much spam and multiple complaints,” he says. “It was time for a new firewall, and I needed to do it within budget constraints.”

WATCHGUARD® SOLUTION

As he started to plan for the upgrade, Varalli brought in eMazzanti Technologies. The firm came up with a plan for handling the police requirement in a cost-effective manner. The plan’s centerpiece was to augment the existing T1 connection with a Comcast business network line for redundancy, routed through a WatchGuard firewall to handle security and failover.

The eMazzanti team installed a WatchGuard Firebox® X Core™ 750e device configured to handle the full set of requirements. They included the failover connections; back-office VPN for the police department connection to the county; and comprehensive border security through a WatchGuard Unified Threat Management bundle including spamBlocker, WebBlocker, Gateway AntiVirus and Intrusion Prevention Service. The WatchGuard unit protects the entire township government. “I connect to remote buildings within the township through point-to-point connections,” explains Varalli. “That includes two fire departments in three separate buildings, the public works department and the ambulance hall. Everything funnels back to the basement of the town hall, where I have about a dozen servers. It’s all protected by the WatchGuard firewall.”

BENEFITS

“The move to bring in the eMazzanti team and WatchGuard was fantastic,” declares Varalli. “It encompassed not only the security, but a lot of changes I had identified over the last three years that we needed to make. Things have improved 1000 percent. And as for meeting the budget requirements, the CFO will attest to it.”

Easier Management, Plus Fixed-Fee Support

Before implementing the WatchGuard unit all traffic had been managed by the county, including web-blocking behavior. That meant that every time anyone in the government needed to access a blocked site for legitimate purposes, it took days or weeks to process the request. With the WatchGuard unit, control is directly in Varalli’s hands, and the interface allows him to implement most of the required changes on his own. In addition, he says, “If there’s anything I have to get done that I don’t know how to do, I give the eMazzanti support people a call and it’s done. They’ve been so accommodating, and I’ve never had an issue. They’ve been great.”

Varalli accesses that support through eMazzanti’s eCare services, a fixed-fee arrangement that keeps costs predictable and within the township’s budget. The package offers support and remote management, instant escalation of configuration changes, central logging and reporting and proactive 24×7 monitoring of WatchGuard devices. The eMazzanti team credits the straightforward manageability of WatchGuard units for allowing it to provide such a broad scope of services, in a manner that’s predictable for both the firm and its customers.

Thanks to Antivirus, an End to System Rebuilds

Having the WatchGuard protection in place has made life easier. “I was having to rebuild systems on a regular basis,” explains Varalli. “As much as you warn someone, some people just love to click their e-mail, you say ‘don’t hit the red button’ and they still do it. Somebody was always blowing something up with some virus. Now, the Gateway AntiVirus strips the attachment right out. And they were complaining about the spam in the e-mail —having the WatchGuard reduced the spam load, too.

“That’s reduced the time lost for employees, and the money and time spent rebooting and rebuilding systems. The complaints have dropped way down. I don’t even have to worry about it anymore.”

Government That Works – for IT, and for Citizens

Varalli summarizes his challenge: “I want to keep the technology on the cutting edge, but within the budgetary constraints we’re facing.” More units from WatchGuard figure directly into those plans. “We just installed a WatchGuard wireless Edge device at one of the fire departments, which fulfilled a requirement they had for wireless access. It’s connecting to us over the back-office VPN. We’re planning on eliminating all the point-to-point connections entirely, and putting an Edge device in every one of our remote buildings.”

All that technology adds up to government that works. Police officers know where they need to go, payroll goes out, roads are patched, and the trash gets picked up. “There’s a lot of responsibility in making everything work. People think it’s all magic, and it’s not,” declares Varalli. “So I’m so glad I worked with the eMazzanti organization and WatchGuard Technologies. They’ve been nothing but an asset to me.”

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