Network Security Cost Cutter

By Tom Hutchens, Senior PC Network Technician, K&W Cafeterias | May 07, 2009

Good food at a reasonable price is never out of style. This core philosophy of K&W Cafeterias (www.kwcafeterias.com) is both the secret of their success and, in today's economy, something of a battle cry for the entire hospitality industry. With consumers more sensitive to price than ever before and many restaurants struggling to fill their tables, balancing quality with cost control is a central issue.  Investing in IT to undertake some of the manual or repetitive tasks that face hospitality providers can provide welcome relief in terms of increasing operational efficiency, reducing staffing costs, and optimizing organizational capabilities to expand and improve the business. For restaurants with limited IT resources, combining their equipment investment by engaging a managed services provider to look after the smooth running of the network is a cost- and time-effective option.
 
Identifying the ideal managed services supplier for your business is a combination of science and art. It's important to pick providers who balance technical expertise with great customer support and the flexibility to work with you on your own terms. Bearing in mind its data security priorities and requirement to maintain a 'hands on' approach to network monitoring and control, K&W selected managed security services specialist Secure Designs (SDI) (www.securedesigns.com) of Greensboro, N.C., to install and manage the network. Their services cover updates and new firewall installations, trouble-shooting, and delivering detailed management reports. This allows K&W to focus on other IT issues and development plans.

Network rejuvenation
The three major benefits of revitalizing a restaurant network are: securing data without overwhelming internal IT resources; unlocking valuable man-hours spent on processes such as time-keeping, inventory and order entry; and creating a flexible platform supporting business innovations.
 
A vital element of this type of solution is a multi-functional firewall/VPN router that is powerful enough to keep the network running at optimum speed but affordable enough to deploy in all locations. A firewall solution, such as SonicWALL's (www.sonicwall.com) TZ series, encrypts data traveling from remote stores back into restaurant outlets to ensure Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards compliance. It also allows suppliers to connect securely to the main site and enables security monitoring. The total solution adds up to substantial cost savings and a huge improvement in productivity.

Gateway security services
To maintain a robust defense against Internet threats, hackers and identity theft, operators can opt for firewalls enabled with comprehensive gateway security services. This provides continuous deep packet inspection of all network traffic to prevent malware from entering the network, as well as limiting outbound access to external permitted sites and content only. SDI undertakes ongoing monitoring, and delivers weekly reports on key data points for all sites, giving K&W a complete overview of network status.
 
With security as the central network posture, any number of innovations becomes possible. In K&W's case, secure VPN tunneling into a central server allows restaurant managers to enter inventory and order management directly onto the main system, while suppliers can access the system securely to retrieve orders, all without third-party intervention. The banqueting suite has been made more attractive for business meetings with the availability of secure guest wireless facilities. K&W has also begun moving from punch card timekeeping to a computer-based system. Importantly, the highly secure network allows the company to comply with PCI standards in conducting payment transactions over its network.
 

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