Since opening its first restaurant in Fayetteville, N.C. in 1973, Golden Corral has added more than 480 restaurants in 39 states and is growing at the rate of 30 to 35 restaurants per year.
To run its extensive operations, Golden Corral relies on servers and network devices in its headquarters data center and in a hosted data center, both located in Raleigh, N.C. The servers run applications typical of any multi-site enterprise - external and internal Web sites, e-mail systems, financial applications, and communications - as well as solutions that poll restaurant workstations distributed throughout the country.
As an added application, the servers also support Golden Corral's centralized Web-based ordering/supply chain system. The supply chain system is critical to sustaining Golden Corral's company-owned and franchised properties; the operator purchases products online from about 300 different suppliers and centrally distributes them to restaurants.
Restaurants use the system to order everything needed for operations - including tableware, food items, uniforms, menus and signs. "Everything our restaurant operators need can be found and purchased on our purchasing-replenishment Web site," informs Golden Corral CIO Don Clark. Even produce, which is typically purchased by restaurants locally, can be purchased online through the application.
"Our centralized purchasing application is critical to our operations," says Clark. "With hundreds of restaurants in different time zones, our IT infrastructure needs to be up 100 percent of the time."
More than security
To achieve this level of 100 percent availability, Golden Corral's staff needed to add a comprehensive yet cost-effective service management and intrusion detection solution to its IT infrastructure. Service management for mid-market businesses segments, however, isn't widely served by the IT management industry, and until recently most solutions were too costly, too hard to deploy, underpowered, or all three.
After a detailed evaluation of available management tools, the company selected an availability and performance management appliance dubbed CommandCenter NOC (CC-NOC) from Raritan (Raritan.com). The solution is geared for mid-sized organizations and provides intrusion detection and vulnerability scanning from a single dashboard. It also provides hardware and software asset tracking and generates various reports, and is able to monitor Golden Corral's network and servers both in the off-site data center and at headquarters.
According to Kirk Robertson, LAN/WAN supervisor at Golden Corral, "We were primarily looking for an intrusion detection solution and we ended up with many more features as an added bonus." The solution alerts Golden Corral's IS team of system outages in real time. It also helps Golden Corral keep track of workstations and servers.
Before implementing this application, Golden Corral's IT staff had to physically examine each of its hundreds of PCs and workstations to determine its hardware and software resources.
The system, says Robertson, is "always checking for vulnerabilities, as well as providing intrusion detection. It quickly lets us know where our vulnerabilities are on our network, so that we can act on them proactively, rather than having to react to breaches. If for some reason an intruder does get past security, it will alert us immediately. I will get an e-mail notification on my Blackberry." From the dashboard the IT staff can find the IP address of the intruder and the port it came in on to address the problem.
"We haven't had any issues with our service levels since we installed Raritan's CC-NOC," says Clark, who also notes that Golden Corral achieved a full return on investment for the new solution in less than 16 months, based on improved uptime.