Disaster was not what Roundtable Corp., a Dairy Queen franchisee, was expecting when it first deployed a security software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, but that's what it got: The service kept knocking its PCs offline. So Roundtable had to nix its SaaS service less than a week after deploying it.
Roundtable had chosen the SaaS route after having trouble with employees turning off security software on the store PCs and visiting unauthorized Websites, which led to infected PCs and productivity drain. The independently owned franchisee has been growing rapidly, from 12 stores in 2003 to its current 46 stores and over 1,000 employees. As the company spread out from its Lubbock, Texas, headquarters across the state and into New Mexico and Oklahoma, seemingly minor security inconveniences turned into major productivity drains.
Antivirus software is only so effective, says Mike Stump, director of information technology at Roundtable. Employees could go to unauthorized Websites and find ways to turn off the security software, so viruses and other types of malware found their way onto our computers.
IT technicians were driving out to the stores about once a week to clean up diseased machines, and because of the distance involved, some trips required overnight stays. Employee productivity also dipped. Workers spent a lot of time (in some cases, multiple hours each day) surfing the Web and downloading MP3 files rather than focusing on their jobs. Consequently, the company needed to find a way to limit where employees could go on the Internet.
A couple of PCs are stationed at each Dairy Queen. We have a PoS system and have also written a few other applications to collect HR data, such as employees clocking in and out, he says. The applications transmit their data back to Microsoft Windows servers sitting in the companys data center in Lubbock via the Internet.
In early 2006, Roundtable began searching for a Web filtering tool. The company did not want to install the software on its PCs, and preferred a SaaS solution. We looked at a few off-the-shelf products, but they would have required too much ongoing maintenance, Stump says. And the number of inappropriate sites grows daily, so Roundtable would have had to continually update its banned sites list.
SaaS was also attractive because it typically works in tandem with local routers. Roundtable had installed various inexpensive SOHO routers at its locations and found that the hardware was not totally reliable. If problems arose, technicians would have to be dispatched to the sites to reconfigure these devices.
The SaaS software seemed to run fine in its initial testing, so the company rolled it out to its stores. But then the trouble began. In about three days, all of our PCs were dead, Stump says. Problems arose due to how the unnamed SaaS company edited Windows files. The problem started small and was cumulative, eventually crashing each PC.
The company went back to the drawing board and did a Google search to see what other SaaS offerings were available, and found ScanSafes ScanSafe Web Malware Scanning. The cost was reasonable: about $3 to $4 per month for each PC, Stump says. That was much less than we were paying to fix our PCs.
Roundtable tested the ScanSafe SaaS on a few PCs in the IT department for a few weeks first. With the service working well, the ice cream franchisee wrote a script so its computers automatically go to the ScanSafe site before accessing the Internet. Getting all of the computers onto the service took about a week. Now whenever users access the Internet, their PCs are locked down and allowed to access only the companys servers.
Consequently, Roundtable's malware and MP3 downloading problems have disappeared as well. We learned a few lessons the hard way, but going with a SaaS solution was the best option for us, Stump says.
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