IT Controls Yield Greater Productivity—and Revenue

If you’ve ever wondered whether configuration and audit controls are worth it, just ask Dan Chervenka.

The director of security, business and I.T. systems at Axia NetMedia Corp., a Calgary, Alberta, firm that builds and manages open-access broadband networks, Chervenka oversaw the installation of an I.T. configuration and control system in 2004. The results have been not only quantifiable productivity gains, but also a measurable return on investment.

On the productivity side, Axia was hemorrhaging employee time due to I.T. security or other network incidents that caused systems to be down. For instance, in 2003, the year before installing an I.T. configuration and control system from Tripwire, Axia’s corporate employees experienced 60 security incidents that resulted in $163,200 worth of lost productivity. By 2005, the number of incidents had been cut to one, saving the company $162,720 per year.

“The entire organization had hours lost due to these I.T. security or network incidents,” Chervenka says. “If your productivity is degraded, all of your other processes are degraded. That is a significant impact on your business.”

Cumulatively, Axia has projected a total savings of $1,150,000 from 2004 through 2007, according to a recent Forrester Research analysis of the Tripwire Enterprise installation at Axia. For starters, the company figures it saved $590,000 by having fewer systems outages that resulted in lost employee work time. The company estimates it has achieved additional savings of $360,000 due to reduced service-level agreement costs. Finally, the company figures it has saved $100,000 on faster discovery and remediation of security and other network issues, and $100,000 in reduced training expenses. The cost of the system, including installation, a dedicated server and software license, was $560,000.

Axia works in conjunction with Bell West and the government of Alberta to provide SuperNet, a 12,000-kilometer (7,450-mile) fiber network that connects the province’s 430 far-flung communities. Axia connects community government offices, health clinics, libraries and other offices via a network of SuperNet switches.

Axia, which resells unused bandwidth to local-access service providers, does not deliver the last-mile services that these local companies typically provide. “Most of these switches are in areas we do not control,” Chervenka says. “By understanding what is normal on these devices and monitoring the configuration files, we know if anything was changed. If there was a change for any reason, we can roll it back automatically or manually.”

The Tripwire system, which runs on a server, is able to monitor the devices on the network through either its own polling of the devices or via a broadcast from the device to the server that something is out of kilter.

Once a discrepancy is reported, an I.T. staffer can examine the anomaly, figure out what went wrong, and restore the device to its last configuration in minutes. Or, if the device itself actually failed, Axia will have a service technician replace it. The company then electronically sends the correct configuration to the device over the network. “We use a bunch of different applications to monitor the network in real time, but Tripwire is the most important,” Chervenka adds.

Besides its ability to keep track of the 4,000 devices on the Alberta SuperNet, Axia also uses Tripwire controls for its corporate systems, enabling the company to fulfill its compliance requirements under Bill C-198, Canada’s legislation designed to ensure accountability for an organization’s finances.

Axia uses Tripwire’s controls to ensure the integrity of its own accounting system and all its financial information, including a complete audit trail of any changes to the system, the data itself or those who can access it. “It’s a change management tool that tracks any authorized or unauthorized changes,” Chervenka says. “We have empirical evidence that no one has changed these systems. Every device in our network is managed by Tripwire.”

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