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Marina Pharmacy secures its branches with SonicWall next-gen firewalls

Marina Pharmacy secures its branches with SonicWall next-gen firewalls

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The Marina Pharmacy footprint consists of 40 retail stores across the UAE.

UAE-based retailer of pharmaceutical medicines and over the- counter products, Marina Pharmacy Group, recently deployed SonicWall Unified Threat Management (UTM) solutions. Tareq Abdulrasheed, IT Head, Marina Pharmacy Group, tells Intelligent CIO Middle East how the implementation of next-gen firewall solutions has improved the group’s security posture and secured network connectivity of its 40 retail stores across the UAE.

Marina Pharmacy Group LLC is a UAE-based retailer of pharmaceutical medicines and over the-counter products. Established in 2001, the pharmacy group has quickly emerged as one of the leading pharmaceutical retailers in the country with stores across Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Marina Pharmacy footprint consists of 40 retail stores, 500 employees and a head office. Initially, the company had a high-end router that it was using at all locations along with a site-to-site VPN for retail sales transactions.

The company said being in a sector that is most vulnerable to IT security breaches, it needed to protect each outlet’s point-of-sale (PoS) systems from advanced and zero-day malware attacks.

Having looked around for suitable firewall technology and solutions currently in the market, the search was on for Marina Pharmacy Group to find a UTM firewall that offered a robust perimeter and comprehensive remote office security over a single platform.

Tareq Abdulrasheed, IT Head, Marina Pharmacy Group, said the company was expanding both organically and strategically to become a leading pharmaceutical retailer in the UAE, while maintaining a singular customer experience for all its outlets in various locations across the country.

Abdulrasheed said it was equally important during this period of growth to provide consistent security, such as a strong firewall defence, reliable security, monitoring and compliance services to all the branches.

“In an ever-changing threat landscape, especially in the retail industry, where uptime of systems is critical, it’s important that Marina Pharmacy Group is at the forefront of securing its environment. We are not a technology company, but, similar to most other organisations in this sector, we rely heavily on technology to run our core business. Any disruptions that prevent someone from doing their job efficiently is an immense problem,” he said.

He explained that prior to the SonicWall next-generation firewall implementation, the company narrowly avoided an attack at the head office and thankfully the IT team was working late that day and noticed something was odd and managed to disconnect the networks before any real damage was done.

Abdulrasheed explained that: “We relied on our local partner for advice and expertise on the available security products and options. Upon their recommendation, we decided to proceed with SonicWall offerings. Initially, a high-end router flinger was used at all the locations along with a site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) for retail sales transactions.”

He added that being in a sector that is most vulnerable to IT security breaches, there was need to deploy solutions that protected each retail outlet’s PoS systems from advanced and zero day malware threats.

“What amazed us was how robust and feature-rich the SonicWall suite of solutions are and how it provided a robust perimeter and comprehensive remote office security over a single platform,” he said.

UTM solution deployment

Having assessed the available solutions that fitted with the company’s business goals, Marina Pharmacy approached Think Software Services, a SonicWall SecureFirst Gold partner, to implement a UTM solution that gave better insight and control over the security features of their stores and head office.

A SonicWall network security appliance (NSA) 3600, next-generation firewall (NGFW) was deployed at the head office. In addition, SonicWall SOHO firewalls were installed at each branch outlet. Combined with the powerful capture advanced threat protection (ATP) sandbox service, the solution provided multiple security features, including gateway anti-virus, anti-spyware and intrusion prevention, application intelligence and control service.

Abdulrasheed explained that it was important that Marina Pharmacy evaluated solutions incredibly carefully before selecting the right fit for deployment.

“I continually ask whether the solutions are truly beneficial to the company or they will create problems that interfere with productivity. I definitely knew then and now that we wanted to work with a vendor who could seamlessly provide transparent protection for our diverse user base across multiple locations and enable the IT team to fulfil its rigourous security requirements. SonicWall definitely covers all the bases-better than any vendor in the industry. I can’t think of a single vendor that has such a full spectrum of security solutions that can answer the needs of any size business at an attractive price point,” he said.

He added that the migration took place in a matter of weeks and SonicWall 3600 firewall was deployed at the head office, while SonicWall SOHO devices were installed at each branch outlet.

“Combined with the powerful ATP, the solution provided multiple sandbox features such as gateway anti-virus, anti-spyware and intrusion prevention, application intelligence and control service,” he said.

C-level buy-in

Given the size of Marina Pharmacy’s operations, it was critical that Abdulrasheed and his IT team involve the business line leaders at C-level to ensure buy-in and success of the project.

He pointed out that: “Through this project we realised that we could achieve centralised, efficient and next generation protection along with 24×7 support thereby meeting all of the company’s needs. The following was crucial to help us get the buy-in we needed from our senior management team and this includes: no attacks on our networks, complete network control including individual computers, complete email control and junk mail filters, comprehensive Wi-Fi security and control, daily reports showing all data transfers and flow of data, VPN network for the complete organisation for ease of data transfer and security, and 24×7 technical assistance on stand-by.

Armed with the support and approval from the company’s senior management, Abdulrasheed and his team approached WannaGo Cloud, a SonicWall SecureFirst Partner, to implement a UTM solution that gave better insight and control over the security features of all its stores and head office across the UAE.

“They had already deployed SonicWall solutions at some of the biggest enterprises in the country. The quality of SonicWall after-sales support and the fact that its portfolio answers the specific requirements of businesses of all sizes, the completeness of the SonicWall offering helped too,” he said. “The installation and deployment of SonicWall solutions went smoothly. Everything was deployed centrally which saved us time. In addition, all SonicWall products are so easy to manage as we can watch over our entire security ecosystem with a scalable and synchronised single-pane-of-glass management solution. It gives us complete visibility over the entire organisation which is especially advantageous as the IT team can easily monitor all the alerts and resolve them efficiently, regardless of where users work.”

Enterprise-grade security

Mohamed Abdallah, Regional Director – META at SonicWall, said Marina Pharmacy Group wanted to deploy the same technology across the board, so that it was consistent, flexible and scalable across all their locations, large and small.

Abdallah said SonicWall has so many success stories in large, distributed-deployment that its been able to offer use cases and network architecture that gave Marina Pharmacy enterprise-grade security along with the flexibility the retailer needed for high-performance branch office connectivity.

“Our first step was to map the business and technology landscape from an IT and security standpoint. This involved looking at the business capabilities enabled by technology, cost-saving and automation opportunities which helped provide the initial bill of quantities (BoQ). Once we mapped out the granular details, we ran a successful proof of concept (POC) to a limited number of test clients. This ensured that the SonicWall solution will be installed and configured following best practices and according to the customer’s business requirements,” he said.

Abdallah added that staying ahead of today’s cyberthreats is paramount and with SonicWall’s end-to-end cybersecurity solutions, the company has been able to help Marina Pharmacy Group co-ordinate its defences regardless of the attack complexity or surface. “They are now more prepared than ever before and we are here to help and that means we’re here to help our end-customers, our channel partners in our ecosystem and the community in every way, shape or form,” he said.

Looking ahead, Abdulrasheed believes SonicWall solutions go hand in hand with what Marina Pharmacy Group is trying to achieve as a company.

“We are at the cutting edge of our industry, with a security solution that won’t hold us back, but will allow us to scale our security as we look at growth and expansion in the region.”

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