AKRF, Inc. relies on Barracuda SSL VPN during Hurricane Sandy

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Overview

On November 1, 1981, a small start-up called Allee King Rosen & Fleming opened for business in a loft on West 25th Street in Manhattan. As one of a very few companies specializing in environmental impact statements, the firm (now AKRF) quickly established itself as a leader in the field. As the environmental review process expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, requiring more rigorous evaluation in a broader range of technical areas, AKRF expanded with it. AKRF’s staff increased to include specialists in all the technical areas required under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), as well as evolving new practice areas.

Profile

  • Headquarters in New York City, with five locations along the US eastern seaboard
  • 250 employees
  • Five IT department employees

Challenges

  • Hard to manage remote access
  • Large number of dedicated company laptops for remote workers
  • Use complex CAD and GIS software
  • Maintain continuity of data

Solutions

  • Barracuda SSL VPN

Results

  • Availability of company infrastructure even during severe weather conditions
  • Access to company resources from any PC or Mac
  • Less corporate after-hours support although employees are working after-hours more

The Problem

Most of the work at AKRF involves creating complex and data-intensive CAD, GIS and Office documents. So, AKRF employees were required to be in the office to use the CAD and GIS software, or to request a loaner laptop with pre-installed, tested, and licensed software. It took the support team 2 hours to setup each of these loaner laptops and licensing expensive CAD and GIS software on these laptops was complex. Limited bandwidth, when working with these laptops remotely, often created issues with data corruption or synchronization, as staff worked with CAD and GIS databases hosted at the headquarters. “As for any business, the continuity of data is crucial to us”, states Michael Tyniec, CIO at AKRF. “Staff were having to stay late in the office or work shifts to complete projects that required CAD or GIS."

The Solution

AKRF uses the Barracuda SSL VPN to provide remote desktop (RDP) access to the employee’s onpremises workstations. AKRF have named their Barracuda SSL VPN Remote Access Portal “The Matrix” to reflect its central role in their business. “The Matrix” and RDP solves several of AKRF’s major issues related to remote access.

"If someone has a personal machine at home, regardless of the operating system there, it works as a terminal to connect to “the matrix“."
- Todd Biggins, Application Manager, AKRF, Inc

The CAD, GIS, and Office productivity software now only needs to be licensed on the on-premises workstations, saving money and IT support overhead. CAD and GIS data integrity and continuity is maintained, as the software and databases are operated together on the headquarters LAN. Employees can leave the office, return home, and then pick up right where they left off on their CAD or GIS project on their HQ workstation via the Barracuda SSL VPN.

But AKRF wouldn’t be the firm they are if they did not care about their employees work-life balance. “The Barracuda SSL VPN, in conjunction with RDP access, gives us the opportunity to manage our work-life balance. Of course, deadlines for projects still apply, but we are not forced to miss out on our families, due to long office hours and shifts, as we can work from home, or while on holiday, as if we were in the office - without being restricted in what we can do”, Michael Tyniec points out.

The Case of Emergency

When Hurricane Sandy hit the US eastern seaboard in 2012 the Barracuda SSL VPN proved itself during the crisis. The headquarters in New York City was inaccessible due to local flooding, but AKRF still had power, Internet connectivity and the Barracuda SSL VPN running at their disaster recovery site. Typically a business in this situation would shut down - but not AKRF. All of their employees were able to connect to company applications and data and, therefore, keep on working. Although the HQ was unusable for almost a week, the business kept running thanks to the Barracuda SSL VPN.

The Benefits

AKRF summarizes the benefits as follows:

  • The simple pricing model for Barracuda SSL VPN - like any other Barracuda product - is a no-peruser fee one. So, adding new users does not require buying expensive user licenses - simply add them to the user database and all is set.
  • Strong relationship: “No other vendor listens so closely to customer needs like Barracuda Networks does”, says an enthusiastic Todd Biggins.
  • Backup and restore of the device is a task that is quick and highly reliable. This adds considerable comfort should any replacement or recovery be required.
  • Evolving product: The product continuously improves and new features are added. These are always available for free for Energize Updates subscribers.
  • Excellent support provided by Barracuda Networks
  • 50% less corporate laptops need to be maintained and made available, saving considerable IT support time.
  • Improved work-life balance creates happy and motivated employees.

About Barracuda

Barracuda provides cloud-connected security and storage solutions that simplify IT. These powerful, easy-to-use and affordable solutions are trusted by more than 150,000 organizations worldwide and are delivered in appliance, virtual appliance, cloud, and hybrid deployments. Barracuda’s customer-centric business model focuses on delivering high-value, subscription-based IT solutions that provide end-to-end network and data security. For additional information, please visit barracuda.com.

Barracuda Networks and the Barracuda Networks logo are registered trademarks of Barracuda Networks, Inc. in the United States. All other names are the property of their respective owners.

About Barracuda SSL VPN

The Barracuda SSL VPN makes it easy for remote users to access internal applications and files. Logging in from home or the road requires only a web browser and Internet connection.

Barracuda SSL VPN Fast Facts

  • Track file, web, and network access
  • Granular control for access and policy
  • Virus scanning
  • One-time password authentication via email or SMS
  • Supports SecurID, VASCO, Safeword, and CryptoCard authentication tokens
  • Supports Aladdin eToken, SafeNet iKey, and other PKI USB devices
  • Supports all common mobile devices (i.e., iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and Microsoft Surface)