Troon Golf, with 190 courses in 32 states, found a more efficient and cost-effective way to link its links, reports Greg Masters.

While golfers enjoy their rounds in pristine settings, hidden away far from the lush fairways, a small team is hard at work making sure the resorts’ operation runs smoothly.

Founded in 1990, Troon Golf is one of the world’s leading luxury-brand golf management, development and marketing companies. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., the company’s portfolio includes golf courses, resorts and private club developments stretching from the Caribbean to Dubai, as well as Mexico, Hong Kong, Australia, Great Britain and continental Europe.

When the company set out to establish a connected environment in 1999, there was no broadband at any of its facilities, says Cary Westmark, the company’s VP of information technology. Westmark and his IT team manage a network that connects 70 of the 85 facilities for Troon Golf’s operations within the United States.

At that time, the company had to select a frame relay network (T1 lines) for its private wide area network connectivity and then install multiple Cisco relays (at a cost of $3,000 each) and a GNAT box appliance for use as a firewall. Anti-virus was managed at the desktop level. It was costing between $400 to $1,200 a month for each line.

After a few years, however, as broadband became more available, the company was able to take another look at its options. The goal was to reduce costs in its communications system.

“We were looking for a broadband solution on which we could run a VPN,” says Westmark.

After examining a number of possibilities, the company found its answer.

“Fortinet offered the right fit for features and cost,” says Westmark. “We could have done a similar thing with a competitor’s product, but it would have been double the cost.”

Choosing an all-in-one solution from Fortinet allowed the company to replace multiple vendor appliances at each of its properties throughout the U.S. and to implement a VPN solution within one
unified threat management system.

Troon moved off the frame relay product, which was costing the company $500-$600 for each frame relay circuit, to Fortinet’s broadband VPN product, which cost $150 for DSL and cable.

“The real savings we received was moving off the frame relay network to broadband,” says Westmark.
In fact, the company was able to realize a savings of $350 per month per site, a figure that adds up to a yearly savings of $250,000, says Chris Simmons, senior manager of product strategy at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Fortinet.

But Troon was looking for more than just cost savings. “We also needed a good firewall/VPN,” says Westmark. “We needed to provide the necessary protection from the internet, but also protection for our private email and data.”

Troon Golf deployed Fortinet’s Forti­Gate 60 and 100 appliances at the 70 sites under Westmark’s auspices, with a Forti­Gate 500A at the corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. A FortiManager centralized management system oversees operations of all the resort company’s remote devices.

The FortiGate series of appliances block viruses at the gateway to the corporate network by scanning inbound and outbound traffic from the web (HTTP) or email (SMTP, POP3 and IMAP). Now the company’s email, human resources, payroll and proprietary intranet are protected, says Westmark.

“Out of all the products I’ve bought, the Fortinet FortiGate 100 has proved to be the biggest win for us. We really didn’t have high expectations five years ago when we installed Fortinet. But they’ve far outdone themselves from our perspective, at a price that’s affordable and with very good customer support,” he says.

And there’s more
As far as anti-virus and spam protection at the client level over Troon Golf’s corporate network, Fortinet was able to help there too.

Troon was dissatisfied with another vendor’s desktop software solution. With no spam protection at the network border, the company was finding its corporate network choked with spam. Having already experienced success with Fortinet appliances, Troon installed Fortinet’s FortiMail-400 at the company headquarters to detect, tag and help block spam and other malicious email for the 1,500-plus computer users throughout the company’s various locations. Westmark credits the implementation with blocking 30,000 spam emails a day.

Fortinet’s Simmons says there’s an added benefit: with the appliances up and running, someone is always working to keep the network protected. He says Fortinet issues updates automatically – an average of four anti-virus updates per day.

And, says Simmons, while keeping internal data safe is vital, for companies like Troon Golf, information security is not really their main concern.

“They want to be secure and the Fortinet FortiGate allows them to have a level of confidence that they’re secure.”

Next on the agenda
The next step, says Westmark, is to get the company’s foreign locales connected to the network. He concedes that with the company’s rapid expansion, one challenge has been managing the satellite offices. Some of these offices have different operating hours and Westmark’s team could not provide 24/7 support for them. So, along with more staff needing connections to the corporate home base, Westmark says he needs to increase staffing of his IT group.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve worked to get all the North American offices connected,” he says. “Over the next 10 years, we will work to get all the foreign properties connected as well.”

When that happens, he says the company will see additional benefits from the installation of the Fortinet tools.

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Protection: More than filters

As SC Magazine‘s Technology Editor Peter Stephenson pointed out in a review last year, the FortiGate appliance, such as the one installed at Troon Golf,  contains many other features besides web filters.

“It allows the user to set up VPNs, control access to areas of the network though firewalls, and configure many different types of filters.”

The appliance, he concludes, is “a good buy for medium to larger organizations looking for an all-around gateway and filtering tool…it performs many tasks in a single box and is able to keep logs organized and easily accessible in one place.”