What is our primary use case?
Kerio Control is the primary firewall for our corporate network to the outside world. We use an IP transit that connects to an IP transit, so all the internet traffic in and out of the corporate network goes through the Kerio Control firewall. We use Kerio Control VPN Clients for our remote workers to dial into that corporate network with two-factor authentication.
We service all areas of Queensland in Australia and we've got clients from Thursday Island down to the border. We have regional sales guys, agents, and technicians throughout the state that require access to the corporate network for various reasons and that's how they get in. They require access for our call logging system and all that sort of stuff. It's the primary gateway for that. Apart from that, we also run Kerio devices in the field to do point to point VPNs.
We've had very few problems with the VPN features. Once we've set it up, it's pretty functionally user-friendly in terms of the firewall functions that we need to open and close ports on. Our users don't have a lot of problems with it. We've had to reboot it occasionally, but nothing extraordinary. Just standard maintenance rebates. Other than that, it just does the job.
We about 60 users that have access. Concurrently, there's probably only 10 concurrent users at only one time. Because of COVID, there's a lot more remote work going on. It would have been busier over that time, but I haven't actually looked at the stats since then. I know that it worked well and we didn't have any issues. Which is a nice thing not to have to worry about when there's a lot of other things on your plate.
There are only two of us that would really get in there and reconfigure the firewall. Most of the time we'll run that past TechPath anyway, just to make sure that we're not going to punch a hole. We don't intend to. In terms of checking problems, checking logs, in terms of people management as well, seeing who's been logged in, who hasn't, it's very easy to get online and get onto the device and do from anywhere. It's very easy and flexible to use.
Prior to Kerio, we couldn't uncover that data. Prior to Kerio, we were using a hardware device but it didn't have remote access or any of those features. It was something we had to do on-site and it wasn't very user-friendly. It wasn't something that management could do if they wanted to and yet this one's pretty easy if they had access.
How has it helped my organization?
The main example of how Kerio has improved my organization would be through the COVID shutdown in terms of just being able to scale. It scales very easily to users that weren't normally remote workers. The fact that it scales well at very little trouble to scale with the amount of users on there, and then to have no issues over that period with increased usage, it did the job. The less I know about it, the better it's doing.
It has saved a lot of time and it was a secure way of doing it too. We had a whole contact center that worked from home for a period of time and that's a 21 hour a day contact center that we moved, that was spread out across the greater Brisbane region and working on home internet connections. Surprisingly, we didn't have a lot of stability issues anyway on those connections, but Kerio didn't blink, so that was good.
What is most valuable?
We turned on two-factor authentication just after the shutdown when we knew we were going to get more users using it. That was the only feature that I've used recently that was different and it worked fine. You only have to authenticate once every 30 days, once you've fully authenticated. It was easy. Technically, it's not a full implementation. It's two-factor on every login, but it's certainly more secure than it was.
In terms of the comprehensiveness of the security features, I know that we haven't had any breaches before. We've had security issues before but it hasn't been with the data center implementation. We have a technology partner that we use to consult for configuration and Kerio was their number one recommendation at the time. We've never had an issue since implementing that. While it works, it's not an issue for me. Best to our knowledge, we haven't had any data breaches.
We do a lot of audits in terms of data security. I don't know if that's ever been an issue here because a lot of our production stuff is actually walled off from our corporate network so it's of lesser risk factor. We were regulatory. We're a licensed regulatory body as well. We monitor gaming machines throughout the state. A lot of our security and the production network is a lot higher than our corporate. Not that corporate's not high, but there are a lot more freedoms for the user under the corporate network umbrella anyway. But it does what it needs to do. We haven't had an issue with it. The most we've had to do when we've had an issue is upgrade the VPN Client's software.
Before using Kerio, with another software, we did experience security breaches. Not so much with a firewalling product. We've had issues with breaches of user breaches. So phishing attempts and so forth. Just the general user stuff, but not through the corporate firewall. And honestly, we didn't handle all of that previously. We only took that on board about six or seven years ago when we changed ownership. So a lot of our services are in the cloud these days as well. Office 365 and so forth.
In a roundabout way, its security features played a role in our decision to go with it. We rely on the advice of our consultant and the consultant recommended this configuration, this software, and this appliance. So, it was more about the appliance. It was more about the flexibility than what we needed to do in a data center environment as well, to be able to manage it remotely and securely. It's been very easy to manage.
The consultant was TechPath. TechPath is very good. I have full faith in TechPath. They're an MSP and we've just used them as a consultant when we initially set up our wide area networks and the security around it. They have good guys there. We don't have a lot of network engineers in what we do. That's their job. That's why we use another consultant.
Because it's all ID integrated, it's very easy for a user to get online step by step. And in terms of the actual configuration of the firewall itself, it's an intuitive interface if you know what you're doing, in terms of logging traffic, spanning, and the rest of it. The logging is fine.
Remote work has been increased by 100%. We would have had around 25 - 30 remote users. That's probably increased to 60 over the shutdown, including contact center staff. That'll scale back a little bit as people come back into the office, but overall, people don't stay connected during office hours, it's more of an as-needed basis. We still only have 10 to 15 concurrent users, but in terms of licensing, we have under five concurrent users at any one time before that. There was an increase, but it was not a resource-hungry increase. We said to make sure the licenses were sourced in advance.
What needs improvement?
If I would suggest anything, it would be to expand on its multifactor authentication to be a little bit more user-friendly. They should do multifactor authentications for the client itself perhaps, rather than served on a webpage, in a page hijack, that might be more user-friendly, but I don't have a lot of complaints about it. It's doing its job. You have to have a certain amount of skills to configure these things anyway, the ones that we use on-site doing point-to-point, and we've been tricked up a few times with their interfaces. That's been more of an experience thing as well, you have to have some networking experience to understand what you're trying to do when you set up these things, whereas it could be a little bit more user-friendly, wizard-based.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've been using Kerio Control for six years. It was introduced to us by a previous sister company. We started some of the systems that we took over that were using Kerio Clients and so forth.
We use it primarily to get into our corporate network through a data center appliance. So our off-site workers use Kerio Control VPN to get into the corporate network. We have a private data center space that we use for our production network as well. It's the primary gateway into our corporate network from remote workers. It's a private cloud. We've got our own rackspace in one of the data centers in Brisbane. And then we've got connectivity that lands in the DC to allow satellite sites.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability has been very good. I can only think of one or two occasions where we've had an issue and a restart of the firewall seems to bring it up again. I don't think I've ever had a major issue with it at all.
The high availability and failover protection haven't been that critical for us. The stability of it has been so good that we haven't needed to look at it. Because of the use case, an outage doesn't affect us as much as if it was a production network. And TechPath would be on standby with other hardware if we needed or with assistance. So we never really looked at the high availability stuff.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
In terms of scalability, we did not see any limitation for the amount of users that we increased to. We had to add some licensing once we evaluated how many end users are going to be in the end but that was very quick as well. I think that came through in a day or two. We just added in the licensing to it and there we went. It was very easy to do. If there was a huge increase in numbers, as in if the appliance itself might need to be increased, but it's actually a virtual appliance anyway so resourcing is not that big a deal. We can increase the resources pretty easily.
Whether or not we increase usage depends on users. I don't think we'll exceed what we've currently grown in the last six months, based on the fact that everyone's currently working remotely. We don't have real plans to expand at this stage but it's nice to know that we can.
I would consider my company to be an SMB. We have 110 staff. Our company is part of a larger group of companies called the Federal Group. Our business unit is 110 employees, and we're fairly self-sufficient in that respect, but the Federal Group of companies is 1,800 employees and we run a number of different businesses around the country, hospitality businesses, casinos, cape transport, trucking companies, that sort of thing. For our size, definitely, it's worked flawlessly for what we needed it to do.
A lot of the IT is within the Federal Group. We've only actually been part of them for just over a year now. They have their own technical services group and a lot of those guys are hardcore Cisco nuts. They're based in Tasmania, which is the other end of the country for us. It's hard to get anything done when we've got to chase someone on the other side of the country. They've desegregated the business unit, so we can manage our own internal business decisions on that infrastructure. But I wouldn't be surprised if they did use Kerio in some form, I know that a lot of those guys are gold plated in what they do.
How are customer service and technical support?
I haven't contacted their technical support. If there are any issues then I get a network engineer guy first and see if he can take care of it.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We have used SonicWall and I've also used Ubiquiti around the place a little bit, but nothing on a production level. We've played around with Ubiquiti internally. We used to implement SonicWall at our customers to do some deep-end firewalling on their gear but now we're mostly using Kerio devices at the moment in the field as well.
Our systems supplier became our sister company. We got bought and converged in a vertical integration, and then we got divested again. We checked the systems, and the staff from our sister company got taken away to our opposition company. SonicWall was something that we inherited and we weren't really familiar with its use. I was familiar with Kerio's configuration, so we moved to a Kerio device to do the same job.
How was the initial setup?
For our main firewall, the setup was fairly complex at the time because we had multiple internal networks to deal with. We had test environments versus operational environments. We had a lot of rules we wanted to put in place for corporate, so it was complex. It wasn't confusing in terms of how to configure it, but it was fairly complex.
We started off focusing on corporate first. This was the least risk and then we moved our production phases over to that as we were confident in that we were secure and connected up correctly, so to speak, or the data center configuration was the way we needed it to be. Then we did a little post-testing in the configuration, not just with the firewall and stuff, but overall with penetration testing.
The deployment didn't take very long. TechPath took care of most of it. In terms of the site to site stuff, we do that fairly regularly. It might take an hour to configure devices, but it's not onerous. You've just got to make sure you get the settings right. The setup required a few engineers from their end, myself, and another employee.
We do maintenance once a month and it requires one person. It doesn't quite a lot of maintenance because we just give it a courtesy reboot more than anything like we do with a lot of our gear. We just make sure that the updates are up to date, from time to time.
What was our ROI?
I have definitely seen ROI since the shutdown. Given its stability and its function, it certainly hasn't slowed down our ability to produce in a diverse environment especially with the contact center. A lot of what they do is hybrid Software as a Service, telephony, and all the rest of it, so having corporate access was key to be able to do their jobs. We went from a very secure, regulated on-prem environment to a diverse working from home environment overnight, and Kerio was key to that.
I never had to go out there and try and find an alternate solution because Kerio just did the job. I don't know how long it would've taken or how much it would've cost, but it certainly would have been at best, a minimum of setting up a much more permanent type of secure connection from each user's premises. It would have been a lot harder to do.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
I didn't even blink at the price but I can't even remember what it cost. It was pretty reasonable. The cost was very affordable. We just ended up licensing our own because we didn't know who was going to be working remotely at the end of the day. I think anyone that had a chance to work at home, they got the license. It wasn't a factor of having to do to a view and make sure that every user absolutely needed one. It is a very affordable solution.
There are no additional costs to the standard licensing that I know of. We maintain the highway that it sits on and obviously the data center space and there might be transit and costs and that sort of thing associated with it, but not with Kerio itself.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We didn't really look into other solutions. We were using MikroTik routers to do some of the work, but not really. Rather than learn SonicWall, we just switched to Kerio, because we we're familiar with the interfacing.
What other advice do I have?
The biggest lesson I've learned from using Kerio is that you can quite easily and securely diversify your network security and access without compromising on cost and central control. Since this all comes down to is that it's all centrally controlled, I have confidence that the users were accessing our systems remotely and securely.
We have used the Kerio Control appliances to do point to point VPNs at the customer sites quite a few times now, and that's the one we recommend. Customers have been using Ubiquiti and have issues so we replaced them with Kerio appliances and they seem to work great. They're moderately priced, good value, and I haven't had to reboot one of those devices in the field yet. These things run point to point VPN for some pretty business-critical functions, such as wide-area gaming systems that transfer money between venues. I haven't had any issues.
I would rate Kerio Control a nine out of ten.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?