Coca-Cola in Egypt relies on Symantec, not just for its security, but also for its back-up and archiving needs, and finds the company to be the best fit for all.
Coca-Cola in Egypt is fizzing with activity, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company (TCCBCE) is doubtless the epicentre of it.
One of the major producers of Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite and Dasani (bottled water) in Egypt, the company owns and operates eight production plants and 26 distribution centres. The company produces around 110 million units every year, has 7400 employees and is one of the major employers in the country. TCCBCE also supports four geographical sales regions in Egypt, supplies to around 336,000 outlets, approximately two-thirds of which are served direct.
For the business, the priority is simple - fill bottles in the various bottling plants and ensure that consumer goods are efficiently distributed. It also has to work towards increasing market share, growing its leadership and enhancing franchise management. IT has to prove to be a truly integrated function for the firm to achieve all of its goals.
"The IT team at TCCBCE works to support the business goals by securing and protecting information assets, simplifying and consolidating the infrastructure and ensuring continuous data availability," states Mostafa Nagy, IT manager at TCCBCE.
These are the major drivers that guide the IT team and the fact that it is not about money lost, but the money that can be saved through better data availability. TCCBCE's various IT investments over time reflect this mentality.
The firm has a central datacentre in Cairo, as well as a recently established disaster recovery site which is situated around 70kms from the primary site. The main datacentre supports around 1,200 users on HP Unix, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft production servers, together with an Oracle ERP environment, spanning financials, supply chain, human resources and purchasing.
"All our centres across the country, including those connecting via WiMAX, link to the primary datacentre using dual connectivity links. We mainly use Cisco routers and we also have a backbone connected to the various applications. We even have business intelligence over web-based applications," says Nagy.
Data on top
With a reliable backbone, network and datacentres in place, TCCBCE felt the need for adequate protection of the data that flowed through its network everyday.
"There are several information risks to our business. We are looking to eliminate the unauthorised access, change, distribution or theft of classified business information while simultaneously mitigating against non-compliance with global information management regulation. We are very conscious that the mishandling of classified business information could lead to damaged consumer, customer as well as diminished investor confidence. The bottom line is that information security equals business risk management," says Nagy.
After evaluating several vendors in the market for security solutions, the company chose Symantec to provide them with antivirus. This initial relationship with the provider was extended over time to include many other solutions, including the Enterprise Vault, Veritas NetBackup and Endpoint Protection products.
"With NetBackup, we originally installed it four years back. We then later moved to version 5 and currently we are on version 6.5. Implementation of Enterprise Vault was started in late 2007, after testing the solution. We have a few users moving to the archive system and we are going to continue file sharing as well," says Nagy.
While the upgrade of NetBackup has brought along a raft of valuable new features, the Enterprise Vault software is being used to help the firm gain control over its burgeoning e-mail store, eliminate mailbox quotas and overcome message size restrictions.
With this solution, Nagy and his team have centralised management of e-mail for faster back-up and controlled recovery in the event of a disaster.
"Overall, we have increased our e-mail administration productivity by 40%, which is significant. We have also reduced storage costs dramatically," says Nagy.
The company has also has been using Endpoint Protection and moved recently to version 11 of the solution.
"As for Endpoint Protection, we started at the end of last year. We had a version before that, but moved to this version, started engineering and then moved users this year. Currently, we have more than 1000 users on the system. We are still in a mixed environment between version 10 and 11 of Endpoint Protection. By the end of this year, we will be closer to 90% and by mid way next year, we should reach around 100%, since it is a matter of rolling it across remote sites," says Nagy.
The solution provides the IT team with a unified management console to take advantage of all the antivirus technologies and scanning methods, and equips them with comprehensive network file scanning capabilities.
Nagy accepts that version 10 of Endpoint Protection did initially prove to be heavy on the client's side and required the use of additional resources.
However, "the new version has reduced memory and resource usage by almost 80%, and performance is improving with the new version, which is why we are taking the step of moving with it across the company," says Nagy.
A single vendor
Working with Symantec for over six years now, Nagy states that the company was chosen by TCCBCE based on certain important criteria.
"It is not a matter of just finding a vendor for antivirus or for the endpoint. It is a matter of having a partner who can provide you the right solutions and support. Normally, if you look across different markets, specifically searching for availability and reliability, you will find that most vendors will not be able to provide local support. They would have to find somebody in Dubai or India or Europe. For a company like us, it was important to have local support in the country and Symantec is able to do that effectively. This was the number one priority," says Nagy.
He continues: "The other thing is that Symantec has moved beyond being an antivirus company into becoming a data availability company. It is a huge company, which covers most of back-up, replication, archiving and protection. With them, we are also moving towards total data protection and availability. It is hard to find that combination in many of the other vendors."
"TCCBCE was also looking for longevity. Symantec has expertise across different offices all over the world. They collect data on new viruses and worms, and they can provide me that knowledge. This is important in not just protection against threats, but also planning for data replication and archiving. They provide me with data, and help me in handling threats - this is what is really meant by knowledge sharing," says Nagy.
TCCBCE is so confident and comfortable with Symantec solutions that the firm is already looking at implementing other solutions from the vendor, including its messaging appliance as well as its Veritas Volume Replicator.
"We are currently testing the Volume Replicator. We are looking for more information about the way it works, the bandwidth requirements, and integrity of data. It is under consideration. It has the potential to save us money. By using it, we will not need an extensive replication system and so it can save us US$70,000, which is substantial," says Nagy.
Nagy is not overly concerned about including such extensive solutions from a single vendor and brushes away any worries of security breaches.
"Symantec has multiple architectures that give you flexibility to move from one product to another without compromising security. We have the capability to move easily from one product to the other without compromising e-security or the policy in place. A single supplier for everything is a risk, I am aware of this, but we have the architecture which gives us the flexibility and control over this risk," Nagy states confidently.
Apart from all the work that the firm is doing with Symantec, it continues to invest in other aspects of IT and infrastructure in order to keep itself on top of the game constantly.
"Concerning infrastructure, we are working across different areas, and one of this includes a WAN optimisation project. We would like to put our infrastructure right and improve performance which is why we are considering WAN optimisation. We are also constantly working on expanding our facilities, and we are also involved in testing software and appliances at the very moment," says Nagy.
"We stick to the top of the range, unless we have better solutions addressing our needs. We have different management applications for different components of the infrastructure currently. We now want to move into enterprise-wide management and are testing different solutions for the same. In terms of security, we already have several components including IPS. We are currently looking to include intrusion reporting and put in place additional security measures against hacking and attacks," adds Nagy.
TCCBCE has stringent processes for its IT budgets as well, in keeping with the high levels of efficiency it wishes to achieve from each project and spending dollar.
"We usually have project plans for three to five years, but every year we have an annual business plan as well, which is done by me along with all the business managers and the CEO. We discuss projects and support that is common across departments, and then I might suggest that in order for the business to grow or for the information to remain protected, we will need a particular project and the required budget," explains Nagy.
Guided by the business and with clearly articulated goals and plans, the IT team at TCCBCE is all set to take the company onto its next stage of growth and development.
For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.