Case study: Capital and Regional

Case study: Capital and Regional

Asset management company Capital and Regional found many advantages to wireless networking

Richard Snooks, chief information officer of investment and property asset management company Capital and Regional (C&R), says the costs of wireless are worth the flexibility it lends to the business.

C&R’s portfolio includes retail and leisure sites in the UK including The Mall shopping centres and SNO!zone indoor snow slopes, and the firm is using wireless to support a growing mobile workforce.

Home workers have WiFi access to corporate systems and voice over IP (VoIP). The London headquarters relies on WiFi and commercial spaces also have wireless technology installed to facilitate conferences and events.

“We have many mobile workers who travel between sites who would struggle to find a desk, and we also want to give tenants meeting rooms with wireless access,” says Snooks.

“Wireless does come with a management overhead, but it facilitates working any time, anywhere and our business demands that people have the flexibility to access systems from various locations so they can choose how they work. It also means the best people are not precluded by geography when it comes to recruitment.”

C&R rolls out a standard technology build across properties, so the time needed to integrate a new site is kept to a minimum.

The firm has its own MPLS (multi protocol label switching) network with Foundry Networks application switching and traffic management technology at the heart of its wide area network.

Two London-based datacentres run core business systems that are accessed by 80 sites, and keeping the network available at all times is crucial. “We are Rolls-Royce at the core and lightweight at the edge,” says Snooks.

Wireless technology fulfils the ethos of being lightweight at the edge, and access to corporate systems is controlled by Juniper Networks’ NetScreen firewall technology. However, Snooks says wireless was not always so popular.

“I was a complete enemy of wireless six years ago and pulled out Cisco Aeronet technology in 2002, because security was based on the basic encryption protocol Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) which was not strong enough for corporate use, but understanding of wireless security has improved since then,” he says.

C&R provides low-security wireless access to a virtual local area network which only permits isolated access to the internet.

“This is primarily used by visitors to our sites, such as partners, customers and auditors and is also replicated to home WiFi locations for use by the family of C&R employees, therefore preventing access to the C&R network while not restricting people in their own homes from doing what they want to do,” says Snooks.

Mobile wireless access to the corporate network from home or sites relies on multi-factor security including Novell SecureLogin and Vasco tokens which generate one-time six-digit passwords.

“A major security challenge is educating users about the need for security and why, as a company, we insist on long passwords. We use real-life examples such as internet banking scams to bring the message home,” says Snooks.

In the future, he is considering automating security upgrades to reduce management costs by deploying a wireless management platform.

“The jury is still out on that one ­ it would remove the labour-intensive side of manually upgrading firmware and making script changes for multi-sites, but the price has to be right and it would have to work efficiently,” says Snooks.