Seizing the Possibilities: Boosting Our Business’ Resiliency with Cisco Security Solutions
To most, outdated IT infrastructure is a curse. It can inhibit your day-to-day operations and slow down your response to unforeseen challenges. But look on the bright side: It’s also a chance to update your systems and build your dream IT environment.
At first glance, some people might have only seen the shortcomings of the Foxtrot Group’s outdated IT infrastructure. But when I joined the group as its CIO, I focused on what it could become.
The Foxtrot Group is a leading Ukrainian retail network focusing on consumer electronics, household appliances, and retail distribution. We are the market leader of consumer electronics retailers in Ukraine. With 162 stores in all over Ukraine, we employ about 4,600 people.
As CIO, my role is global in nature, as I also take on the responsibilities of a CTO and CEO of IT company. I joined Foxtrot almost two years ago, when Foxtrot was on the cusp of digital transformation; it was the beginning of Foxtrot’s IT infrastructure modernization journey.
There were a lot of issues when I took this position. There was 15-year-old Wi-Fi, server, and network infrastructure. There were no cloud solutions (we stored everything internally), and no intentions to go to market with IT services. It was a challenging position, but that meant it had so much potential. I saw the possibilities if only Foxtrot invested in the right solutions and systems that would modernize its outdated infrastructure.
And for the past two years, everything I’ve done to our systems has been in an effort to upgrade this infrastructure with an understanding of how it will impact Foxtrot’s business KPIs. To do that, we needed to overhaul our infrastructure, move our operations to the cloud, and, in particular, strengthen our security solutions, since security was one of the weakest points within our IT systems.
The Breach: Foxtrot’s Security Reality After the Petya Cyber Attack
Before I joined Foxtrot, the organization had been a victim of the Petya/MeDoc cyber attack, where Ukrainian businesses were primarily targeted. As a result of Petya, 142 of our shops were inoperable for a week because the core system was incapacitated.
The business impact of this malware infection cost the group millions of dollars. The fallout from the cyber attack made big news across Ukraine, so many organizations began to rethink and strengthen their IT security infrastructure and solutions. Foxtrot wasn’t alone.
In 2018, I attended Cisco Live in Barcelona, where I first encountered Cisco Secure Endpoint and Cisco Firepower. The Cisco representatives explained that Petya had no impact on the largest financial institution in Ukraine, which used these security solutions. If Foxtrot had also implemented these Cisco products at the time, the impact of Petya would have been negligible.
I have piloted Cisco products and its competitors throughout my career, so I was well aware of its capabilities. It was clear there are no comparable security solutions in the market other than Cisco.
So when I became CIO of the Foxtrot Group, it was an easy decision to make. I knew I could put Cisco Secure Endpoint and Cisco Firepower to good use. We got to work right away.
Fighting Back: Strengthening Foxtrot’s Systems and Infrastructure
We worked with Maxim Tischenko, CEO of IT Specialist LLC , a Cisco Premier Partner. Maxim has a very competent team that helped us build a whole new world of Cisco infrastructure within Foxtrot, starting with a modern network in our main building. This project required implementing high-quality Wi-Fi, with multiple layers of security as well as a guest Wi-Fi network on all 10 floors of the building. We implemented a firewall solution, and added Cisco Secure Endpoint as an extra layer of defense for our data center.
Our core systems—such as infrastructure, networking, and data centers—help our businesses earn revenue, so our goal is to protect them. Thanks to Cisco security solutions—which now make up 90% of our security portfolio—we’ve significantly improved our security posture.
From here, our primary goal in 2021 is to build a data center and to continue developing the infrastructure that will help us scale. Within our data center, we’ll use Cisco AppDynamics to monitor and analyze performance, which will ultimately help impact our ecommerce conversion rates. And by implementing Cisco ISE alongside this solution, it will help us to centralize our network management. We’re looking forward to implementing these solutions next year.
With IT Specialist LLC and Cisco’s help, we built our new systems from scratch and rocketed to 100% deployment very quickly—and easily. That was quite the achievement since our infrastructure was 15 years old, and we couldn’t afford any downtime that would affect the business during implementation. Ultimately, it took about two months to implement the new Wi-Fi network, and two weeks to roll out the new firewall.
We slowed down a few times to ensure there were no business disruptions, so implementation wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but we had to be cautious about our old infrastructure and legacy systems. It’s a continuous process of adjusting small details to ensure maximum efficacy, but otherwise, everything is up and running smoothly.
Transforming Our IT Infrastructure at the Exact Right Time
This commitment to renewing and modernizing our infrastructure starting in 2019 came at what had to be the perfect time. It helped us avoid another potential crisis when the global pandemic hit in early 2020.
Prior to 2020, remote working wasn’t a standard practice at Foxtrot Group. Most of our offices are all located in one 10-floor building in the center of Kyiv, and personal contact was essential in our business. We could only support 100 people working remotely at that time, but that was all we needed.
But when the pandemic hit, our needs changed drastically. We needed to accommodate almost 2,000 people working remotely immediately and we were ready, thanks to a combination of Cisco Firepower 4100 series with AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client and Cisco Secure Endpoint. We also piloted Cisco Umbrella to provide an additional layer of protection against internet threats.
Without the push from the global pandemic, there would’ve been no need for our business to have made this transition to a full digital transformation. The pandemic was the catalyst, and Cisco was our response. Our productivity didn’t decrease at all, and we’re more resilient as a result. Waves of lockdowns are still intermittent across Ukraine, and thanks to Cisco, we will be able to continue our businesses without interruption and service our clients the same way as we’ve always done from our office.
Cisco Firepower 4100 series with AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client and Cisco Secure Endpoint are most valuable to us now that we’re working from home, especially with the increased demands of ecommerce. Cisco has allowed us to serve our clients remotely, from anywhere in the world. This is our new normal, which is a drastic change from our original business culture.
Stronger Than Before: Seizing Our Future Possibilities
No vendor other than Cisco has such a robust, interconnected ecosystem, or invests as much in research and development (R&D) to ensure its products are the best in the world. From the Petya attack to the global pandemic, it’s easy to see why certain companies have been able to weather these storms: they chose Cisco for their IT solutions.
It’s difficult to say what Foxtrot’s reality would look like if we hadn’t overhauled our infrastructure and implemented the right solutions to make it more secure. One thing is certain: without Cisco, we wouldn’t be experiencing our current reality of continuing to do business almost as usual, unlike many other companies in Ukraine, which have unfortunately gone out of business.
There is no doubt in my mind that with our Cisco systems in place, Foxtrot is moving forward as a stronger, more resilient, and better-prepared business. We can better look at a challenging situation and see the possibilities and opportunities from a stronger position than ever before.