If you needed a new part for your car, you'd buy a part that was made for your specific vehicle, right? Of course you would, because you know your car will operate at its best with parts designed to work together. This theory applies to more than just cars, and that's why CGI Group, Inc. decided to integrate the full spectrum of Bytware products for its IBM iSeries systems, including MessengerPlus and the full StandGuard Security Suite.
CGI Group, Inc. is a multi-faceted consulting company that works with clients to optimize their business performance through planning, design, implementation, and management of highly effective IT environments. CGI is among the largest independent information technology service firms in the world, providing end-to-end IT and business process services to customers worldwide.
With clients that include major organizations in the banking, credit union, insurance, securities, telecommunications, utilities, manufacturing, retail/distribution, oil/gas, government, and healthcare industries, CGI's business depends on the utmost security in order to maintain the integrity of client data. Plus, with such a large network of employees and clients all around the world, secure, reliable tools for communication are essential. This is precisely why CGI depends on Bytware.
Meeting the Needs of 'Round-the-Clock Operations
iSeries Administrator Bob Allison and his staff at the CGI Data Center in Dallas, Texas, found that when problems crept into the system, it was often in the middle of the night or when they were unable to immediately address them. So five years ago, CGI began its relationship with Bytware by adding MessengerPlus to its systems.
The product's 24-hour monitoring and notification capabilities have freed up Allison and his staff to take care of important business, resting easy in the knowledge that if something goes wrong with the iSeries, he will be alerted immediately, and one of Bytware's 24/7/365 tech staff will be on hand to ensure the system stays up and running. MessengerPlus is connected to his pager, his cell phone, and his Blackberry so that no matter where he is or what he's doing, he's never out of reach. "It's my eyes and ears, even while I sleep," Allison says.
MessengerPlus also lets him ping other servers to see if their IP addresses are up and running. It allows him to notify techs in other offices as soon as possible, and he can even monitor customers' systems for them.
The Upside of Integration
Because CGI's experience with MessengerPlus had been so positive, Allison decided to keep things simple and stick with Bytware's other products for the iSeries when turning an eye toward security.
"Once you know one product from the company, you know the basic guidelines. You don't have to overcome technology and terminology issues. The products are written to integrate smoothly. You can try forcing a square peg into a round hole, or you can just get a round peg," he says.
The addition of StandGuard was that next round peg for CGI. With the amount of data CGI handles for its customers, along with the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley instituted in late 2002, having intrusion detection on the iSeries became essential. In the past, traditional firewalls were used to prevent system invasions, but in the age of network-accessible tools like Windows FTP, Microsoft Office, Client Access, iSeries Navigator, WebSphere, and others, anyone with access to these tools may have access to valuable data. StandGuard uses rules and filters to make sure that only those who should have access to this data actually do.
Current statistics show that the greatest chance for intrusion comes from hackers not on the outside, but on the inside. Disgruntled or careless employees cause most security breaches. But with StandGuard, Allison can apply rules about who gets in and who doesn't, as well as what commands may be used by whom once allowed into the system. It also creates an audit trail, making CGI compliant with specific requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley. Allison and his staff now know exactly who entered the system, when they entered, and what they did. Best of all, he could start using StandGuard right out of the box, slowly phasing in security policies as needed while allowing operations at CGI to continue without disruption.
Addressing Today's IT Realities
Like any platform, the iSeries is susceptible to viruses. The IFS provides a perfect base from which viruses can launch repeated attacks on the network while remaining undetected. A virus entering the system could result in the loss of critical data, disruption to network operations, and even the forced powering down of the iSeries--all causing the company significant losses in time, money, and consumer confidence. So StandGuard Anti-Virus was the natural next step for CGI.
Allison viewed StandGuard Anti-Virus as crucial for eliminating potential contamination problems and enabling clients to trust their data with CGI while using their services without fear of intrusion by viruses. As a leader in IT services, such security isn't just important--it's vital to survival. StandGuard Anti-Virus lets Allison rest easy, and its easy integration with other Bytware products was an added bonus. If a virus enters the system, MessengerPlus will alert Allison immediately, so he's always connected.
However, with so many employees in so many different parts of the world, Allison knew that technical problems at CGI could result in a near-crisis situation. Several thousand employees at a time may receive error messages, but without Allison and his staff there to actually see these messages, it was extremely difficult to fix the problem from his office in Dallas. Enter Bytware's PeekPlus.
PeekPlus gave Allison the capability of not only viewing other users' screens in order to respond to the error messages appropriately, but also going along for the ride to follow the users' activities, up to their last keystrokes, to see what was causing the error messages in the first place. It even recorded screen activities to a file for auditing, which could be imported into a word processing document for later use.
Error messages aren't the only thing PeekPlus helped CGI with. It's regularly used as a training aid for how to use other software. By viewing each keystroke a user makes, in real time, Allison or any member of his staff can quickly offer support, and even send pop-up messages for quick intervention, without needing to take total control of the user's system. And exported word processing documents can even be used to easily create guides and manuals, furthering the training process.
Adding One More Safety Net
With the well-integrated combo of MessengerPlus, StandGuard, StandGuard Anti-Virus, and PeekPlus running smoothly, CGI's latest addition is StandGuard Recycle Bin. CGI programmers are always developing new customizations, and while doing so, they may occasionally delete files by accident. Before Recycle Bin, Allison was constantly restoring files from his backup. With Recycle Bin's protection against permanently and unintentionally deleted files, CGI can rest easy that clients' valuable data won't disappear, and Allison is free to spend time on other important matters, instead of restoring old files. Recycle Bin restores them instantly and in their exact original locations.
Help from a Friend
Bob Allison says he chooses to work with Bytware's entire product line because of its superior quality and the company's superior service and availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "I have never had a problem getting in touch with anyone when I needed help. One woman even returned my call from a baby shower!" he remembers. "I've been with Bytware for five years, and for reliability, support, and functionality, I love them."
Allison takes comfort in knowing that the Bytware support staff is familiar with CGI and its needs. The knowledgeable, friendly staff and the dependability and integration of these products means that CGI, like so many others, will continue to trust its business to Bytware.
Jessica Groach is a freelance writer based in Reno, Nevada. She writes on a wide range of topics, including technology and business, and is an instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno.