Ideal Shopping Direct Plc Peterborough, United Kingdom, Europe
Cyberoam Secures Britain‘s Largest Tele-shopping Network
About Ideal Shopping Direct Plc Peterborough , Tele-Shopping Network

Ideal Shopping Direct Plc (Ideal) is a leading digital retailer, selling products to consumers via its television shopping channels and the internet. Ideal Shopping Direct Plc (Ideal) has been listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London since 2000, and in 2005 was AIM Company of the Year. It is the UK's only quoted TV shopping company.

Ideal is one of UK's leading TV home shopping retailers. It operates four TV channels ('Ideal World', 'Ideal World 2', ‘Ideal World 3‘ and 'Create and Craft') which are broadcast on Sky, with Ideal World also broadcast on the rapidly expanding Freeview platform and on Virgin. It is broadcast to over 21 million households, 86% of all UK homes. Each channel is supported by a transactional website which also streams the TV broadcast. The television shopping market in the UK has grown dramatically in recent years as digital TV has spread. By 2012 all UK households will have access to digital TV, and hence to television shopping. Ideal's subsidiary company, Ideal Sourcing Limited, supplies major UK retailers and wholesalers with craft and related products. Ideal Shopping Direct Plc employs over 500 people, mainly at its broadcasting and distribution site in Peterborough, UK.

Ideal had deployed two (2) Industry leading UTM Appliances in Active-Active High Availability mode. They were not happy with it on a number of counts.

As a company policy, we are to track each and every user‘s online activity. Tracking which user accessed what web sites and for how long is a corner stone of our corporate IT policy.

Mr. Ben Hayes
Network Administrator
Ideal Shopping Direct Plc

The problems that they faced with their erstwhile UTM solution were:

  • 100% consistent CPU utilization made the GUI of both the appliances, which were deployed in Active-Active HA, very slow. The administrator - Mr. Ben Hayes went to the extent of saying that the GUI was not practically accessible.

  • In a bid to allay the high CPU utilization problem, the administrator turned off as many services as possible.

  • Content filtering was less than optimal. So the organisation was forced to create nothing less then thirty five (35) exceptions to allow the site access over Web.

  • The erstwhile UTM solution‘s reporting had several drawbacks, which included:
    - Most of the time the reporting feature was inaccessible due to high CPU utilization.
    - When information was reported it was perceived to be inaccurate or incomplete.
    - All these problems resulted in heavy dependency on the solution‘s post sales support. However there too, Mr. Hayes was left feeling disappointed as each time when support was requested, it appeared to come from a different country / operational unit, which often resulted in inconsistent solutions being provided for the same problem.

“As a company policy, we are to track each and every user‘s online activity. Tracking which user accessed what web sites and for how long is a corner stone of our corporate IT policy. Despite claims being made that this information could be provided, the solution failed to deliver acceptably in this area.” Mr Hayes said.

The Cyberoam Solution

A careful study of the existing solutions led Ideal to invest in two fully bundled Cyberoam CR1500i appliances. Their previous experience had served as a benchmark for their conscious switch. They deployed two CR1500i appliances in Active-Passive HA mode. The organisation also deployed the External Reporting module apart from the OnAppliance reporting and enabled them both.

Unlike the previous solution, where most of the services were turned off to decrease CPU utilization, the full security, connectivity and productivity services of Cyberoam were turned on. The first point that they noted was that despite being in Active-Passive mode, where only one CR1500i appliance shouldered the entire network, the CPU utilization remained below 10%.

It was soon evident that Cyberoam supported more concurrent users, than the previous solution.

Ideal Shopping Direct uses Active Directory to authenticate users. They also implemented Cyberoam‘s Automated Single Sign-On feature over the wired network. Hence all the users whenever they boot-up their workstations are seamlessly logged into Cyberoam. HTTP client is used to authenticate the wireless users.

ICSA and CheckMark-certified Cyberoam identity-based firewall is governed by clear rule definitions. This clarity led Mr. Hayes to exploit the flexibility of Cyberoam to match the organisation‘s needs. Fusion technology driven firewall solution, enabled unified control over all the UTM services. Coupled with the Identity-aware firewall, this feature helped the administrator to create a virtual microcosm, which securely ensconced the user in the network. Every user activity left an audit trail which is traceable through OnAppliance and External Reporting Module.

Cyberoam‘s web content filtering feature is driven 82+ categories which contains in excess of 40 million websites and performs faultlessly. The administrator is not forced to create or bypass any website, like the previous solution. Conforming to the organisation‘s policy, Mr. Hayes is now able see which user based web activity and associated bandwidth utilizations. So he‘s been able to fine tune the policies to limit unproductive surfing. All the Instant Messenger applications including Skype are now controlled.

Commenting on the gateway anti-virus and anti-spam solutions, Mr. Hayes said,” Cyberoam‘s anti-virus solution is quite efficient, but I would like to make special mention of the anti-spam solution. We came to know that approximately 60 percent of our mail traffic is spam, which Cyberoam mitigates effectively.” While all the pharming and malicious sites were blocked by the content filtering solution, the anti-virus and antispam solutions blocked any malware or phishing mails from sneaking through the Web and Mail traffic. The anti-spam solution is laced by an additional security layer called Virus Outbreak Detection. This unique feature helps to protect the organisation against any mail-based Zero Day Attacks.

Ideal has a number of virtual and physical servers deployed in a High Availability cluster in the server farm which is located in Cyberoam‘s DMZ. Using a combination of Firewall and Intrusion Prevention features, all the servers are secured against any intentional or unintentional intrusion attempt or Denial of Service attacks. Tunable IPS policies enable Ideal Shopping Direct to configure IPS policies as per the business requirements of the organisation.

Cyberoam‘s on-board and external reporting modules provide the administrator with clear visibility of user‘s online behaviour. Apart from a vast array of configurable report templates, one particular report interested Mr. Hayes a lot. The Keywords Search report gives him the exact details of the searches performed on the Web. This report gives him a clear idea of what the users are searching and their probable intentions.

Cyberoam‘s Technical Assistance had proved thus far to be a vast improvement over the previous experience. Proactive help provided by the Cyberoam‘s Global Support Team, is specifically oriented to enable the customer to troubleshoot the issues on their own.

Using Threat Free Tunneling (TFT) VPN of Cyberoam, Ideal is connected to its China and India based offices. The satisfaction level out of the Cyberoam experience can be gauged by Mr. Hayes closing comments, “We soon wish to deploy two more Cyberoam UTM appliances in our China offices to create dedicated and secure VPN links. This is testimony enough.