THE WINNING HAND

The Winning Hand

The Four Most Critical Success Factors in Managing Multi-Site Networks

 

Whether your business is currently dependent upon the effective network operations and flawless payment card processing of 10 sales locations, 100, 1,000, or more, the difference between winning and losing the challenging game of managing multi-site networks ultimately boils down to four critical success factors:

  • Visibility
  • Security
  • Scalability
  • Control

Any efficient and effective commercial enterprise starts with Visibility, because you can’t manage what you can’t see.

You can’t do payment card based business at all, neither legally nor practically, if you can’t do it securely – i.e. to protect all your customers’ identities and their economic security, as well as your own company’s proprietary information.

Conversely, if these four cardinal virtues can be mastered – connecting all your points of commerce, transacting your business securely, positioning it for smooth and scalable growth, all with a steady hand on the helm – then you might genuinely learn to love your network, as opposed to seeing it as a necessary evil and constant nemesis.

The good news is that drawing all four aces from the deck isn’t as random an act of chance as it might sound. It can be done by design: if you’re working with the right partner.

Since 2002, Acumera has differentiated itself by building highly successful operational foundations for its clients’ networks in each of these four essential areas. This paper explains how that’s done, and why it’s vitally important for multi-site business leaders to know.

 

VISIBILITY

 

As noted, you can’t manage what you can’t see.

The problem with most widely distributed data networks is that they are operationally siloed, fragmented into isolated islands of discrete functionality. This common configuration creates the nightmare of not having to manage just one network, but many in parallel. Or worse, having segments of your operations not visible and/or remotely manageable at all.

For most multi-site businesses, the Point of Sale (POS) system functions apart from other onsite devices and systems. Typically, the POS has been secured with a firewall and encrypted connections, if for no other reason than because it must be to comply with the PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).  But the truth is, the POS system isn’t necessarily the only essential system to be found in a remote sales location.

What about all the other ERP functions: back office accounting, inventory management, time & attendance, etc.? What about the physical security system with alarms, cameras and recording devices? How about environmental systems like temperature sensors and door monitors? Or what about the industry-specific systems such as Automatic Tank Gauges (ATG) at fuel stations?  ATMs? Vending machines? Kiosks? In-store electronic sales displays?

Of course, it’s critical to be able to promptly process card payments to conduct business. But if there are system failures in other areas, you could also be losing money there until those problems are discovered and corrected.

So, imagine a scenario where you have a full color dashboard that displays the real-time status of not just your POS’s health and well-being, but the POS system and everything else you have at each location that is important to you.

Just such a secure network management system exists, and it is called AcuVigil™ from Acumera.

Acuvigil Screenshot

Within AcuVigil™, when an individual operating location is working as it should, its status indicator is green. When there is cause for attention, it is yellow. When there’s a problem detected it turns red, and prompt action is taken.

Therefore, when anything in your network isn’t working properly, you would know about it right away, and can respond accordingly.

Better yet, expert networking and security personnel in Acumera’s Network Operations Center (NOC) would be watching your network for you 24×7, opening trouble tickets, contacting vendors on your behalf, and effecting prompt issue resolution – often before you’re even aware there’s a problem.

When you can see your entire network in a unified manner, and not just a small subset of it, then you will be best equipped to ensure its optimal operation.

Indeed, to be clear, Acumera would always be watching and securing the POS portion of your network. But at the same time, it is also watching your Internet of Things (IoT) to support an entire location’s operational business model.

 

SECURITY

 

The heart of the Acumera secure network solution is an onsite software application platform called the Merchant Gateway™.  This small, rugged device is, in fact, also functions as a fully managed firewall and network router.

This gateway device is flexibly complemented by any size of Local Area Network (LAN) switching equipment necessary to accommodate all the devices provisioned at each operating location. In some instances, that can be quite large. For example, at some large fuel retailers it’s quite common to have hundreds of devices that require network access and managed support per location.

The Merchant Gateway™ therefore actively maintains network segmentation into multiple Virtual LANs (VLANs), policing network ports, and safely keeping your POS system electronically isolated from all other systems. That way, should some other onsite system become infected with malware (e.g. a back-office PC that employees can use to surf the Internet or check email), then the infection can’t spread to your POS environment.

On the Wide Area Network (WAN) side of the device, there is a high-speed connection to any broadband carrier service. There is also a redundant WAN connection port for Automatic Failover service should the primary carrier service be interrupted for any reason. This can be done via another dedicated circuit or on an as-needed basis through a wireless/cellular service.

The Merchant Gateway™ also serves as either the remote location initiator or the consolidated headquarters responder to an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel. This protection ensures the confidentiality and integrity of all your data transmitted and received.

The managed firewall functionality, along with VPN encryption capability, as well as other available security software applications and tools, are what helps equip your network to maintain PCI-DSS compliance.

However, Acumera’s security doesn’t stop with PCI compliance – it starts there. Acumera provides periodic vulnerability scanning, and its service also features a robust Intrusion Detection System (IDS).

In addition, you can rest assured that Acumera’s security experts are continually staying abreast of all new threats and risks, thereby continually evolving its trusted technology to meet the cyber security challenges of the day.

 

SCALABILITY

 

If you can’t easily scale your enterprise network, then you can’t effectively grow your business.

Acumera’s network architecture was built with large, multi-site networks specifically in mind. It is understood that in a typical remote sales location there aren’t going to be trained IT personnel available full-time to actively participate in network operations.

That was why the Merchant Gateway™ was designed to be easily installed by non-technical personnel in very little time, typically less than an hour. It arrives onsite fully staged and ready to go to work. Onsite staff need only hang it on a wall with a single screw or set it on a shelf, plug in a couple of Ethernet cables and a power cord, and in simple configurations, it does the rest by itself.

That’s why implementations of hundreds or thousands of remote sites are very possible to do in small windows of time.

Incidentally, some of “the rest” that the gateway gets done is the configuring of those VPN tunnels through an application called AutoVPN™. The remote gateway devices in each operating location literally “phone home” and are self-configuring.

Without this feature, in a large multi-site network, an IT technician would literally have to manually type IP addresses into a configuration table for every single location. The larger the enterprise, the more tedious the process and therefore the higher the likelihood of misconfiguration. Acumera can do in minutes or a few hours what others typically take days, weeks, or months to do, if they can at all.

Another key feature related to scalability is unit auto-configuration. That is, whether it’s on initial install, or should a gateway ever need to be swapped out for repair, the new or replacement unit receives its operating configuration automatically from the Cloud upon boot up. That means installs and full unit swaps can happen in minutes, with no technician needed on site.

This capability yields direct cost savings in terms of not having to dispatch personnel to each operating location.

That’s yet one more reason why it’s possible to scale an Acumera network both exponentially and expeditiously.

 

CONTROL

 

The ability to effectively control your multi-site network determines the difference between having happy customers and a profitable business – or not. Visibility to your entire network, securing your network, and the ability to scale your network are three key factors needed to control your network.

The fourth major ingredient is people.

Acumera’s clients enjoy the freedom to focus on serving their customers’ needs and running their own businesses – as opposed to also having to worry day and night about their data communications infrastructure.

This delegation of responsibility in a trusted partnership with Acumera allows business leaders to sleep comfortably at night, knowing that “everything in under control.”

Therefore, a partnership with Acumera means that you can:

  • See your entire network
  • Trust your network
  • Grow your network
  • Rely on your network

 

In a word, the winning hand fundamentally boils down to: Reliability.

Acumera knows that you want a network that reliably does its job. One that’s easy to deploy, and painless to maintain. In a nutshell, exactly that is the immeasurable value that Acumera has consistently delivered since 2002.

 

 

ABOUT ACUMERA

Acumera provides managed network security and automation services for the payment systems and operations of multi-site businesses. Our clients focus on growing their companies by using Acumera’s remote systems visibility, strong data security, and simplified compliance services. Since 2002, Acumera has been our clients’ trusted network partner.

To learn more, see www.acumera.net, or please email Acumera at sales@acumera.net, or call at 512.687.7400.