AFI Properties Cures ERP Woes Through Network Transformation with Cato SASE Cloud


AFI Properties Cures ERP Woes Through Network Transformation with Cato SASE Cloud

Optimized Global Connectivity
Remote Access Security and Optimization
Secure Direct Internet Access

AFI Properties Needed to Speed Up ERP Access

Making smart business decisions relies on good business intelligence and that often means an up-to-date ERP system. But keep ERP or any application current is challenging when users can’t gain easy access to the system. Just ask Shira Baum, CIO of Africa Israel (AFI) Properties.

AFI Properties is a rapidly growing global real estate firm specializing in income-generating commercial and residential properties. Today, the firm has eight locations spread across in Israel, the Netherlands, and Eastern Europe.

When Baum first joined the company, AFI users ran virtual desktops over the Internet to connect with an ERP server in Israel. The VDI solution gave AFI the security it needed but proved unresponsive, frustrating users. In fact, the experience proved so bad that users ended up with two laptops, one for connecting to the ERP server and the other for business productivity needs.

“I had to work from home my first week and it took me more than 20 minutes to connect to the ERP system,” says Baum. “I went to the bathroom and came back and needed another 20 minutes to reconnect. I called the infrastructure manager and I said, ‘We can’t go on like this.’” Later Baum found out that most employees didn’t even bother connecting from home because it was too complicated and time-consuming. “They just left their laptops at the office.”

To make things worse, each of AFI’s eight locations ran most of their own IT infrastructure. “Each had different networks, security solutions, and servers,” says Baum. Some sites had firewall appliances but configuring and enforcing security polices with them was complex and inconsistent across locations. “Most of our locations had very low security, perhaps some routers with a few rules in the firewall and that’s it,” says Baum. “Some didn’t even have that.”

AFI Chooses Cato SASE to Transform the Hybrid Work Experience

Baum set about transforming and modernizing AFI Properties’ IT infrastructure with a focus on faster application access. “My goal was to have everyone on the same platform with one desktop, one network, one way to connect to applications, including ERP, and one security methodology.” While security was obviously a major concern, Baum set out to upgrade the network first so employees could at least get their work done.

Baum looked at several solutions for office connectivity but was immediately intrigued by the Cato SASE Cloud platform. Not only was Cato a quarter the cost of other solutions and cloud-based, but it would also solve all AFI Properties’ application, network, and security problems at once.

“Cato came to me with a single SASE solution for remote access, fast networking, and powerful security for all our sites,” says Baum. “Having the firewall and VPN in the cloud was a great way to give everyone the same security no matter where they were working. I could manage it all from here. All I had to do was give each site a Cato Socket.”

Cato SASE Cloud optimally connects all enterprise network resources, including branch locations, the hybrid workforce, and physical and cloud data centers, into a secure global, cloud-native service. Connecting a location to Cato is just a matter of installing a simple Cato Socket appliance that links automatically to one of Cato’s 80+ Points of Presence (PoPs) and its fast, global private backbone. The Cato Socket, Cato’s edge SD-WAN device, extends the Cato SASE Cloud to locations, providing prioritized and resilient connectivity over multiple last-mile links. At the same time, Cato Client and Clientless access enable secure and optimized application access for users everywhere, including at home and on the road.

Cato’s cloud-native security edge, Cato SSE 360, converges a Secure Web Gateway (SWG), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Firewall as a Service (FWaaS), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Data Loss Prevention (DLP), and Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) with Advanced Threat Protection. It fully enforces granular corporate access policies on all applications on-premises and in the cloud, protecting users against threats and preventing sensitive data loss.

Easy Installation, Fast ERP Access

With Cato, Baum simplified the connection and work environment for employees with proper networking. In the process, she gave them a more responsive, easier to user remote access experience.

Today, AFI users can connect to any business application, whether in the data center or the cloud, the same fast way with the same laptop. Baum loves that she can monitor the entire network and security infrastructure on a single pane of glass, and never has to update any software or appliances herself. All of that is handled in the cloud by Cato. She only had to set a few firewall rules, which were easy to deploy globally and update.

“I configure a rule, and instantly it’s effective at every site,” she says.

Deploying Cato to all AFI Properties’ sites was as easy as promised. “I carried the first Cato Socket appliance to our Krakow server room in a suitcase,” says Baum. “I called Cato, and they told me to plug this in here and plug that in there, and that was it. In just a minute it was working.”

When COVID-19 hit and working at home exploded, Baum was ready, thanks to Cato. “I called my Cato account manager and told him we needed everyone on the Cato VPN now and he said, ‘No worries,’” says Baum. “15 minutes later the VPN was on my account. I deployed the VPN and the next day everyone was working from home with their laptops.”

Other companies she spoke to didn’t believe that she could get everyone on the Cato VPN so quickly. “It’s amazing how easily remote users can connect to the network and ERP application today compared with the old way,” says Baum. “They tell me how much fun it is just to click and be at the office, no matter where they are,” says Baum.

What Baum appreciates the most is the peace of mind the Cato SASE Cloud solution gives her. “I know that my company is secure, that all my sites and users can connect quickly with the same solution, and that every time I need something from Cato, they’ll listen carefully and come through,” says Baum. “Thanks to Cato I can sleep at night.” Her advice for other companies considering Cato to connect multiple sites? “Go for it!”