First Engineering is using secure remote access technology to mobilise its project management teams more quickly for the firm's UK-wide engineering and maintenance projects.
The Glasgow-headquartered rail services firm is using the Netilla Security Platform (NSP) from AEP Networks to give its project engineers and project managers stationed around the country secure access to critical design and planning systems and site and safety documents held on First Engineerings corporate network.
“Before we installed NSP, we didn’t have a reliable system for staff to access resources when working on site from client and partner premises or while on the move, said Alan Roberton, the firm's IT manager.
"This inevitably led to lengthy delays at the start of projects, while project managers collated all the documentation and information they might need. It also meant staff lacked an effective way of collaborating and staying in touch during the course of projects.”
The NSP appliance sits on First Engineering’s LAN, which covers 40 sites. It works with Windows Terminal Server to provide thin web-based access to corporate systems, including the organisation’s Primavera P3 project management software, AutoCad design system and IFS Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
A quarter of the First Engineering’s 500-strong workforce are currently authorised to use NSP. The system was installed and rolled out with the help of leading systems integrator, Enforce Technology.
“It’s becoming increasingly important for us to work closely together in client and partner offices and the NSP allows us to access all of our core systems rapidly,” said Roberton.
“In one recent example, the system’s remote access facilities meant we were able to set up a project team in Lichfield within hours, instead of what could have been weeks, when we were engaged by Network Rail to work on the high profile project to widen the existing railway between Armitage with Handsacre and Tamworth as part of the West Coast Mainline upgrade.”
NSP integrates with First Engineering’s Windows Active Directory and uses Vasco two-factor authentication to boost security. The Vasco key fobs, which are given to all authorised remote workers, generate a security code which has to be entered to enable the workers to log on to the system.
The NSP is a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) virtual private network (VPN) technology which relies on the standard SSL web protocol designed for server authentication, data encryption and message integrity over internet links. It is specifically targeted at providing easy access to Windows Terminal Server applications via the Internet through an embedded thin client technology.
Roberton added: “The NSP was chosen due to the seamless integration with Windows Terminal Server and the ability to use two-factor authentication out of the box. Remote access is now simple for the end user, through web-based access to the NSP menu system. It means there is no messing about with dial-up settings, VPN clients or modem cables.”