Email filtering supplied by New Zealand owned and operated email security specialist, SMX, is playing an important part in Waimakariri District Council’s efforts to halve its IT hardware expenditure and eliminate associated appliance maintenance and management headaches.
Waimakariri District Council uses inbound and outbound email filtering, and SMX SmartRules® for an extra layer of email security. The Council took advantage of Telecommunications-as-a-Service (TaaS) pricing for both services at the beginning of 2018 and will look to change its archiving to TaaS as well. Both SMX and TaaS fit neatly with the Council’s long-term Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) strategy, which has already freed up resources to focus on adding value to other areas of the business.
David Sewell, Waimakariri District Council’s ICT Team Leader, Information & Technology Services, joined the organisation in 2013 and he says with All of Government (TaaS) pricing there has been no reason to look for an alternative to the SMX service.
“In my previous job, we used an email filtering service that required constant management. When I arrived at WDC, SMX filtering was already in place and it is one of the few services we consume that simply ticks along in the background. It requires minimal management from me – it just works. It’s awesome!”
99.999% clean email
The Council has 280 FTEs, plus temporary and part-time staff, using laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile phones to access email both onsite and remotely. The Council currently uses an on-premise Exchange 2016 server for its email and all email coming into or leaving the Council is filtered by SMX to ensure it is free of spam, viruses and malware.
Enhanced email security
The Council added custom rules engine to its filtering for an extra layer of email security. SmartRules is a flexible, enhanced email security system that is constantly updated in response to customer feedback, current trends and email security threats. A simple drag-and-drop interface on the SMX management dashboard allows customers to implement preset rules, or work with SMX to customise rules to fit specific needs.
At the Council, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is enabled to protect sensitive data (e.g. credit card numbers) from leakage, insider theft and accidental distribution via email. The Council also has rules enabled to block inbound/outbound adult content and inbound large emails. In addition, the custom Whaling rule provides protection for the Council’s senior management team against a range of increasingly sophisticated malicious phishing and whaling attacks.
Management and reporting
The SMX cloud email security service is managed from a single central dashboard, which enables users to take control of their whole environment, monitor trends and threats, and compile reports to help inform their email security strategy. Enhancements, made in response to user feedback, will soon give Waimakariri District Council even more reporting and management functionality, including greater visibility of email traffic for users.
Pre-approved email security package ideal for local councils
The New Zealand Government’s TaaS programme was established to provide a broad range of well-priced, best-of-breed telecommunications and managed security services that all government organisations can use. These TaaS services, delivered by approved providers, support the Government’s cyber security strategy.
SMX is the only New Zealand-owned and operated email security solution provider accredited under the TaaS scheme.
In mid-2018 SMX launched SMX Accelerate, a Department of Internal Affairs-approved, all-inclusive package of email security and compliance services for the TaaS programme.
SMX Key Accounts and Channel Manager John Hill, who is SMX’s TaaS coordinator for government organisations looking to move to TaaS, says SMX Accelerate (which includes inbound/outbound email filtering, DLP, anti-phishing and whaling, quarantine, URL analysis, Office 365 integration and archiving) was developed specifically with smaller and mid-sized government organisations in mind.
“TaaS uses volume pricing, so the overall cost of providing the services will reduce incrementally as more organisations take advantage of it. The SMX Accelerate package makes a comprehensive range of enterprise-grade email security services accessible and is priced very competitively, which evens out the playing field for the smaller organisations,” Hill says.
SMX transitioned Waimakariri District Council to TaaS pricing for filtering and SmartRules at the beginning of 2018. Sewell says the Council will also look to move its archiving to TaaS later in 2018 and will consider taking advantage of the SMX Accelerate package.
“We’re currently using an appliance-based archiving solution that is costing us big money. Moving to TaaS will remove the onerous appliance management we have to do currently – and it will save us money, too,” Sewell explains.
“The upfront benefit of TaaS is that it’s been sanity checked and approved by the DIA. All the hard work’s been done for us. Other key benefits include anticipated cost savings, which will offset costs in other areas of the business. Also, the TaaS offerings are always going to be greenfield – the latest, most up-to-date versions at any point in time.”
The ‘as-a-service’ advantage
Since 2015, the Council has been steadily moving to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model. Both the cloud-based SMX service and the services available under the TaaS programme slot neatly into this model, for which cost savings over time; simplified, easier management; and better ROI have been key drivers Sewell says.
“We worked out that over a five-year period we could halve our IT hardware expenditure, but still remain current. From a management point of view, we no longer had to worry about failures and upgrades, as this is all built into the IaaS model. This allowed two of my staff to focus on areas to add benefit, rather than keeping the lights on.”
Local service and support
The SMX support team is just an email or a call away and Sewell is happy with the support the Council receives, although he hasn’t seen much need for it: “When we’ve had to log tickets around things like spam, the support we’ve received has been good. I can count the number of times we’ve needed to log a ticket on one hand,” he says.
Sewell also says that as a government organisation, working with a New Zealand based company for its email security is ‘quite important’ in terms of data sovereignty and local knowledge. “Having our email managed by a New Zealand company means we have confidence that they have a better understanding of New Zealand requirements and issues which are unique to New Zealand. We also know our data remains within our borders,” he says.
Peace of mind
“The key value of SMX is the peace of mind it gives the Council around email security,” Sewell says.
“At the end of the day, the biggest threat to an organisation is its people. Security is only as good as the end user. SMX helps protect us from the email-borne threats that could compromise our end users and affect our organisation by stopping the ‘nasties’ before they reach the staff. This reduces our security risk and increases our protection,” he says.
“Prior to using SMX, I’d heard of it but didn’t know much about it. Having used SMX now for several years, I’d have no hesitation recommending it to others as a service of choice.”
About Waimakariri District Council
Waimakariri District Council is one of the largest employers in the Waimakariri District, which covers an area of 2,219sqm in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island and is home to home to 59,200 people. It lies to the north of the Waimakariri River, and stretches from Pegasus Bay in the east to the Puketeraki Range in the west. It is bounded to the north by the Hurunui District.
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