George O'Dowd outlines how Novi designed a complete new IT infrastructure for O’Brien Fine Foods, tackling potential security threats posed by Internet of Things devices by implementing network segmentation

O’Brien Fine Foods is a family-run food company that specialises in supplying meat and breakfast products to the Irish and UK markets. A primary supplier of high quality meat products, the company is best known for its Brady Family and Homebird brands.

Founded in Timahoe in Co Kildare in 2000, following the purchase of the Brady Family brand from founders Ossie and Mary Brady, O’Brien Fine Foods now employs over 400 people across its three sites in Kildare, Offaly and Meath.

Having undergone steady growth in the past number of years, the company carried out a €14 million, 8,000sqm expansion at its Timahoe headquarters in 2016. It maintains close ties to local communities at all of its facilities, and is a major local employer across three counties.

To meet customer demand, O’Brien Fine Foods operates a 24-hour production environment, which requires ‘always-on’ IT systems capable of providing constant access to critical business applications and data. Following the company’s expansion, the IT infrastructure came under increased strain, due in part to the introduction of increased numbers of Internet of Things (IOT) devices such as electronic scales, ovens, and temperature gauges.

To meet production quotas, O’Brien Fine Foods needs to maintain a high-performance and reliable infrastructure, with automatic failover built into all aspects of the design, should something go wrong.

As well as this, the food business is an industry of rapid development, with new machinery and production methods constantly being introduced. For this reason, O’Brien Fine Foods needed an infrastructure with the bandwidth to accommodate sudden developments and changes. The company also wanted to provide employees with the ability to work effectively from anywhere in the facility, while prioritising network security, and it was with these requirements in mind that it approached Novi.

The solution

Having assessed O’Brien Fine Foods’ specific needs, Novi devised and implemented an all-new infrastructure with performance, security and high availability in mind across the design.

With more and more connected devices in circulation in the production environment, security was a main concern for O’Brien Fine Foods during the course of this project. The spread of cybercrime coupled with the proliferation of mobile devices means that it’s no longer the case that everything inside the perimeter firewall is safe. Now, internal systems need to be protected from one another.

As well as this, the majority of IOT devices are not designed with security front of mind. This allows hackers to deploy exploits to take advantage devices that are poorly maintained or patched and infiltrate the network. Modern network design is about starting from the mindset that every device is an untrusted device, and then implementing the necessary measures to protect the company’s interests.

For this purpose, Novi deployed a high-performance Fortinet Firewall cluster that enables segmentation of the internal network into secure virtual LANs (VLANs) to ensure that core production systems remain securely isolated from wireless devices and office equipment. Novi also deployed perimeter firewalls that incorporate two-factor authentication to maximise security.

Along with the firewalls at the core, this setup provides O’Brien Fine Foods with complete control over its wireless infrastructure, allowing the company to monitor access at a granular level, by user or device type. This also allows the company to easily restrict access in the event that suspicious activity is noticed on the network.

O’Brien Fine Foods also required access to reliable and secure wireless infrastructure in both office and production locations. This needed to be capable of dealing with controllable guest access and resource-intensive office and production applications, while also providing the requisite restrictions and controls, and all without impacting productivity or network performance.

To address these requirements and deliver increased performance and reliability, Novi updated the company’s network, deploying a new HPE 10G backbone that provides 1GB Wi-Fi across O’Brien Fine Foods’ entire facility. Finally, Novi employed HPE and Microsoft technologies to virtualise servers and storage clusters of both office and production systems. This distributed design provides O’Brien Fine Foods with systems that are highly-available right across the business campus.

The benefits

When undertaking this project, Novi focused on implementing IT solutions that are integral to creating a high-performance business.

The new wireless infrastructure implemented by Novi is a prime example of this, as it has enabled employees of O’Brien Fine Foods to truly embrace mobile working for the first time. Since the company only maintains PCs in key areas, this has proven to be a significant benefit to employees.

One key feature of the increased network speed is that O’Brien Fine Foods can now provide Wi-Fi access to both staff and visitors without any drop in network performance. This traffic is kept separate from the corporate network and so security remains paramount. This upgrade has significantly enhanced the experience for both staff and visitors to the facility.

As well as this, the new network has been designed with security, performance and reliability in mind, protecting O’Brien Fine Foods’ production processes and enabling the company to maintain its intensive 24-hour production process. The extra speed and security provides scalability, allowing the infrastructure to grow with the company as it continues to expand.

According to Enda Duffy, IT manager for O’Brien Fine Foods, the project has provided the company with an infrastructure that offers increased performance and reliability, while maintaining the highest level of security. It has also increased flexibility when compared to before. Greater network speeds mean that employees can now work efficiently and effectively from anywhere in the facility from either their laptops or their mobile devices.

Continued support

Following the installation process, Novi continues to provide O’Brien Fine Foods with proactive support to ensure that the new network infrastructure continues to perform at an optimum level. Novi’s flexible managed security service helps businesses to protect their data from constantly evolving threats.

Part of this service includes the provision of scheduled daily and weekly reports outlining system up time and any outages, critical events, disk usage, backup status, and a range of other useful information. Novi has identified that tailored reports and predictive analytics help to identify potential issues before they cause major problems. This structured model removes complexity and allows O’Brien Fine Foods to focus on its core business.

The resulting increase in network speed has enabled the company to embrace mobile working, while the ability to segment the internal network will help it to protect critical business systems from the spread of malware or malicious code that might find its way onto a laptop in the work environment.

O’Brien Fine Foods now has a reliable and high-performance infrastructure that will enable the company to continue to grow as it strives to meet increasing customer demand, and the company is already seeing the benefits of the new infrastructure.

Author: George O’Dowd, managing director, Novi

About Novi
Novi is a proactive managed service provider that is passionate about helping customers grow through better, secure and more reliable IT. Its consistent proactivity and highly structured support systems reduce IT risks and burden, helping customers to grow faster. Through regular, scheduled onsite visits, coupled with proactive 24/7 network monitoring and sophisticated data analytics, Novi detects issues before they become a problem, reducing unplanned system outages by a massive 70%. See for more details.

About O’Brien Fine Foods
O’Brien Fine Foods is one of Ireland’s leading producers of cooked meats products including the Brady Family and Homebird brands. Owned by the O’Brien family since 2000 and operating from two dedicated facilities in Timahoe, Co Kildare and Rathcairn, Co Meath, O’Brien Fine Foods currently supplies branded and own label products to all major multiples, discounters and convenience groups in Ireland. O’Brien Fine Foods employs a total of 395 people between its facilities in Timahoe and Rathcairn. See’Brien’s-bring-home-the-bacon-with-€450000-IT-investment-2-1024x683.jpg’Brien’s-bring-home-the-bacon-with-€450000-IT-investment-2-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanTechfood,internet of Things,manufacturing,mobile,tech,technology
O’Brien Fine Foods is a family-run food company that specialises in supplying meat and breakfast products to the Irish and UK markets. A primary supplier of high quality meat products, the company is best known for its Brady Family and Homebird brands. Founded in Timahoe in Co Kildare in 2000,...