April 22, 2020
By Dennis Smith
Nothing in this world is static. Things are either progressing or they’re in decline. Commercial construction is a leading indicator of growth. Whether for industry, sports arenas, hospitals, or university educational facilities – the presence of cranes and cement trucks remain one of the most visible signs of economic growth and new opportunity.
In Alabama, hypersonics technologies, automotive supply chain, and a state government strategic push for tech jobs are major construction drivers. Where there is significant construction in Alabama, observers are likely to see the Bailey Harris Construction brand.
Formed in 1979, the company has grown steadily from its first project of $214,000 to projects today in excess of $100,000,000. The three lead factors that make or break large scale construction projects are cost control, quality, and scheduling. Bailey Harris has a proven reputation of excellence in all three – enabling it to continue placing its stamp on Alabama’s fastest-growing cities and communities.
Less visible than cranes, cement trucks, and hardhats is the IT infrastructure that enables secure network communications between construction sites and corporate applications. Griffin Cash is responsible for “all things IT” at Bailey Harris.
From the time the first spade hits dirt to when the front door keys are turned over to the new facility owner – Griffin must ensure network connections are both fast and secure. pfSense® instances – on-premises and in Microsoft Azure – perform secure networking duties including connecting each job site to Bailey Harris cloud domain controllers and providing firewall protection to the controllers. Domain controllers used to be commissioned on job premises. Now they are located in the Azure cloud.
It started when an on-premises domain controller failed. Domain controllers manage security authentication requests – granting individual user access to the company’s corporate applications. When they are down, RADIUS requests for WiFi authorization cannot authenticate – and users are down. Griffin decided to leverage the cloud to prevent future hardware failure or internet outages from crippling site communications. He decided to use Azure as a Cloud Service Provider. The next step was to figure out how to connect offices and job sites to the cloud. Since Bailey Harris already had pfSense appliances at office and job site locations, it was the logical starting point. Griffin knows how to stretch a dollar, so he compared the basic Azure A0 compute instance specifications to some of his older pfSense appliances – and concluded a 1vCPU and 0.75GB of RAM would be enough power for a small scale test. In under 30 minutes, an IPSec tunnel was up, and a new domain controller was provisioned in the cloud! Moving from test to production, Griffin deployed A1 compute instances equipped with 1vCPU and 1.75GB of RAM – providing breathing room for firewall protection of each controller.
Typically, Bailey Harris will have ten or more job sites operating simultaneously – with 5-10 employees active per site, plus guest contractors. Each site is equipped with either a Netgate SG-3100 or SG-1100 to connect the site to the pfSense cloud instances for VPN termination. Soon, the company plans to also use the Azure-based pfSense instances for remote desktop web filtering. Then, pfSense software will allow Griffin to apply the same security features and procedures (standardized for office locations) for all virtual machines hosted in the cloud.
pfSense cloud instances have the advantages of product ease of use, familiarity, cost, feature add flexibility, and freedom to purchase high-quality, fast turn-around support where needed. Best of all, relative to solution alternatives, pfSense software saves thousands of dollars a year for the company. We’re thrilled to have Bailey Harris as a customer, and honored to be a linchpin in their site-cloud-corporate IT infrastructure.
pfSense software is used by thousands of businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions in the cloud. Contact Netgate to learn how we can help provide secure networking for your cloud needs.