Bailey Harris Relies on pfSense® Software to Connect Commercial Construction Sites to Azure Cloud

   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.

Construction industry positions Alabama for future success

Allen Harris –

Alabama’s construction industry is built on a foundation of customer service, integrity and work ethic. As CEO of Bailey-Harris Construction and board chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama (ABC), I have experienced firsthand the value a career in commercial construction has on our state’s economy and future leaders.
Commercial construction is vital to Alabama’s economic footprint and touches every aspect of our residents’ lives. A study recently conducted by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama found that commercial construction stimulated nearly $13 billion of business in our state and generated 156,000 full-time jobs in 2015 alone.
According to the study, the economic impact of commercial construction has also generated a payroll of more than $6 billion a year and made a direct impact of $444 million into the state Education Trust Fund.
These numbers showcase the impressive impact the construction industry has in our state. Because of this, we must continue to build on its success and invest in efforts that enhance education initiatives and craft training skills to create a pipeline of opportunities for future industry leaders.
Two years ago, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama and Alabama’s K-12 education system joined together to establish the Academy of Craft Training to recruit, educate and employ high school students through construction careers. The Academy gives students the opportunity to build relationships and learn from industry leaders and prospective employers. It has quickly become a model for public-private partnerships with the Associated Builders and Contractors, the State Department of Education and the Department of Commerce hitching wagons to better our workforce product and our state.
While just two years old, the Academy has quickly become a model for all-in workforce development. Within its first year of operation, the Academy of Craft Training placed 94 percent of participating seniors in a job after graduation.
By equipping students with the necessary skills and real-world experience, the Academy provides opportunities for students to learn craft skills, make a good living and eventually advance into a supervisory level with long-term career benefits. For example, our teachers are industry trained; our classrooms resemble construction jobsites with rules and regulations to which we adhere; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn at all times and other practices that emulate actual job conditions are employed.
Upon the course completion, we are finding our student graduates have a positive infection. Infection? Yes, a positive infection that translates to a passion for the industry. It was last a fall Saturday afternoon at an Auburn University campus jobsite and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Jacob, a recent graduate of the Academy. “Jacob, what in the world are you doing here?” I asked. He had come to see the site crane operator, Tommy. He and Tommy had developed a working mentor relationship on a Tuscaloosa jobsite. Jacob immediately inquired, “Mr. Harris, where can I get a vest and glasses? I need to help walk the rig out.”
Late on Saturday afternoons, most young men would be hanging out with friends or relaxing. Jacob just wanted to be around the work. Passion is something our instructors talk and cultivate often at The Academy. Yes, work cures most ills.
Through stories like this, we see how Alabama’s construction industry touches lives. I encourage the Alabama legislature to continue supporting this important initiative.
By teaching students hands-on trade skills and requisite soft skills, paired with values of integrity and work ethic, we can ensure that future leaders will continue to build upon Alabama’s construction industry that supports our communities.
Allen Harris is Founder and CEO of Bailey-Harris Construction, a leading industrial and commercial contracting firm based in Auburn, Ala. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama.

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