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Morris Owen puts its faith in PrefixNE to safeguard its reputation
Date Added: Sun May 13 2007
All professional advisors live or die by the level of trust their clients place in them and Morris Owen, Chartered Accountants, understands this better than most.   Over the past 70 years the firm has built a successful and dynamic business practice based on long-term client relationships with national and local businesses which trust it implicitly to protect their best interests.  In turn, Morris Owen relies, as part of its overall IT suite of applications, on PrefixNE to provide asset, network and data security management across its multi-site organisation.

As part of its extensive range of financial and advisory services, Morris Owen offers many innovative approaches such as the Virtual Accounts Office, which provides web-based management accounts.  IT is often at the heart of these services and Morris Owen has invested considerable strategic resources in its network infrastructure and in identifying the vendors it works with.
Initially identified for its ability to tackle data security issues, Morris Owen soon discovered that Prefix offered a range of other benefits including automated asset management, compliance monitoring, real-time reporting and remote management of any network-attached assets.  The software is now in widespread use across the enterprise.

Placing a high priority on security provision
The firm is often tasked with the safe keeping of client data and its 70-odd employees have frequent and regular access to confidential client data, often this data is in transit between offices.  In the past, the amount of data exchange and the consequent risk was limited.  However, with the spread and variety of portable memory devices and the increase in data flow between employees and clients the opportunities for a data security breach have multiplied significantly.

Ian Sumbler, partner at Morris Owen, has responsibility for IT:  “Working patterns have changed massively in the last few years and there has been a huge increase in data movement.  Our employees now work remotely and at clients’ offices and are often ferrying confidential data on laptops and pen drives.  This clearly presents an opportunity for data loss or theft and as such was a weakness we needed to address urgently and effectively.”

 “The loss of client data could be catastrophic for us as well as our clients, not only in terms of financial compensation or damages, but the loss of business reputation,” Sumbler confirms.

Security was lifted to the next level
Having reviewed competitive products on the market, Sumbler found that Prefix most closely matched the items on his wish list and offered the best route to resolving the issue quickly, easily and decisively.   “Prefix had a deep understanding of our business drivers and we found that the product allowed us to lock down the data theft issue once and for all.  Instantly, our security was lifted to the next level.”

In the autumn of 2006 Morris Owen signed its contract with Prefix and deployed the product across its network in a single, painless day with the help of its Managed Service Provider, GHS (UK) Limited.

IM issues resolved on Day One
Some security and productivity issues, such as the unauthorised use of instant messenger services, were resolved on Day One by PrefixNE.  “It was the work of a moment to disallow such applications and with a tick of a box they became history,” says Sumbler. 

It took Morris Owen a further week to fine tune the system; setting specific access levels for individuals and ensuring that all appropriate memory devices were registered and operational and others excluded.  “It was surprising to see how many individuals were connecting to the system via the USB ports with PDAs and other devices,” notes Sumbler.

Taking a one-to-one approach with users was important and Sumbler felt that sometimes sensitive handling was needed.  Today, the majority of users are still not aware that the firm has upgraded to PrefixNE, but for those that handle sensitive data the move has made them more aware of the potential risks which Sumbler believes can only be a good thing.

Although security was first on Sumbler’s hit list, he has started to exploit other areas of functionality offered by PrefixNE, and has plans to extend usage of the software further in future.

A warm glow of compliance
Morris Owen has traditionally been scrupulous about maintaining its asset register but Prefix’s approach to IT Asset Management brings with it an increased sense of confidence, as Sumbler says: “Software Asset Management is a moving target which only ITAM can effectively address.  Using PrefixNE has brought us a warm glow of compliance!  We do quite a lot of work with Microsoft and any non-compliance issue might cost us their business so its good to know we’re A-OK at all times.”

The real-time reporting function has already borne fruit in monitoring user activity effectively according to Sumbler. “We can now spot issues and manage by exception quickly,” he says.  “For instance, if a new laptop user has forgotten to put on their virus checker, it will stand out like a sore thumb and we can alert them instantly.”

As time goes on areas such as remote management may come to the fore.  Although user support issues are not overly time-consuming at present, this may increase in line with the take up of flexible working patterns across the organisation.  Effective support for remote users, whether based at one of the firm’s offices, at client sites or in their own home offices, will be essential.  Sumbler believes that there’s every chance these functions will all become more relevant as the future unfolds and new demands arise.

In conclusion Sumbler says:  “Security is not scalable and neither is it optional in our business.  It’s downright essential; there’s no reason that our security should be any less than that offered by the ‘big 4 firms’.   PrefixNE has proved the right choice for us and I’d happily recommend it to others.”
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