Opera Australia is Australia's major opera company, and is one of the busiest in the world, presenting around 600 performances per year.
The operating environment of the company is complex and blends next-generation applications with legacy systems, a set-up, which can complicate the security choices available to the IT staff.
According to Grant Cresswell, Opera Australia's IT director and an industry consultant, data and application security is a particular challenge at the opera. Any information security solution must cater to the diverse needs of the 1300 people actively engaged in the production and presentation of the massive number of performances the company is involved in each year, in all sorts of locations across the nation.
The problem is exacerbated by the company's network of diverse servers and applications, including Lotus Domino, Tessitura's CRM, a hybrid SQL and Sybase database, and various legacy applications. Opera Australia's network also incorporates 200 desktop computers, each of which must be protected from external and internal threats, including malware and viruses.
Cresswell said his primary task is to support the organisation's ability to produce, promote and market its performances, and he has to do so on a limited budget. Opera Australia turns over approximately $60 million per annum, which is largely drawn from ticket sales to more than 400,000 opera fans, the rest coming from donations.
With thousands of potential performers, suppliers, partners, patrons and staff spread all over the world, the company communicates mainly by email, and does so in vast numbers. Such a volume of emails increases the company's exposure to new threats to very high. So when a client of Cresswell that was using the same antivirus (AV) software as Opera Australia had a severe virus infection, Cresswell decided a change was in order.
The virus caused a range of problems which were only resolved after Cresswell installed Eset's NOD32. "I had known about NOD32 for years but previously I'd had no compelling reason to choose it," said Cresswell. With the help of NOD32, he quickly identified the virus and eliminated it from his client's systems.
With Opera Australia's annual subscription renewal season looming, Cresswell undertook an extensive assessment of the AV platforms on the market. Any compromise to the company's ability to contact hundreds of thousands of patrons to garner their continued support would have a significant impact on their bottom line.
Cresswell found the choices limited, but they included NOD32. "There are only a handful of antivirus systems that work with the Lotus Domino Server," he said. "Across all the reviews, NOD32 is always in the top three, and it has been that way for some time," he added.
"My decision criteria were that the system had to provide comprehensive protection, obviously, as well as being easy to install and run in a terminal server/Lotus environment. Price was certainly also a factor."
NOD32 worked in Opera Australia's diverse environment, and also passed key criteria for effectiveness and ease of installation. In fact, Cresswell noted, the most difficult part of the process was uninstalling the previous AV system. "We did a partial install on one of the servers last October, and that was completely done in a couple of hours," he said.
"The footprint of the system was a further consideration. We have three terminal servers that are utilised heavily, so NOD32's smaller footprint, which has freed up capacity both in terms of both memory and the CPU processing power required, is helping extend the life of our existing infrastructure."
Cresswell believes he has fulfilled his brief by implementing NOD32 across the opera company's network. He also persuaded Eset Australia to provide some sponsorship for Opera Australia to offset the licence fees. "My role for Opera Australia is getting the best deal and building the best environment I can," Cresswell said. "I think with NOD32 I've got that."
Having been in the IT industry for more than two decades, the IT director has seen many inflated claims about what systems can do. In the case of NOD32, which he first came across more than a decade ago, the platform has little hype, he said. "Certainly, the core business features of the platform are of a high standard. I have high expectations of NOD32."