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Agora is Belgium’s biggest wholesaler in flowers, plants and accessories for florists and garden centers. From the head office in Kontich, the family business runs another five sites in Belgium, nineteen in France, three in the Netherlands and one in Italy. The group has upwards of five hundred staff and is the leader in its market segment in Belgium and France. “IT is essential for our business,” says IT manager Ruud Endeveld. Because fresh flowers lose their market value very quickly, for the company it’s a question of getting them from the grower to the florist as quickly as possible.
“Buying and identifying products, planning, selling via the e-shop and logistics all rely on systems that have to be available all the time.” Agora has developed most of its applications itself and they run in high-availability clusters in the Proximus datacenters. “We opt for double redundancy here,”, Endeveld explains.“Our IT environment is duplicated in the datacenter and everything is replicated once again in a second datacenter.”
Precisely because IT is so critical for the business, Agora pays extra attention to security. “Traditional security is no longer enough today,” Endeveld argues. “Hackers are becoming smarter and smarter and the attacks they launch are increasingly sophisticated.” Agora finds an appropriate response with security solutions in line with their needs for high availability, load balancing and SSL termination, among other things.
For instance, the webshop uses the https protocol, which means that all the data traffic is encrypted. The centralized SSL termination guarantees that this encryption remains efficient and can be done in a high-performance, manageable way. “What is more, security is organized in various layers. A visitor to the e-shop first has to go through an external firewall. Then an internal firewall provides a second layer of protection. The productivity and security of staff are further guaranteed by an intelligent web filter and an effective antivirus solution, among other things.”
“But security is more than protection against attacks from outside,” Endeveld goes on. “The human aspect is just as important – and this is often the biggest challenge. It’s still vital to point out possible dangers to staff and to teach them how to deal with them.” At the same time, Agora does not see it as a core task to develop internal expertise in IT security. “First and foremost, we are a wholesaler, not an IT company. That’s precisely why we have outsourced the practical side of the IT infrastructure – management and IT security.”
With its small IT team, Agora does not have the capacity to follow up and apply every development in the field of security. “That, too, is a role that Proximus takes on,” Endeveld concludes. “The telecom company provides advice on solutions that we may only have discovered later on – if at all. For instance, at the moment we are looking at Web Application Firewall and Advanced Threat Protection solutions to stay one step ahead of the hackers all the time. Together we are stronger. So as regards data security, we are always one step ahead.”
Agora is a wholesaler for professional florists and garden centers. The company specializes in flowers, plants and accessories. Agora has upwards of 500 staff spread over 29 sites in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Italy.
Ruud Endeveld began his career at Agora in France, in sales. In 2000, he moved to the head office in Belgium. Since then, he has been the group’s IT manager.
Ruud Endeveld, IT manager at Agora: “Traditional security is no longer enough today. Hackers are becoming smarter and smarter. It’s a case of always staying a step ahead in terms of security.”
Agora focuses on its core activities, while Proximus takes care of the necessary advanced security. #5
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