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Proact targets 50% cost saving from virtualised F5 platform

The European storage integrator Proact IT Group AB has deployed virtualised solutions from F5 to control remote access to its Microsoft Exchange service.  In the first three years alone, the company expects to reduce the cost of safeguarding this critical application by 50%, while continuing to facilitate highly robust and secure log-in procedures for users.

Business Challenges


Proact specialises in delivering data storage solutions, ranging from storage area networks to managed cloud services.  Working throughout Europe, the company has delivered over 3,500 projects for organisations spanning almost every industry sector.  These customers expect robust business solutions that are highly secure and constantly available.  So, it is hardly surprising that Proact demands these same qualities for its own business-critical systems.

The company’s 640 employees depend on Microsoft Exchange for all their internal and external communications with colleagues, partners and customers.  To fulfil their job roles, it is absolutely essential for them to be able to access this email system at all times, whether they are in the office or working from another remote location, anywhere in Europe.

Proact is proud to support flexible working and recognises that many of its employees need to travel and work from home, in order to deliver good customer service.  Consequently, everyone in the business has the option to work remotely and, indeed, around 100 employees work outside of the company’s European offices on a daily basis.  With so many remote workers, it is especially important for Proact to have robust security measures in place, to ensure that only authorised users can gain access to its Microsoft Exchange system.

For many years, the company had used a stand-alone security appliance to help it control and facilitate remote access to its Microsoft Exchange email system.  However, this product had reached the end of its life and was no longer supported by the vendor.  This obsolescence created business risk, so, given the vital importance of its Exchange system, Proact decided to replace its old appliance.  In its place, the company sought a modern application delivery solution, scalable enough to support the entire business for at least 3-5 years and robust enough to facilitate secure, reliable access for hundreds of employees, right across Europe.

“In the future, we will learn more about our F5 platform and use it more extensively to optimise other applications.” Åke Holmberg, head of IT Proact IT Group AB



Proact had an established relationship with an IT services company in Sweden, AddPro, and it turned to this partner for expert advice on the best way to address its challenges.  “AddPro recommended F5 and, straight away, we could see that it met our demands,” recalls Åke Holmberg, head of IT for Proact IT Group.

F5’s application delivery control solutions were particularly suited to Proact’s IT environment, because they are available in virtualised versions.  Proact had built a virtualised IT infrastructure in its Swedish data centre a few years previously and was keen to migrate more and more of its networking solutions to this environment, to help it consolidate servers and optimise its cost efficiency.

Proact selected two products from F5: F5’s BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) Virtual Edition and F5’s BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) Virtual Edition.  BIG-IP LTM improves the availability and performance of business applications, while protecting organisations from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.  BIG-IP APM provides secure, policy-based access to corporate resources for remote users. 

Both of these solutions were deployed in Proact’s Swedish data centre by AddPro.  The partner took care of all of the installation, migration and documentation, and also provided a day of training for the IT technicians from Proact who now manage the solutions on a day-to-day basis.  “It was quite an easy installation,” recalls Conny Stefors, regional manager, Sweden west, AddPro.  “We had the F5 platform up and running in just a week.”

“Over an initial three year period, we expect to achieve a 50% reduction in costs. What is more, the total cost of ownership will decrease even further with every additional year that we use our F5 platform.” Åke Holmberg, head of IT Proact IT Group AB



Proact is now able to deliver an exceptionally high standard of application availability and security for remote users of Microsoft Exchange.  The solutions provided by F5 are incredibly advanced, yet have half the running costs of Proact’s previous appliance.

Reduced total cost of ownership

By replacing its previous device with virtualised solutions from F5, Proact has been able to successfully decrease the number of appliances in its Swedish data centre.  As a consequence, the company has saved space, and throughout the lifetime of the F5 solutions, will save money on air conditioning and electricity.  In addition, Proact’s network infrastructure has been simplified, making it easier, quicker and cheaper for the IT team to support and manage it on an ongoing basis.

“Over an initial three year period, we expect to achieve a 50% reduction in costs,” says Holmberg.  “What is more, the total cost of ownership will decrease even further with every additional year that we use our F5 platform.”

Secure access to Microsoft Exchange

F5’s BIG-IP APM solution enables Proact to employ two factor authentication to strengthen its protection of Microsoft Exchange.  As well as entering their username and password, employees must also enter a pin code, which is supplied to them via their mobile phones, for one-time use only.  Growing in popularity, this two-stage log-in method is designed to foil the malicious exploits of hackers and other unauthorised users.

“Two factor authentication is a highly effective means of protecting core business applications,” observes Stefors.  “Employees have to take two separate steps to gain remote access, which doubles the protection for the business.”

High application availability

Given the critical importance of Microsoft Exchange to the operation of the business, Proact needs to ensure that this core business application is accessible to remote workers at all times.  F5’s BIG-IP platform certainly achieves this goal, delivering consistent, high availability for users throughout Europe ever since going live.  “There have been no performance issues and we are very satisfied,” says Holmberg.

Looking forwards, Proact intends to use BIG-IP to help it provide a reliable remote access gateway to other critical business systems, including the company’s Citrix platform.  “In the future, we will learn more about our F5 platform and use it more extensively to optimise other applications,” Holmberg says.  “If we increase the number of services delivered via F5, we can get even better value for our investment.”