Port of Darwin streamlines operations with Microsoft 365 and Azure

When the Port of Darwin was privatised in 2015, this massive change affected their entire business operations from top to bottom. Craig O’Connor, the Head Of Technology & Information Systems at Port of Darwin, selected Grassroots IT to assist with four main areas for the Port: Managed IT Support, Microsoft Office 365, Azure, and Security.

Client industry:

  • Transport & Logistics

Key products:

  • Microsoft 365
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Sophos XG Firewall

Impressive levels of IT customer service

Having worked in IT for 20 years – 95% of those in a managed service environment – Craig said he has been impressed with the level of customer service from Grassroots IT. “When you ask for something done, you know it will be done,” he said. “They never respond with ‘that’s not in scope’ – instead, they work to understand the problem and figure out a way to make it work.” Craig said Grassroots IT’s proactivity also impressed him.

“The Grassroots team don’t just do what they’re asked to. If they can figure out a better way to achieve the outcome than what we’ve asked for, they will say so,” Craig said. “We find that very valuable.”

A seamless Microsoft 365 migration

As part of the privatisation process, the Port of Darwin needed to migrate from the  Government’s internal exchange email to Microsoft Office 365. Craig said this was one of the smoothest transitions he had ever experienced. Grassroots IT set up the 365 environment, synced it with their AD – a complicated process since the new email addresses and usernames were different – as well as planning the data migration with the Port and actioning PST exports and imports. Craig said the process felt deceptively simple. “At first, because Grassroots IT made things so simple, I was asking ‘What am I not getting here?’ or not seeing here,” he said. “Now that I’m used to their very really high standards, I realise this is simply the Grassroots IT experience.” The Port of Darwin now has a consistent email experience with Office 365, allowing them to take advantage of other elements of the Microsoft Office 365 platform. The Microsoft 365 platform helps the Port defend against advanced cyberthreats and simplify their IT management with a single solution. It provides access to information for those who need it, and keeps out those who don’t, while enabling seamless collaboration.

Craig said that being confident in their IT supplier was invaluable to his work in a management role. “Because your eyes don’t get dragged down into the weeds, you can think more strategically,” he said.

Migrating to an Azure document management system

Being expensive to host in a Darwin-based IaaS, the Port’s document management system was due to be upgraded. Grassroots IT set up an Azure IaaS environment and worked with the Port to migrate data and deploy the application to the cloud. They created a stable, cloud hosted Line-of-Business app for less cost. Craig O’Connor said the move was all about increasing efficiency and uptime. “My operating model is to get everything into the cloud as much as possible,” he said. “We used to have a very clunky document management system. It really was horrible, with multiple servers it was a constant nightmare.” “My team spent 15 hours a month to keep it running,” Craig said. “Now with Grassroots IT’s solution – which only took about a week to commission – we have a bulletproof system that has gained us back those 15 hours every month.”

Improving security with application whitelisting and network segregation

The Port of Darwin were already using the Essential 8 cybersecurity framework, but felt they needed a higher level of security. Once again, Grassroots IT were able to assist.  They deployed a range of solutions to more effectively secure the environment and help align with the Essential 8. These included  Sophos firewall appliances and appropriate licensing for Microsoft 365 to include AppLocker for application whitelisting. Microsoft security offers Port of Darwin a modern solution with an end-to-end Zero Trust strategy. This model helps the Port to “never trust, always verify” by assuming breach and verifying all requests as if they come from uncontrolled networks. Craig said that good network segregation is vital. “You have your IT and OT control systems and in a worst case scenario, a malicious actor can work to have our  LNG vessels bumping into each other.” Thanks to the team at Grassroots IT, the Port of Darwin now has a more secure environment  where unwanted applications can’t be run. “That’s the benefit of having a Managed Service,” Craig said. “I don’t have to worry about documentation and it’s a lot harder for people to do bad things.” According to Craig, application white listing is one of the hardest things to do. “Grassroots IT suggested AppLocker and Sophos, and it just worked,” he said.

“A lot of the advice they give that I value is pragmatic – they don’t get lost in doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff.”

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