Carolina Eastern Achieves Proactive System Security with Managed Security Services

Charleston

SOUTH CAROLINA

1972

 ESTABLISHED IN

0 +
LOCATIONS

“Glad that eGroup Enabling Technologies is our IT department!"

Customer Business Strategy

Carolina Eastern is a third-generation agribusiness company that provides fertilizers, chemicals, and seeds to farmers and wholesalers. Its President, Al Phillips, summed up a key company philosophy: “With our staff representing Carolina Eastern across the country, it is crucial to maintain positive relationships with them as they are the ‘real people’ that deal with the farmers day to day.”  

CFO Tom Hallex agreed saying, People don’t buy from a brand, they buy from a person, especially when you get into rural areas.” Those close-knit customer relationships are so vital to the firm that managers may eventually become minority owners. “We’re not just one monolith,” explained Hallex. “We have close to 20 different affiliates, where you’ll have other owners with controlling interest.”

Learn about CFO Hallex’s overview of Carolina Eastern:

The Challenges

While that operating model has provided sustainable growth for over 50 years, it harbored hidden cybersecurity risks. 

With over 40 locations and 500 employees, Tom confided: “We were always in a reactive state with our security. Our outlook was ‘We are not trying to get hacked.’ We thought we were doing fine, but we didn’t know. We were hacked, and it was a lot of pain. After partnering with eGroup Enabling Technologies, our outlook now is ‘We are trying not to get hacked.’”

As a result, the firm struck up a new partnership, this time with Managed Services Provider eGroup Enabling Technologies. After assisting with the cyber response, the team discovered:  

  • Lack of standardization and security across different affiliates and sites 
  • Reactive IT support and network monitoring that exposed them to cyberattacks 
  • Low adoption and utilization of Office 365 and other cloud-based tools 
  • Difficulty in sharing and accessing data and reports among different business stakeholders 

Mr. Hallex describes the situation as it came to a head:

Planting the Seeds of Change

“I don’t look at this relationship as having a vendor. I look at it as having a partner that we can trust. That’s the key.”

To overcome these challenges, Carolina Eastern partnered with eGroup Enabling Technologies to provide cloud, cybersecurity, and managed services. eGroup Enabling Technologies helped Carolina Eastern to: 

  • Move their ERP system to Azure and email to Office 365, creating a unified and secure platform for all their users 
  • Deploy Meraki networking hardware company-wide, standardizing a managed network configuration 
  • Provide Managed Security Services, through vendor-neutral Arctic Wolf managed detection and response service, to monitor and protect their systems from threats 
  • Train and educate their users on how to leverage Teams, SharePoint, and other Office 365 applications to collaborate and communicate more effectively 
  • Provide proactive and responsive IT support and guidance, acting as the in-house IT team 

After having another provider look after their ERP, security, and networking, Carolina Eastern realized that a more specialized firm to handle the infrastructure and monitoring was a better fit. Tom summarized the value that Carolina Eastern had in receiving their partnership with eGroup Enabling Technologies in this clip:

Executives’ Thoughts On Managed Security Services Investments

Many companies defer the expenses of security and optimized IT management to hire people, grow their products, or improve marketing. But once an incident occurred, the perspective changed for Carolina Eastern. While the capital and operational expenses haven’t been trivial, CFO Hallex is satisfied. “I don’t look at it as a cost as much as an investment.”  

Hallex was kind enough to share his unique perspective as CFO:

As a company with ~$600M annual revenue, Hallex admits Carolina Eastern didn’t casually outlay the operating budgets for recurring IT services. But as the company adjusts to the annual contract for eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Managed Services, Tom says his C-Suite peers, “Understand the importance of it.” In a recent annual meeting with its bankers, Tom was pleased that the line item is no longer being scrutinized. 

Tom explains how his fellow C-Suite members and bankers feel about the investment in eGroup Enabling Technologies:

The Benefits

As a result of working with eGroup Enabling Technologies, Carolina Eastern has achieved several business benefits, such as: 

  • Improved security and compliance, reducing the risk and cost of cyberattacks and data breaches 
  • Increased productivity and efficiency, enabling their users to access and share information faster and easier 
  • Streamlined financial processes and reduced paperwork, by maintaining separate financials for each location 
  • Reduced IT complexity and overhead, freeing up their resources to focus on their core business 

Hallex explains how Microsoft’s collaboration tools are enabling Carolina Eastern to move more quickly and efficiently.

But for Tom, the most substantial benefit is peace of mind. “The biggest thing is that I feel a lot more secure. I know every company’s going to get hacked. Just being able to react is key.

Change Didn’t Come Easy

Carolina Eastern knows that their seeds alone won’t grow strong and bear crops without their fertilizers. Similarly, Tom knew that getting the most out of their software tools wouldn’t happen automatically. Carolina Eastern leveraged eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Organizational Change Management services to ensure success. We’re on the good side of that now,” he stated, but there was a lot of resistance and, ‘I’ve always done it this way, and it’s worked for me. 

Hallex gave his summary of the challenge, eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Organizational Change Management process, and outcomes:

Poised for Prosperous Growth

“eGroup Enabling Technologies has been a great partner for us. They have really good people that are able to communicate with people that aren't IT people. They are proactive and they help us see the future and get in front of it. They have helped us get to a good place where we are more secure and more collaborative."

eGroup Enabling Technologies is proud to partner with Carolina Eastern and help them achieve their IT and business goals. “I don’t look at this relationship as having a vendor,” Tom asserted. “I look at it as having a partner that we can trust. That’s the key.” eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Managed Services team hosts yearly strategic roadmap sessions and quarterly reviews to ensure Tom’s team is educated and ready for what’s around the corner. 

Hallex summed up the relationship by saying: “eGroup Enabling Technologies has been a great partner for us. They have really good people that are able to communicate with people that aren’t IT people. They are proactive and they help us see the future and get in front of it. They have helped us get to a good place where we are more secure and more collaborative.” 

CFO Hallex gave his final advice to others facing Carolina Eastern’s situation:

To learn more about how eGroup Enabling Technologies can help your organization, contact us via the form below. If you are interested in learning more about our Managed Services, you can view them here! 

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