Network improvements prepare the Arizona lender for greater digitization and continued growth
Cash Time Loan Centers is Arizona’s leading source of trusted title loan and personal loan services. Operating stores and call centers under the brands Cash Time Loan Centers and Presto Title Loans, the company has long prioritized technology to drive business efficiency, employee satisfaction, and excellent customer service.
Bryant Schaper, Cash Time’s Director of IT, makes it his personal mission to lean into new technology, ensuring the company’s data and operations are supported with the best solutions available while also managing costs.
As a lending institution, Cash Time ingests Payment Card Industry (PCI) and other personally identifying information from its customers. Schaper’s IT team is committed to meeting and exceeding industry regulations in its efforts to secure data
Cash Time also invests heavily in ongoing modernization of its data center, which houses all the tools that call center and store employees use to conduct the company’s business, from processing loan documents to payment systems—even the company-wide phone system.
Several years ago, Cash Time replaced legacy MPLS routers with a hardware-defined WAN. While the company achieved considerable cost savings, over time Schaper identified several areas of potential vulnerability. His chief concern was that the routers in the company’s hardware-defined WAN had no built-in security, which left the network exposed to external threats and provided no visibility into network traffic. Although the routers didn’t receive traffic from outside the network, the lack of visibility raised the concern that if a security event did occur, it could go undetected. Schaper was also concerned that less secure devices, such as IoT cameras and payment consoles, operating on the same network, potentially left the data center vulnerable to malicious access.
In addition to the security concerns, Cash Time’s hardware-defined WAN didn’t meet the company’s connectivity needs. Though expensive, the legacy MPLS network had been very stable, whereas the hardware-defined WAN, with physical routers tunneling traffic back to the data center, created significantly more downtime for both the data network and the phone system. Any time the network was offline at a location, employees couldn’t work, and customers’ needs couldn’t be met. That created a measurable impact on productivity and revenue—and a growing pain point for employees and the business.
To solve these challenges, Schaper began a project to acquire a firewall solution to improve overall security and to replace the hardware-defined WAN with a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) to reduce downtime. Because Cash Time was already using Palo Alto Networks security products, Schaper wanted the firewall and SD-WAN solutions to integrate with, and extend, his organization’s existing Palo Alto Networks solutions. He also prioritized visibility, the efficiency with which he could create effective policies, and the ability to segment IoT devices and the phone systems onto their own networks.
For the SD-WAN project, Schaper needed to reduce downtime in the short-term, but he also needed to prepare Cash Time for a future that may include reduced reliance on the data center and increased use of cloud services. He considered Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS® SD-WAN, alongside SD-WANs from three other providers, including the incumbent vendor for the existing hardware-defined network.
After reviewing multiple solutions, Cash Time selected Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall with Threat Prevention and URL Filtering. Because Palo Alto Networks was already providing industry-leading security infrastructure to the company, Schaper had confidence that its firewall would deliver strong performance and integrate easily with existing solutions. In addition, based on cost, reliability, and ease of integration with the new firewalls, PAN-OS SD-WAN from Palo Alto Networks was the clear winner to replace the hardware-defined network. “We’ve consolidated pretty much everything we can into Palo Alto Networks, getting all the products to talk to each other,” said Schaper. “Being able to coordinate and orchestrate the security amongst them allows us to not have to worry about different APIs and technologies.”
Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall with integrated SD-WAN met all of Cash Time’s requirements. By integrating security into the architecture, the solution provides built-in protection against external threats. Complete, end-to-end visibility allows Schaper to rapidly identify potential threats and modify policies on the fly. With service-level agreements (SLAs) significantly better than the competition, the solution represents a significant improvement in uptime and allows Cash Time to place IoT devices and phone systems on their own networks. And it supports the future migration from a model built around the data center to one that embraces software as a service (SaaS) and public cloud services.
Once it made the selection, Cash Time was able to deploy Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall and SD-WAN quickly and easily. Working with the Palo Alto Networks professional services team for an initial rollout in eight stores gave Schaper and his team the knowledge to manage company-wide deployment themselves—a process that took just two hours per location, minimizing the impact the transition had on the business.
Adopting Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall with integrated SD-WAN closed the gaps in security that Schaper had identified. It allowed Cash Time to completely remove routers and all the hardware remaining from the legacy MPLS, eliminating equipment without built-in security. The data center’s vulnerability to threats posed by less secure devices was further reduced with the shift of IoT devices and the phone system to their own networks.
The solution also dramatically improves Schaper’s visibility into, and control over, Cash Time’s network security. The Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall, in combination with URL Filtering and WildFire®, the industry’s most advanced cloud-based threat analysis service, provides in-depth insight across the network. “The insights into what’s going on in our network with the mixture of products has grown tremendously,” said Schaper. “And the ability to drive all that up to the data lake relieves us of constant updating and just makes things better.” Powered by AI and ML, WildFire also informs ongoing policy creation and management.
Replacing the hardware-defined network with PAN OS SD-WAN produced significant performance gains, reducing downtime by 90 percent while delivering a 50 percent increase in bandwidth. As a result, Cash Time’s store and call center employees are more productive, more available to customers, and more positive about their user experience.
In the future, Cash Time hopes to move more of its data center capabilities to Microsoft Azure and other public clouds, reducing reliance on the data center and expanding use of SaaS. The company is looking at a cloud-delivered phone system to reduce hardware costs and increase flexibility. And as more of its growth moves online, it will continue to invest in the digital tools that make data more functional, actionable, and secure.
Building on the improvements in network security, stability, and performance achieved with Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall with integrated SD-WAN, Schaper is looking forward to delivering a richer digital experience to the employees and customers of Cash Time Loan Centers and Presto Title Loans. “I will continue to go to Palo Alto as the vendor of choice for any security initiative and see if their products fit before I will look outside to other vendors,” he said.
Through the company’s ongoing relationship with Palo Alto Networks, Schaper now has the confidence to pursue his digital initiatives, knowing the network is secure, adaptable, and future-ready.
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