Delivering Sophos MDR to drive pioneering cybersecurity performance for Harwoods Group.

Harwoods Group

Market-leading cybersecurity solution for trailblazing automotive retailers

Harwoods at-a-glance:


Automotive Retail

Number of Users

800 endpoints
1,060 employees


    • Sophos Managed Detection and Response
    • Sophos Antivirus
    • Sophos XG Firewalls

Harwoods is a leading automotive retailer group with dealerships located in the south-east of England, as well as an international digital presence, representing a wide range of premium manufacturers including Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ineos, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, and Volvo.

Family-owned for over 90 years, the expanding group currently operates over 25 sites, with dealerships alongside accident repair centres and service centres also providing authorised manufacturer servicing for BMW, MINI and MAN Truck commercial vehicles. The group has invested significantly in digitally expanding its renowned customer service: a core group value to be protected.

Harwoods Dealership


The Advantage Cloud team has been engaged with Harwoods Group for over 5 years, providing agnostic expert IT consultancy and experienced virtual CTO/IT Director services to deliver and support a pioneering IT strategy closely aligned to the broader business vision. Harwoods further benefit from Advantage 3rd line technical advisory, vendor escalation & management solutions for reassuringly cohesive business IT system performance.

Harwoods recently embarked on group-wide digital transformation, consultatively supported by Advantage Cloud, with Harwoods Business Support Director Paul Smith playing a key role. The two main components have been the implementation of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system across all sites, delivered in tandem with a bespoke eCommerce website providing a leading online customer experience. This investment - where everyone and everything counts - meant it has been critical for Harwoods to secure its expanding IT infrastructure effectively. As part of the digital transformation project, two years ago Harwoods insourced its IT support function, which included taking responsibility for their own cybersecurity.

Harwoods Dealership

Business challenges

It soon became clear that the way Harwoods managed its IT security needed to change. The in-house IT support function, in conjunction with its IT security partner, was only able to provide vulnerability assessments and monitoring during business hours. This created clear vulnerabilities for the group, as cyberthreats are a 24/7/365 concern. Harwoods first started using Sophos products around 10 years ago to provide antivirus protection for its endpoint estate. Having briefly worked with another provider during this period, on recommendation they returned to Sophos for, as Paul agreed: “their best-of-breed product, ease of use and excellent customer service.”

Harwoods consulted with Advantage to bolster Sophos endpoint defences with firewall protection, firstly with Sophos SG firewalls, and then recently upgraded to Sophos XG firewalls. Subsequently, buying into the Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service from Sophos had clear IT security advantages, from a vendor the company already knew and trusted.

“Sophos have more than proved their worth over the years. Faced with the constant threat of cyber-attack, following the recommendation to turn to them to provide 24/7/365 proactive monitoring, detection and resolution was a no-brainer.”

Paul Smith, Harwoods Business Support Director

Sophos MDR Security

The solution

Advantage Cloud partner, Sophos, provides organisations with market-leading cybersecurity solutions backed up by a strong reputation for innovative excellence, so naturally the trusted recommendation to Paul was the implementation of Sophos MDR.

Tim Browne, Director at Advantage Cloud, explains:

“Sophos MDR provides a comprehensive solution enabling responsible organisations to meet all their cybersecurity needs, from the edge firewall right through to the end devices.

With Sophos MDR, Harwoods gains full insight into any threats or attacks to their network 24 hours a day. Being prominent in that retail space, they are more vulnerable, so this visibility is vital.”

By investing in Sophos MDR, Harwoods Group has been able to secure its networks almost overnight. Paul was impressed from the get-go, saying: “As promised by Advantage Cloud, I was amazed at how simple the Sophos MDR implementation process was.

Everything worked right out of the box as such, and within 24 hours the team were already working on the first identified threat. We had expected to customise the solution, but in the end this wasn’t necessary. The entire process and immediate impact reassured us that we had chosen the right solution for our dynamic business.”

Business benefits

Harwoods is confident in its decision to implement the recommendation of Sophos MDR, listing the benefits as being:

    • Peace of mind
One of the crucial benefits of Sophos MDR is total peace of mind. According to Paul: “As soon as Sophos started managing our IT security, I started sleeping much better. I know that we are protected by the best in the industry.”
    • Minimising vulnerabilities
One of the biggest limitations from Harwoods’ existing security provision was 24/7/365 cybersecurity coverage. Security monitoring restricted to business hours left the entire group vulnerable to attack outside of these times. Sophos MDR has eradicated this weakness with continual monitoring, night and day, all year round. Additionally, the proactive nature of Sophos MDR means that it finds a swift resolution to any vulnerabilities. Tim Browne, Director at Advantage Cloud, is very clear when advising any organisation, no matter what sector they occupy: “A quick solution is a vital component of any security service. And Sophos gets this absolutely right.”
    • Preserving customer care excellence
Harwoods’ renowned reputation for excellent customer service has driven brand loyalty and business success for over 90 years. Therefore, a significant concern and business focus is to ensure the protection of customer data, as any breach would negatively impact the brand. With Sophos MDR, the Group is secure in the knowledge that it is doing everything it can to protect customer information.
    • Threat visibility
Another crucial benefit for Harwoods is the visibility it now has over network security. Regular Sophos MDR reporting delivers immediate clarity for the Board by illustrating activity that provides assurance that they are taking their responsibilities to IT security seriously; doing everything they can to protect the business and its customers. Sophos MDR also provides stakeholders with information to support any cybersecurity decisions they need to make. Data breeds confidence, and Sophos MDR is invaluable for delivering data and security insights from a trusted team of experts.
    • Protecting digital investment
With so much time, money and effort spent on the digital transformation project, it was important that this investment was not undermined by low-level IT security. Sophos MDR is a key component in the success of Harwoods’ digital transformation project and protection of business ROI.
    • Cost savings
Paul initially explored how the Group could manage its own 24/7/365 IT security. He believed it would have entailed recruiting at least two highly specialised cybersecurity experts, who would be difficult to find and expensive to take on. In fact, the Sophos estimations to managing your own IT security in a similar way to MDR would take an investment of circa £1.4 million.

Paul 100% believes Harwoods made the right decision as advised by Advantage Cloud in selecting Sophos MDR as the chosen cybersecurity solution. He concludes:

“Working with Sophos hasn’t just met my expectations; it has exceeded them.”

”And our IT consultancy partner Advantage Cloud Solutions has yet again proved invaluable in ensuring we are armed to make the right decisions for the business as a whole, with best-of-breed solutions that will grow with the business in support of its vision. Our shared pioneering attitude helps drive our renowned excellence, for the benefit of Harwoods employees and customers together as one”.

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