How does a top Ontario college roll out innovative technology while keeping over 11,000 student users happy and ensuring that the college’s network infrastructure, including over 550 network switches, 50 managed UPS devices, and 30 routers, provides reliable functionality at all times?
Georgian College is one of 24 publicly funded Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology in Ontario. With 10 campuses, maintaining network uptime across a geographic area spanning four counties and over 7,100 square miles requires the ability to quickly find and determine the impact of network issues. Using Intermapper, Georgian’s Network Infrastructure Group doesn’t have to do this manually. Instead of sitting at a screen watching for issues to crop up, the team receives automatic alerts when critical issues occur, giving them freedom to go about their day and have confidence that the network infrastructure is being closely monitored at all times.
A Growing Network Needs More Than Free Tools Can Offer
In his nearly 30 years working at Georgian, Randy Baker, a network security technician in the network group, has witnessed dramatic change in the school’s technology.
Back in the early 1990s, Georgian used a free tool to monitor seven DEC VAX minicomputers connecting to their Ethernet environment. As their network evolved and grew, IT needed a more robust tool that could provide server monitoring as well.
Today, “we have a very complex infrastructure,” said Arsalan Iqbal, infrastructure support technologist, who uses Intermapper for network configuration and performance troubleshooting. Georgian’s infrastructure includes over 2,000 network devices spread out between multiple remote sites. All sites are connected using dedicated fiber optic being monitored by Intermapper.
Georgian’s data center is equipped with 10 Gigabit Ethernet low latency and high port density switches to fulfill the need of more recent server technologies. The network team relies on Intermapper for insight into data center switches in order to make sure that server and applications are running as expected.
In a world of constant digital innovation, Arsalan and Randy said that there is always concern that the network won’t support what the team plans to roll out next. In the past few years, Georgian has implemented computerized podiums and multi-media-enabled classrooms and conference rooms. Next, they plan to create bring-your-own-device (BYOD) open spaces where students can connect any device of their choosing.
To accommodate their increasingly modern network, Georgian needed an education network monitoring tool that could grow and scale, all while providing relief to the swamped network group.
Network Mapping Simplifies Complex IT Infrastructure Management
Georgian has been a loyal Intermapper customer for 15 years. But it wasn’t until 2010 when the network team made it a priority to discover network issues ahead of users that the software really took off for them. Randy created maps, turned on notifications intelligently to alert the team when severe situations occurred, and ensured that all of the college’s Cisco routers, switches, firewalls, and access points were properly mapped and monitored.
In order to collect the right data from the devices Georgian monitors, Randy also leveraged Intermapper probes built-in to the product, modified free user-contributed probes available on the HelpSystems website, and customized his own probes as needed.
Today, Georgian has close to 500 maps depicting their IT geography at every level, from high-level campus overviews down to floor, classroom, and closet-level maps.
Anyone at Georgian can see the network’s current status thanks to Intermapper maps displayed on large-screen TVs around campus. The live maps give students and faculty visibility into how their activities affect traffic—for example, in order to make the connection between slower network performance and increased entertainment streaming from platforms such as Netflix or Pandora.
Best-of-breed Mapping, High-Quality Support
According to Arsalan and Randy, the software’s mapping capabilities separate Intermapper from the competition. While there are many network management tool suites that can perform a wide variety of functions, a specialized tool like Intermapper is a “best of breed” product that not only excels in its intended functions, but also interacts well with other similar specialized tools.
For example, other software vendors also provide mapping capabilities, but with Intermapper, Arsalan and Randy can create a map with a physical floor diagram background, which helps newcomers to the IT team visualize the network environment and locate particular devices more quickly. If a map indicates trouble on a particular floor in a campus building, IT technicians can drill down to see in which room and closet a device is located. Map icons also show how each device is connected to the network, which aids in troubleshooting.
The ability to create custom SYSLOG notifiers and receive email alerts when true issues crop up on the network has also benefited Georgian’s IT team. “We’re improving the quality of the network to the point where I’m seeing fewer issues being reported in Intermapper,” said Randy.
Arsalan and Randy have found HelpSystems support to be “very high quality,” and they value the responsiveness of development to consider product enhancement requests or provide workarounds when enhancements are not feasible. “A top notch technical support team is something I highly value in a product, and the Intermapper support team is right up there in my opinion,” Randy said.
Randy, Arsalan, and their team are grateful for the way Intermapper cuts down on manual work, increases their visibility, and helps them respond to errors faster. “Intermapper is a tool that provides the potential to ‘work smarter and not harder’ by allowing us to understand our network behavior to proactively address issues before they become larger problems, as well as know about problems before the user calls our help desk,” said Randy.
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