Lowndes County, Georgia
Lowndes County, Georgia has an IT staff of 7 to support 700 users across multiple agencies (including emergency services) on a mixed wired and wireless network running a number of specialized and industry-specific applications. When problems arise, the team struggles to quickly and proactively remediate network or applications issues before they impact end users. Furthermore, when problems involve third-party vendors, the team must constantly prove the network is not at fault. Using a variety of cumbersome tools, this process can be time consuming and difficult to prove the findings.
The county selected NetScout OptiView® XG Network Analysis Tablet to provide network, application and wireless monitoring and troubleshooting. The tablet dramatically shortens the time Lowndes County’s IT staff needs to identify, diagnose and remediate problems, often finding and resolving issues before they are apparent to end users. In addition, the OptiView XG allows the IT department to better leverage its staff by effectively “up-leveling” the capabilities of its junior technicians to handle issues that would previously require a more experienced technician. By enabling the team to generate detailed reports of network activity at the node or device level, the tablet has also made it easier to rule out network or hardware problems when opening trouble tickets with third-party application vendors.
OptiView® XG Network Analysis Tablet
A major benefit of the OptiView XG is that it allows me to better utilize my staff. I can now confidently leverage technicians with less experience and expertise to handle problems that used to require a higher-level technician to diagnose, let alone remediate. In effect, the OptiView XG pushes the years of experience of a senior technician to the edge and makes my entire team more productive.
– Aaron Kostyu, Lowndes County’s Director of Technology
Lowndes County, Georgia has more than 110,000 residents. The county’s IT department supports every elected and appointed county entity, including courts, law enforcement, fire, public works, tax, utilities, internal administration and more. The 3,000-node wired and wireless network provides access to more than 700 users and runs a variety of specialized applications, often from small third-party vendors.Challenges
With 3,000 nodes spread over a 540 square mile area, 3 data centers hosting more than 100 TB of data, more than 20 buildings with indoor wireless, 70 servers and more than 40 virtual servers, and 700 users, Lowndes County’s network is complex. According to Aaron Kostyu, Lowndes County’s Director of Technology, his team needed the ability to monitor, and troubleshoot on a comprehensive, network-wide basis, as well as conduct application-specific testing.
In the past, the county’s IT team tried diligently to stay on top of issues by monitoring individual servers and components as often as possible, but the amount of data generated by so many network components and devices made it difficult to stay ahead with traditional tools. “The sheer volume of log files from 3,000 nodes could be fairly overwhelming,” Kostyu said. Furthermore, the team was often forced to use tools on a laptop, which would require manual correlation of data, often at the packet-level.
“We support vital services for the county. When problems emerge, we need to quickly isolate root cause and fix the issue before they negatively impact organizations and users,” Kostyu said. “Before the OptiView, we were forced to use multiple tools on several devices and manually correlate/report the results. This cycle was time consuming and taxing for our staff. We needed a solution that could consolidate functionality of other tools, fill in the gaps for tools we did not have and give us complete insight and analysis so we could quickly progress through problems, report those problems and proactively manage the network.”
One of the major pain points for the county’s IT staff is dealing with third-party vendors when there is a problem with an application. Since many of the applications are very industry-specific, vendors are often smaller and have limited support resources. They tend to default to blaming network or hardware issues for application problems. “As a result,” Kostyu said, “we often have to do their jobs for them.” Lowndes County needed an easy way to document and verify that the network, servers and devices were performing properly to ensure that application vendors would accept responsibility and respond to trouble tickets quickly.Solution
Having tried a number of laptop/server-based network analysis tools with limited success, Lowndes County selected the OptiView XG Network Analysis Tablet. It delivers automated network and application analysis in a portable handheld solution to speed troubleshooting and give better performance insight. Much more than just a window into networks and applications, it allows users to see detailed information on specific problems, even at the packet level, and provides guided troubleshooting for remediation.
“A major benefit of the OptiView XG is that it allows me to better utilize my staff,” said Kostyu. “I can now confidently leverage technicians with less experience and expertise to handle problems that used to require a high-level technician to diagnose, let alone remediate. In effect, the OptiView XG pushes the years of experience of a senior technician to the edge and makes my entire team more capable.”
Lowndes County has been using the OptiView XG to both monitor the network, and to take into the field when a deeper inspection of a specific component is needed. Its combination of features, easy-to-understand insight tools and reporting capabilities has made it an indispensable solution for the team.
“We are now able to proactively deal with a variety of issues that we would previously have found only by going directly to a switch or from end-user reports,” noted Kostyu. “Now we have a corporate view of our network and we can find and fix problems before users even know they exist.”
The OptiView XG has made it simple to evaluate devices on the network, find rogue devices, identify the physical location of devices and retroactively document devices that hadn’t been properly documented when they were installed.
As a troubleshooting tool, the OptiView XG proved its value immediately. “A week after we bought the device, we used it to solve a problem we had with a state agency that had been ongoing for weeks,” Kostyu said. “They believed the problem was with our network. We used the tool to capture the traffic and create a report. It took just 20 minutes for the state agency to acknowledge that the problem was on their end and accept the task of fixing it– all thanks to the OptiView.”
Those reporting tools have also simplified the job of managing the county’s support interactions with third party application vendors. The reporting capabilities of the device, which go down to the individual network component level, allow Lowndes County’s IT staff to document that the network is operating properly and eliminate any doubt about the root cause of application problems.
Lowndes County’s IT team also uses the tablet when they set up new networks. Its ability to evaluate air quality, identify potential interference issues, and evaluate open channels and spectrum availability, streamline the network deployment process.
“To me, one of the most valuable aspects of the XG is that it integrates 3 wireless devices, 2 x 1Gbps ports and a 10 Gbps port into one tool,” said Kostyu. “You’re not going to find that kind of connectivity in a standard laptop and you won’t be able to get the same quality of analytics using software tools on a laptop, period.”
Each year, Kostyu and other local IT professionals pitch in to help a local charity upgrade its network with equipment donated from large vendors. During a recent effort for a local private Christian school, Kostyu noted that they were able to plug the XG into the school’s network — one they had never touched before — find all of the devices on the network in a matter of minutes, identify potential issues that might have hampered the installation of the donated equipment, and create a report that documented the upgraded network for the administration.
Kostyu is also impressed with intuitiveness of the OptiView XG. His staff required very little training to learn how to use it. But more importantly, with ClearSight Analyzer, the OptiView XG presents technicians with straightforward, easy-to-understand information that doesn’t require advanced skills to interpret. That allows less experienced staff to handle problems that would have previously required a more advanced technician.
“To a less experienced technician, packet logs can look like a lot of indecipherable data,” said Kostyu. “But the OptiView XG focuses on the information that’s most needed to diagnose and fix a problem. That’s invaluable.”