"We had spent a considerable amount of time evaluating NetCrunch and another tool called WhatsUp Gold and found the former to be the leader due to its superior graphical monitoring capabilities and a friendlier user interface. With one look at NetCrunch, its ability to open one console and know exactly what's happening on the network, we knew it was a necessity. "
Network Systems Administrator
The Lord Selkirk School Division, Selkirk, Canada
Selkirk's IT team is tasked with overseeing 10 NetWare 6 and Windows 2003 servers, 1600 workstations, 8 Cisco 2950 switches on the core unit and 15 wireless point-to-point bridges. The network infrastructure is divided into Administration, Payroll, Accounts Payable and Technology. Just like in the case of other educational institutions, all sections depend on the network connectivity and require the maximum uptime. Student and staff servers must be up during and after school to facilitate classroom instruction, school administration and access to data. The same applies to the Administration network that has to be accessible for critical lookups.
Prior to installing NetCrunch, the Division's IT strategy didn't include any formal system of monitoring the network from a single point of administration. With the growing dependence on the computing facilities in the teaching, learning and administration process, the logical move was the search for a lightweight monitoring solution that would reduce the amount of problem diagnosis and the resulting visits to remote sites spread across such a large territory. Other key selection criteria for an ideal monitoring tool included quick deployment, the depth of monitoring and ability to visualize the network structure and alert administrators of problems.
Said Brad Bowman, the Division's Network and Systems Administrator: "We had spent a considerable amount of time evaluating NetCrunch and another tool called WhatsUp Gold and found the former to be the leader due to its superior graphical monitoring capabilities and a friendly user interface. With one look at NetCrunch, its ability to open one console and know exactly what's happening on the network, we knew it was a necessity."
Admittedly, NetCrunch got off to a perfect start in the Selkirk network: "This tool took 5 minutes to deploy due to our point-to-point wireless infrastructure. And because it turned out to be so intuitive to use, no training was necessary."
When run for the first time, NetCrunch automatically displayed dynamic maps of the logical and physical layers of the Selkirk network and immediately started testing local and remote connectivity as well as tracking system utilization on devices such as servers, routers or switches. As a real-life example Bowman quoted NetCrunch's 24 hour polling feature that allowed him to identify and repair an intermittent problem in a wireless connection.
In its daily administration, Selkirk's IT team relies on NetCrunch's flexible, agentless monitoring functionality that is built on powerful graphical capabilities. Using the program's real-time graphing feature, Bowman and his colleagues track graphical statistics about the overall uptime and performance of their WAN, and also about the status of any individual network host or service that is running on a given host.
Alerting has been another crucial aspect of the new NetCrunch-based monitoring strategy in the Selkirk network. The program's flexible proactive alerting system detects network events and symptoms of developing conditions and performs user-defined actions such as notification vie email, pager, ICM or SMS (to name a few), sending an SNMP trap or starting a local or remote corrective action. "By using NetCrunch's alerting feature we've been able to identify problems early on and thus keep our clients happy. And they would be even happier if they realized how many problems we solved before they ever noticed there was one."
Centralized diagnostic and troubleshooting capabilities and the ability to control the network over the web proved to offer the greatest value because of the distances the Division's technicians have to cover. "Our entire WAN is managed by NetCrunch. If an outage occurs in any of 14 schools within our network, we can log into the NetCrunch console, quickly locate the problem and diagnose it from anywhere. The utilities contained in this tool load with very little resources, not tying up technician time and making it possible to do rapid service updates in an emergency. When an internet connection is down somewhere, we know immediately where the problem is before a remote site calls in. There is no time wasted calling remote sites for status or updates on their connectivity and we've been able to reduce a significant amount of mileage to sites."
According to Bowman, time has been the major cost savings factor in using NetCrunch. "If you think of the typical time frames for problem detection, isolation and resolution, this software can cut your time in half, freeing you up to start new strategic projects. Another great benefit we've enjoyed with NetCrunch is the freedom to move about the schools without worrying about emergencies. I'm positive that for an affordable, lightweight and comprehensive monitoring system as NetCrunch is, we got the greatest value for money."
Headquartered in the City of Selkirk located 34 kilometers north of Manitoba's capital city of Winnipeg, The Lord Selkirk School Division is made up of 14 K-12 schools serving 5,000 students from the local community scattered over an area of 680 square miles. With over 600 teachers and support staff, the Division is a largest public sector employer in the Selkirk community.