TMC Communications, of Santa Barbara, Calif, resells telecommunications services such as phone, voice over Internet protocol, data and other enhanced services mostly to business customers. The business, which has 45 employees, including several who work remotely, found that it could best control its internal use of bandwidth – and avoid the cost of adding bandwidth – by deploying an application delivery system, IT director Alan Nafziger tells IncTechnology.com.
Elizabeth Wasserman: What type of problems were you trying to solve by deploying a network management solution?
Alan Nafziger: We move a lot of data around. Being a telecom reseller, we do a lot of billing and we get a lot of data from carriers and have to process that data. We also do a lot of backup. We have a hot standby database at Rackspace for disaster recovery, so we are continually transferring Oracle files to the backup database in case of an earthquake, a fire, or what not. We have a nice, bonded T1 circuit with a 3 Meg pipe that we are able to fully utilize. We also run our own Web services and have people who work offsite and connect through a remote desktop VPN into our network. As soon as we deployed Rackspace for disaster recovery, we had issues with our remote people. They reported slow, intermittent service. Basically, the network was choking off the remote applications.
Wasserman: What did you decide to do?
Nafziger: We were reselling a product from Streamcore and, in the process, we realized that the product was practical for us to use. It lets you see exactly what’s going on with the network at an application level. It’s different than just shoving traffic through the network. You can see what’s going on at a granular level – which applications are taking up bandwidth. If someone calls in and says the website is slow, I can look and see if it is a network problem or an application problem. It enables me to be much more intelligent in terms of where we put our resources and in terms of troubleshooting.
Wasserman: How did this help you with your remote workers?
Nafziger: We have a handful of people who work from remote locations. One guy works in Thailand and every night at 1 a.m. he was kicked off our network or reported things being slow. Since we’re a telecom reseller, we get all call detail records come in over night. We get all these FTP downloads between midnight and 2 a.m. But as soon as we put in the solution and turned on the optimization feature, we could prioritize which application gets bandwidth at any time. It not only tells you what’s going on but helps you control it. Anyone can look outside and see what the weather is doing, but can they control it? This allows you to assign a higher priority to traffic moving in an interactive way, such as voice over IP, any real time protocol traffic, Web conferencing, audio visual streaming, and so on. In our situation, we have a remote desktop protocol, a Citrix or RDP session that we don’t want to be interrupted.
Wasserman: What have the results been?
Nafziger: I haven’t heard from him since regarding those complaints. We’re not getting as many complaints in general and I’m also able to give the websites that our agents sign into a higher priority than the file transfers. The results are that I get a maximum use of my bandwidth. If the bandwidth is available, and there are no remote sessions, those file transfers get to take up the whole pipe. The result is a more efficient use of my network. I could have added more bandwidth to solve the problem and our remote employees still would have been choked out. This is a more intelligent way to address the situation. I don’t have to buy another circuit or a single, dedicated circuit to do all file transfers. It’s plenty of bandwidth if it’s managed properly. People that throw bandwidth at a problem without understanding the applications running over the circuit are really doing themselves a disservice. They’re attacking the symptom, not the problem.