Very connected audiences at live events like Coachella or Lollapalooza, challenge the temporary data networks that support them. TOURtech is now using Sinefa to transform network performance at 80-100 events every year, gaining much needed visibility and control of network traffic. This has helped TOURtech significantly improve the services it offers, as well as customer satisfaction.
- Huge amount of network traffic using bandwidth during live events
- Limited time to set up temporary networks
- Difficult to provide a consistent user experience across the network
- Being reactive to network performance issues
- Gained ability to identify, block or reduce traffic when required
- Fixed network congestion issues
- Reduced network performance complaints during events
- Improved customer satisfaction
Emerging technologies have transformed almost every aspect of live events, turning a sporting match, music festival or corporate event into an experience like no other. Whether smartphones are used to share experiences on social media; RFID wristbands for access control; cashless payment systems; or video streaming, all of these technologies need a reliable local data network and internet connectivity to make live events a success.
US-based TOURtech provides temporary network solutions, VoIP services and targeted public Wi-Fi for 80-100 temporary events every year, including Coachella, Lollapalooza and iHeartRadio. The company turned to Sinefa to transform the performance of its networks and gain much needed visibility and control of network traffic during the
Challenge: To set up a robust solution that can handle high bandwidth utilisation in the limited times allocated for live events
Founded in California in 2002 with its headquarters now in North Carolina, TOURtech provides fast, reliable connections to support event productions, merchandise, food and beverage sales, access control and sponsorship. Given limited connectivity and very connected audiences, live networks are challenged by the huge amount of traffic using bandwidth.
"Things that are innocuous in an office situation become a very big problem in a temporary environment," said Allen Cook, CEO and founder of TOURtech. "We don't have much time to set our networks up, nor do we have the luxury of time to deeply analyse or troubleshoot where problems lie."
TOURtech attempted to manage network traffic for events by building firewall rules through its existing solutions - Fortinet, Cisco Meraki and pfSense, as well as using third party DNS tools like Open DNS to restrict access to certain websites. However, without a network-wide solution, it was difficult to track traffic without doing a lot of time consuming analysis.
TOURtech needed a solution that could provide the full robustness of Layer 7 shaping beyond the firewall, to identify, block or reduce the types of traffic over its temporary networks as required. Sinefa met all of TOURtech's requirements and was selected to improve the performance of its event networks.
"We often only have one or two days to set up a network, so we needed a solution that would allow us to be up and running almost instantly and to manage and modify it on the fly," commented Cook. "Sinefa offered us a vendor agnostic solution that would allow us to focus on using the best product for the task, with its solution sitting in between to manage the traffic. We couldn't find anything else like it on the market."
Solution: Implementing Sinefa in all temporary network setups for a high quality user experience
TOURtech deployed Sinefa's unified management and visualisation solution in 2015, following a successful two week trial. Implementation was quick and easy, with every network running Sinefa within a matter of weeks.
Sinefa's network probe and accompanying dashboard app provide TOURtech's office and field staff with the visibility and control to identify and manage recreational users and apps on its event networks at any given time. The solution combines Layer 7 visibility with network quality metrics, so TOURtech can quickly understand how bandwidth is being used at each event. This analysis enables the company to find out information about event attendees, such as the different websites they are visiting based on IP addresses or the part of the network they are in.
The information enables TOURtech to detect any anomalies that may warrant some extra investigation and address issues that are impacting network performance, which it was not able to do previously. This might entail either redirecting or blocking traffic.
Not only does this knowledge enable TOURtech to maintain a high quality user experience for applications and services on its temporary networks, it also allows the company to plan its future networks accordingly.
"Network performance problems at events remain pervasive, no matter how much bandwidth is available," commented Cook. "This is due, in part, to the nature of applications, and in part to the convergence of users, devices and applications onto these networks."
The company now uses Sinefa for every major event it is involved in from start to finish, with a physical probe built into each core networking system.
Since introducing Sinefa into its networks, TOURtech's network congestion has significantly decreased. Previously, bandwidth was unmanaged, which meant that backhaul connectivity needed to be oversupplied by 10-30 percent annually to keep pace with the rapid increase in demand at music festivals. By eliminating some of that traffic, it no longer sees huge leaps in connectivity.
"Connectivity is one of the largest costs for an event, which is a third party cost to us," added Cook. "Anything we can do to optimise bandwidth utilisation helps our bottom line, and means we can also pass the benefits on to our clients."
By increasing network performance during events, TOURtech receives far fewer performance concerns from clients, which not only saves time to handle calls from them, it also improves customer satisfaction.
"The greatest benefit Sinefa offers us is that it works whether you are highly technical or not, whether you are in the field or in the office," added Cook.