Managing a network across multiple sites requires knowledge of what’s going on at any given time to avoid performance issues and to plan for future bandwidth requirements. This is important to keep a local council running efficiently.
Plagued by network stability issues, Maroondah City Council set about improving the performance of its network for the 560 employees using it across 12 locations. These sites service the community needs of 110,000 residential properties in the City of Maroondah in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The council turned to Sinefa to improve the visibility on its network and gain much needed control.
- Zero visibility into devices and applications on the network
- Network performance issues led to increasing staff complaints
- Trialled different solutions that were all difficult to use and network traffic intensive
- Sinefa real-time network traffic insights
- Sinefa traffic shaping
- Diagnosis of network issues has been reduced by at least 50 percent
- Ability to easily report to executives when required
- Knowledge of how much bandwidth Microsoft Office 365 uses
- Better network performance with ability to prioritise applications and throttle bandwidth hungry network traffic
Maroondah City Council set about improving the performance of its network to provide a more efficient service for employees. It installed Sinefa’s real-time network traffic insights solution to gain insights into the applications and devices on its network, which was previously very difficult to do. The council now has confidence in knowing what is on its network, where problems are and what to fix. The overall time it takes to diagnose a network issue has been reduced by at least 50 percent.
All of Maroondah City Council’s sites are linked via a Telstra wide area network (WAN) as part of Telstra Cloud Services. The main applications that run on the network include integrated on-premise council solutions, point-of-sale and Microsoft Office 365.
The council’s two main sites are linked by a private 1GB pipe through Telstra and other locations are connected via MPLS links. Some locations were experiencing inconsistent application performance, which led to an increase in staff complaints to the IT team.
The council lacked the tools to easily or efficiently drill down to find out what was happening on its network – what was going where, how much traffic was on the network and which devices or applications were using up bandwidth. The IT team only had its Juniper switches to leverage, which do not provide easy to use, real-time analysis of network traffic.
“When we received calls that things were running slow or dropping out, we couldn’t quantify or explain why that was happening,” said Robert Sampson, IT group leader of infrastructure for Maroondah City Council. “We desperately needed to drive greater visibility to find out what was going on with devices and applications on the network.”
Maroondah City Council trialled a number of different solutions, including cloud-based and on-premise appliances, which were all difficult to use and network hungry. It needed a solution that was easy to use, simple, flexible and efficient.
Telstra recommended Sinefa’s real-time network traffic insights. During a 14-day trial in June 2017, Maroondah City Council was very impressed with the instant intuitiveness and network insights it provided.
As a result, the council installed one Sinefa probe at each of eight sites over four days, which were operational straight away. This enabled the IT team to gain real-time insight into the different traffic across its network, giving it the power to find problems and drill down to fix them.
“Installing Sinefa probes at each site was a piece of cake – each site was taken down for about five seconds when the cables were unplugged to put the device in the middle,” Sampson said. “Our network immediately came back up and Sinefa was ready to go. It was much easier and we experienced far less downtime than we had anticipated.”
The council is now leveraging Sinefa’s application classification to categorise and manage all applications on the network, enabling it to make better decisions about how the network should be behaving. The IT team, for example, has been able to pinpoint a problem with its document management system traffic, with communication failing intermittently between clients and servers. The issue has now been resolved in the application by the vendor.
“We now have the intelligence we need to go back to vendors to help support us as we investigate making some of that traffic public, so residents can use documents within that document management system,” added Sampson. “We now know what to expect when we synchronise documents from internal to public facing environments.”
Weekly reports provided by Sinefa enable the council to explore general network trends and forecast future bandwidth requirements and link speeds, to avoid any nasty bandwidth surprises.
Maroondah City Council is now also experimenting with Sinefa’s traffic shaping, particularly for throttling Apple iOS updates, which causes performance issues when staff update their devices. Initial use of traffic shaping has greatly improved performance during these periods.
“Being able to put a cap on iOS updates means that we can guarantee that network bandwidth is available for our staff to use when they need it,” Sampson said.
In addition, the council is looking at prioritising voice traffic across its smaller sites in certain situations, such as important council meetings that require live streaming, to ensure an efficient experience.
Maroondah City Council has been very impressed with the ease of use and efficiency Sinefa provides, which it states is hard to put a dollar figure on. With one tool now in place, instead of piecing three different sets of information together, the overall time it takes to diagnose a network issue has been reduced by at least 50 percent.
“Anytime we get a question about what’s happening on the network, we can now find a problem very quickly,” Sampson commented. “Without having Sinefa in place, we wouldn’t have easily known about that problem. We’re now confident in knowing what’s on our network and where to focus our attention.”
Before Sinefa was installed, the council was concerned about the huge amount of bandwidth usage that would be generated from migrating to Microsoft Office 365, particularly given the large volumes of email travelling back and forth. Sinefa has shown that it is not close to being the highest usage of bandwidth on the network, which was very surprising to the IT team.
The visibility that Sinefa provides helps the IT team report to the council’s executives when required. When network changes need to be made, the team now has the information available to provide a stronger argument as to why changes are required and the clear path that will be taken.
Sinefa’s traffic shaping has also made Maroondah City Council aware of devices draining bandwidth at certain times of the day on the pubic wi-fi services it offers at its sites, as well as during community events.
“Sinefa quickly showed us that our public wi-fi networks were using 70 percent of the bandwidth capacity during these peak times,” Sampson said. “A very quick configuration change resulted in the corporate traffic being prioritised and staff being able to work more efficiently during these periods.”
Moving forward, Maroondah City Council will leverage Sinefa to make sure it can provide the adequate bandwidth needed for any new sites that it establishes, as well as quantify any requirements for further expansion into cloud based environments.