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Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin is the largest of the 183 autonomous Goodwills and affiliates worldwide. More than 4,000 Goodwill employees work in over 50 locations throughout 23 counties in southeastern Wisconsin and metropolitan Chicago carrying out Goodwill's mission to provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence.

The Challenge

The IT infrastructure that keeps this busy and growing organization running smoothly is large and complex. Comprised of 40 physical servers and 50 virtual servers configured into 65 networked sites linked by T1 lines into Minneapolis to VPN (virtual private networks) and ISDN (high speed internet connections) dial-ups, it supports over 2,000 users and 400 workstations on its end-to-end network.

"Visibility into what's going on is key to effectively managing a network infrastructure," observed Bob Branski, the Systems Administrator responsible for ensuring that Goodwill's wide and local area networks, and all of the servers running on them, operate at the peak performance levels vital to Goodwill's day to day operations. "As our network grew in size and complexity, troubleshooting, finding and fixing problems was becoming more and more of a burden."

Network problems were impacting Goodwill's end users in many ways. Annoying performance degradations slowed system response times and timed out process requests. More serious problems, like being unable to access email and the internet, or utilize file and printer resources across the network, interfered with workers' productivity.

The Solution

Branski was using the Zenoss open source IT operations management utility to monitor network performance. It allowed him to see high utilization, monitor bandwidth and changes in traffic levels and spot dropped packets. It was useful, but to speed problem resolution, he found he now really needed much deeper insight into which systems were communicating and which ones were generating traffic tying up the network.

"We had invested a lot of time and effort into integrating the Zenoss tool into our environment, so we wanted a solution that would work with Zenoss as well as give us the views we needed into what each of the systems on the network was doing at any point in time. We did an evaluation, downloading and playing with demo versions of several tools. It quickly became clear that Plixer's Scrutinizer was the perfect solution for us. The demo was simple to install - we had it up and running in just two hours -- and we were able to start diagnosing problems right away. And it's tightly integrated with Zenoss, which made integrating into our current workflow a snap."

Tangible Results

With Scrutinizer, Branski can now see details for all of the data flows between systems, track which systems are talking to which other systems, track which hosts, applications and protocols are using the most network traffic, and monitor the volume generated by each device to detect network problems in the early stages and proactively correct them before they impact end users.

"Now when I get an alert from Zenoss of high utilization, I just go into Scrutinizer to instantly pinpoint which device is causing the problem. Before, it often took several hours of troubleshooting, hunting through the network machine by machine. Scrutinizer lets us diagnose and isolate the root cause of a problem fast, so resolution time for most problems is now down to a few minutes."

Branski gives Plixer's support team high marks, praising them as extremely responsive in answering questions. He especially appreciated the way they worked ‘over my shoulder' via the internet to help with all of the set up and configuration, and then taking the installation beyond the initial set up to help Goodwill implement and take advantage of the product's more advanced features.

"I have to say, the Scrutinizer product is refreshing. It does everything it's advertised to do and more, it was painless to implement, it's easy to use and it gives me exactly what I need to keep my networks humming along and my end users happy," Branski concluded.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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