Carrollton City Schools had routine network and application issues across its sites, yet lacked the appropriate tools to truly understand and fix the problems. What monitoring software it did have would alert the IT team of trouble, but not identify the specific problem or recommend solutions. As a result, the IT team often spent weeks or months chasing down and solving network and application issues. Complicating matters, the district was in the process of creating a BYOD environment, and the inability to pinpoint issues threatened to lose support from administrators and staff for the new capability.
NetScout OptiView® XG Network Analysis Tablet
The district IT department selected the NetScout OptiView XG to provide the deep insight and analysis needed to quickly identify and solve its network and application performance challenges. The dedicated network analysis tablet not only provides both a complete system overview and detailed information on particular issues, but recommends the changes and solutions necessary to improve performance. In fact the IT group is now eliminating its other monitoring tools, because the OptiView XG does everything they can do, and more.
The Carrollton City School System, established in 1886, is one of the oldest districts in Georgia, with five schools serving more than 4,600 students. Each site has from 350 to 1,000 devices, and varies considerably in usage and sophistication from elementary to high school. A small IT team works to keep this diverse ecosystem of devices and users online at all times, relying heavily on troubleshooting tools in the process.
I can troubleshoot all day long with other tools, but OptiView XG gives me a complete view all the way from the connection to the server, with detailed information and recommendations. No forums needed, no research, it just tells me. It’s like having my own full-time engineer and team member, it’s that intelligent.
– Shawn Brown, IT Director, Carrollton City School System
Given this eclectic environment, the various school sites would routinely run into network or application performance issues. The IT team used other network performance tools to set alarms and monitor performance, which alerted them to problems but wouldn’t provide much additional guidance other than a vague understanding of where to look. As a result the team could spend weeks or longer tracking down issues.
“In one recent instance, we had two schools that would lose their Internet connection at the same time every day,” said Shawn Brown, IT director for the Carrollton City School System. “That went on for two months. Our monitoring software would dutifully alert us, but that was about it. We upgraded memory, changed firewall settings, adjusted system resources, etc., but nothing helped. Finally by chance we caught one machine broadcasting too much traffic, which tipped us off to a virus issue. But there was a high frustration level and our technicians were routinely getting pretty beat up.”
As the year progressed, additional issues surfaced: slow network responses, service outages, unpredictable service levels and more. “You could sit in a classroom and try five websites, and four would time out – and we had no idea why,” Brown noted.
Yet in situations like that the department’s monitoring software said everything was fine: switches were okay, network ports were open, servers didn’t report problems. But clearly there were issues with the network.
Complicating matters was the district’s plans to roll out a BYOD environment. Each school would have widely varying requirements in that scenario; the number and type of devices at the local elementary would be vastly different from those hitting the high school VLAN. And the team knew that to properly provide stable service, they would need to quickly and accurately pinpoint and correct any problems that might arise – or risk losing support for the initiative with administrators and staff.
So Brown and his team started looking for a solution that would support them in the process, providing a tool that would drill deep into network and application layers so they could see a problem, identify a solution and quickly resolve the issue. And that’s when Brown came upon the OptiView XG from NetScout.Solution
“When I started reading about the OptiView XG, I told myself that if the claims were true this was a tool I had to have,” Brown said. OptiView XG delivers automated network and application analysis in a portable handheld solution to speed troubleshooting and give better performance insight. Much more than just a simple monitoring solution, it allows users to see detailed information on specific problems – and then it recommends solutions.
“Once I saw some demos and tried out the product, I quickly realized we wouldn’t be renewing our license and support services for our other tools. OptiView XG does everything they do and more, and we’re just going to roll everything over to the new solution,” Brown notes.
With the OptiView XG, Brown and his team can quickly resolve issues as they arise to keep the Carrollton City School system up and running. In fact, when Brown first plugged the tool into the network it immediately identified DNS configuration issues his team wasn’t aware of.
“We had consolidated a number of legacy devices onto new systems, and didn’t even realize that had spawned DNS problems that were impacting application performance,” Brown explained. “Yet the OptiView XG immediately identified the issue and told us exactly what to do to fix it.”
And for Brown, that is a key benefit of the new tool. Other solutions might alert to a general issue and then leave it up to the user to spend hours or days researching potential solutions, but OptiView XG identifies specific problems and offers suggestions for correcting them and improving overall performance.
“I can troubleshoot all day long with other tools, but OptiView XG gives me a complete view all the way from the connection to the server, with detailed information and recommendations. No forums needed, no research, it just tells me. It’s like having my own full-time engineer and team member, it’s that intelligent,” he said.
Moving forward, the IT team is in the process of restructuring and segmenting much of the network from the ground up – and will use the OptiView XG’s analysis and reporting to establish baseline metrics so they can measure improvement. “The device is so easy to use that we can run more tests than ever before, then quickly pull up a report to show my boss a nice graphical representation of the information.”
“I’m truly impressed with the entire device,” Brown concluded. “It’s lightening fast, intuitive, and the problem analysis is really the best. Unlike other tools, the OptiView XG doesn’t just tell me about a problem, it helps me solve it. And between the time that saves me and the speed with which we can get users back online, there’s really no comparison.”