At Ideal, we're rightly proud of our managed services, and the team of in-house experts who work to proactively identify and resolve customer network issues before they become business problems. You'll have heard us use the word 'excellence' - it's what we aim for across our business, and it's what helps an SME like us win and retain high-profile clients - but what does it mean in practice? Let me tell you what we're delivering for a distributed global client.
Our client is a leading manufacturer and service provider, with global operations spanning upwards of 250 locations in more than 50 countries. Its sites range from large manufacturing locations through to small sites without an onsite IT presence. Given this, and a history of growth through mergers and acquisitions, there's no 'typical' infrastructure at a site, but Cisco hardware is at the core of each.
The locations themselves and the global WAN that connects them were previously under the management of one of the large service providers. While they were delivering on the relatively simple WAN management, they'd failed to truly get to grips with each of the local networks: only a portion of the hardware had been on-boarded, and the supported hardware wasn't always correctly set up for SMARTnet - Cisco's integrated technical assistance and hardware support service.
A significant portion of the network was running on legacy hardware, meaning SMARTnet wasn't even an option, but the client hadn't been made aware of this. Furthermore, incomplete setup and a lack of attention to detail in the LAN management meant that the client had a fragmented and incomplete picture of its own global network.
The result? Rather than the service provider proactively identifying and managing issues, the client was discovering problems AFTER they had already become business issues. Worse, the incomplete support picture meant that problems were arising on hardware which the service provider wasn't even aware it was meant to be supporting, adding a degree of confusion.
Worldwide managed network services
Our client has a global network support team of 10 people, without the time to get involved with a support function that's supposed to have been outsourced. They need a network partner to take responsibility for the active auditing, monitoring, management and support of their local networks.
In December 2015, after more than a year of planning, Ideal began the process of taking on the LAN management at a number of our client's global sites. Working with customer-supplied network maps, we're querying 66 networks to properly audit their devices and configuration. Our engineers have produced a global configuration standard, signed off by the client, which, in the first phase, we've rolled out to 400 network devices across 31 sites spanning 18 countries. As we go we're configuring each device for a centralised authentication system, ensuring appropriate and consistent security across the enterprise, and enabling an audit trail of logons and changes.
What makes Ideal the right partner for such a distributed, major project? I can point to several attributes that, together, I'd argue constitute minimum requirements:
- We're LAN experts with a track record in high-quality support. Our 24/7 network operations centre is highly proactive: identifying issues through active monitoring and regular system reviews
- We're highly accredited experts in designing, supplying and supporting Cisco systems
- We're an expert Cisco support contract supplier, delivering savings and insight throughout the process
- We manage everything in-house, using our own accredited experts
Those are the basics, but here I can give you a bit more of an idea of what we mean when we talk about 'excellence'. Ideal's thorough preparation quickly identified our client's legacy hardware issue. Once we explained the significance of this to the global support picture, the client embarked on a $1 million switch upgrade programme that will let it bring the full network into SMARTnet.
While we're already a 24/7 company, expanding our offering for a client spanning most time zones presents some additional requirements - the middle of the day for us might be the middle of the night for them, after all.
After a smooth first stage rollout, the client's feedback reflects the expertise we've put behind the project, our meticulous planning and preparation, and our ability to adapt and respond when needed. The project is expanding and ongoing, with another 30 or more sites due to be on-boarded by the end of the year.
Header image: NASA Visible Earth project