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Tri-County Technical College Monitors Networks with PRTG

Tri-County Technical College in South Carolina has gone public with its installation of Paessler's PRTG Network Monitor, an application that has been in place since mid-2008. Prior to the implementation, the college relied on a "plethora" of vendor-specific monitoring tools for servers, UPSes, switches, and bandwidth, according to IT Operations Manager Matt Edwards. "With an ever growing network and small staff we needed more 'eyes' on the network," he said. "Being able to monitor all those devices in one interface with PRTG has decreased the amount of time needed to monitor and manage devices."

Previously, he said, outage notifications would be inconsistent, and some monitoring tools didn't provide the kind of reporting flexibility the IT team wanted. He added that by moving to an integrated set of tools for notifications and reports, training within the operations team has been simplified.

The college has 6,000 students and 400 staff members at three campuses. "As online and evening courses grow in popularity, we are charged with keeping the network optimal 24/7," he said.

PRTG Network Monitor watches uptime and downtime, traffic and usage, SNMP, NetFlow, and packet sniffing, among other forms of monitoring. Each type of network service--PING, HTTP, SMTP, POP3, FTP, etc.--uses a different sensor. Request times and downtimes are constantly recorded to a database, which is used to generate real-time and historic reports for bandwidth demand, traffic patterns, and server performance. Notifications of failures can be sent to the administrator via e-mail, SMS, or pager.

Edwards previously had experience with open source solutions that were similar, "and I knew the time that was involved to set those up from scratch." This time, he said, he wanted a supported product that "worked out of the box in our mostly Windows environment."

After testing a free version of the product, the college upgraded to a paid version. Pricing, which is included on the company's Web site, lists a version of the software with licenses for 500 sensors at $750.

Initially, the institution monitored external traffic coming into campus, critical network ports across campus, and Web services such as online learning and the school portal. "As we purchased more sensors, we have expanded that with many types of sensors such as room temperatures, UPS voltages, CPU usage on switches, free disk space, e-mail traffic, Web-site performance, and many others," he said. "Currently, we have over 700 sensors throughout all our campuses."

Edwards said he's pleased with the results of the software. "The alerting in itself has helped our team to respond to issues much faster and also gives us a way to know what is going on with the network--from network anomalies to power outages--while we are not on campus. Also, the graphing and reporting helps our customers see how the network is performing."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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