NetFlow Offers Increased Quality of Service, Security, and Decreased Troubleshooting Expense
Telecommunications service providers not only monitor their own business’ network, but they are also responsible for monitoring the networks of hundreds of customers. With these additional connections and access points, they require network monitoring tools to ensure security and to perform accurate and rapid troubleshooting for customers.
Allo Communications, a Nebraska-based Competitive Local Exchange Carrier, offers telephone, television, and internet services to commercial and residential customers. As their business and services expanded, they required better insight into their network to manage and optimize customer experiences.
Some of their customers are savvy with BitTorrent file sharing protocols and know how to manipulate traffic patterns to gain unwarranted excessive bandwidth, so Allo needed to place Quality of Service (QoS) prioritizations on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and internet-based television traffic. Customer troubleshooting was costly and often required dispatching on-site technicians who plugged in a packet analyzer, a tool that gives a closer look into the data stream, to review bidirectional network traffic.
Similarly, Maine-based communications provider Oxford Networks needed to monitor network uptime to ensure QoS. Because commercial customers often utilize VoIP, Oxford Networks needed a tool to proactively provide detailed information for VoIP trending and analysis. “As our customer base grew, the need for concrete proof of Service Level Agreements became a necessity,” said Oxford Networks’ IP Engineer, Keith Corson.
International communications providers also have similar requirements to monitor network traffic and provide quality to their customers. 8el provides communication solutions including VoIP telephony, Internet Service Provider services, and wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) to over 100 UK businesses. As with Allo Communications and Oxford Networks, 8el knew their solutions were in Cisco’s NetFlow technology to provide deeper insight into internal and customer networks. NetFlow technology monitors and records all IP traffic passing through the supported router or switch, such as IP addresses, source port number, destination port number, and type of services. When captured by a NetFlow analyzer, this technology provides the detailed insight required to isolate network threats and monitor traffic patterns.
Allo’s IT team reviewed several collector solutions, looking to improve response time for customers, to set traffic thresholds, and to gain accurate historical trends over long periods of time. “I wanted to see detailed history over time, but pie charts just don’t provide a complete picture,” Colton said. teleHe investigated and found a tool offering all their required features: Scrutinizer NetFlow Analyzer from Plixer International, Inc.
This capture and analysis tool has become a primary way to troubleshoot and decrease time to resolution for Allo. Using the software’s Google maps network overlay component, their helpdesk can more efficiently solve customer issues without dispatching on-site technicians. If an on-site technician is needed, the technician can eliminate troubleshooting and instead go straight to the problem, reducing Allo’s financial costs.
8el has also discovered the benefits of NetFlow analysis. Regularly, customers notify 8el of slow connectivity which their Network Operations Center resolves with tools like Scrutinizer. Because the 8el IT team believes customers can often resolve their own issues if they had access to the same graphical reports, they secured Plixer’s Service Provider Module (SPM) which allows 8el’s customers access without compromising the security or privacy. The SPM provides customers a secure login to see only their individual traffic.
“Our customers can observe their traffic patterns at anytime,” said Karl Jackson, Head of Networks at 8el. “This module allows our customers to create their own favorite reports and narrow in on odd traffic patterns.”
NetFlow analysis has become increasingly indispensable to Oxford Networks for monitoring both its corporate LAN and ISP network and providing enhanced services to customers. “As a value-added benefit, we provide a limited number of our high-bandwidth business customers with access to generate graphs and reporting tools to help them manage their networks,” said Corson.
Because telecommunications service providers monitor both their own business networks and those of hundreds of customers, they require tools like Scrutinizer for traffic trending, for troubleshooting improvement, and to forecast bandwidth needs for their own and their customers’ future business growth. “Scrutinizer hasn’t only provided savings to our bottom line, but it has become an integral part of our daily operations,” Colton said.
In addition to Allo Communications, 8el, and Oxford Networks, other telecommunications providers have also recognized the benefits of using NetFlow analysis and capture tools to uphold network security. With automatic logging and reporting on all network traffic, businesses can now understand and manipulate the detailed interactions between systems.