PRTG Is Network Monitoring’s Top Dog, Says Boston-Based IT Firm

Top Dog Solutions

Top Dog Solutions is a Boston-based developer of out-of-the-box business intelligence solutions for small and medium size distribution and logistics organizations. Additionally, Top Dog Solutions does IT consulting and project work for larger organizations, including managing services. Today, the company’s solutions are used by more than 100 organizations across North America with more than 1,000 user seats.

Sullivan Tire

Sullivan Tire is one of the largest independent retailers of tires and auto parts in New England. Founded in 1955, Sullivan Tire has expanded to nearly 80 locations across five states with 1,000 associates. Sullivan Tire operates more than 60 auto care facilities, 15 commercial truck centers and three Bandag retreading manufacturing facilities.

The Auto Business Has Many Moving Parts

Sullivan Tire came to Top Dog Solutions in 2007 seeking help on a project that would centralize IT operations and build out a help desk. Sullivan Tire has a large retail operation that requires a variety of IT services which need to be provided at each of Sullivan Tire’s locations. Additionally, each location needs to communicate with two corporate offices in Norwell and Taunton.

Top Dog took on the project and maintained a consulting relationship with Sullivan where they managed some services and continued to architect IT operations. In 2012, Sullivan’s IT operations had grown to a size and complexity that required additional tools to help manage the expansive infrastructure which involved a number of complex systems that grew with the number of retail locations.

Sullivan’s infrastructure included two main corporate offices and more than 60 stores, a total of 68 physical locations. Each retail store has its own point of sale (PoS) system which handles all retail transactions and keeps track of inventory. That information has to be communicated back to the main office every time a purchase is made for supply chain and financial accountability. This data also has to be backed up both locally at the store with iBackup and at the corporate headquarters with a Riverbed appliance. Needless to say, a lot of data is moving back and forth over the network.

Each retail location is also home to a host of other technologies that require monitoring – VoIP, landline phones, customer WiFi, virtualized and physical servers, and cloud applications. And, Sullivan also does business through a customer-facing website which needs monitoring to assure uptime and has to connect with POS systems to ensure accurate inventory.

Finding The Right Solution

Daniel Levine, Vice President of Operations at Top Dog and the head of the Sullivan Tire project, decided that he needed more insight into Sullivan’s IT operations and a technology that could keep an eye on their systems when he couldn’t. He started investigating network monitoring tools, and after testing several including products from Ipswitch and SolarWinds, he decided to go with PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler, citing its flexibility, scalability, and MSP-friendly pricing model.

“Before we had PRTG, there would be massive slowdowns at the corporate offices because some store was doing what they shouldn’t be doing, and it got embarrassing. People had to pull plugs out of servers. There was no way of finding out about these problems without something like PRTG,” Levine said, adding that the unlimited PRTG license allowed him to scale the network monitoring deployment to more than 12,000 sensors (measuring points), including 60 remote probes, without going over-budget. “With the type of network they have everything is spread out, so there wasn’t a better fit in terms of pricing or flexibility.”

Levine said that PRTG has helped turn Sullivan’s IT operations from reactive to proactive, and eliminated many of the network bottlenecks that had plagued the corporate offices. The insight he gets from PRTG eliminates the reliance on employees identifying IT problems and calling them in, and has seen the number of support tickets fall significantly.

“It has totally transformed the IT services of the company. Before, you were relying on someone to call in from the store to learn about problems. Now we know everything, even something like knowing a printer is out of ink,” Levine said.

Levine has been able to use PRTG Network Monitor to optimize operations – everything from ensuring antivirus definitions are pushed out at appropriate times to minimize network interference, to monitoring servers for disk failures, to tracking the inventory database with PRTG’s SQL sensor. Most importantly, Levine has been able to eliminate the unnecessary network activity that brought traffic between the corporate office and retail locations to a crawl, stymying company operations.

“We’ve eliminated a lot of problems in the corporate office thanks to PRTG. A year ago, we had Internet traffic coming through the corporate office to the people, and if someone was downloading something large, it would slow down the network and everything would grind to a halt. The inventory wouldn’t get down to the store,” Levine said.

Top Dog now uses PRTG with three other clients aside from Sullivan. And, while they enjoy the cost savings that comes from Paessler’s customer-friendly licensing options, they are also able to use PRTG to help customers spend less on bandwidth, networking equipment and virtualization. Levine said that his customers no longer throw bandwidth and additional servers at problems that can be solved easily, and often times for less cost.

“You might increase your bandwidth and find that you have an old switch in here that is a bottleneck,” he said. “We were able to find these things, and they weren’t expensive fixes, but beforehand we were throwing money at bandwidth.”