Feb 26 2008

Flipping the Switch

Wesleyan School deploys HP ProCurve switches as part of its network overhaul.

Sluggish computers. Painstakingly slow Internet access. PowerPoint presentations bogging down the network – and often failing to open altogether.

Thankfully, these unsavory issues – which represent just a sampling of the problems that once hindered the educational process at Wesleyan School – have graduated for good as the result of a networking revamp at the Norcross, Ga., campus. “Our new solution is working very well,” says Alfredo Piedra, network administrator at the 1,075-student K-12 institution.

The deployment of 24 Hewlett Packard ProCurve switches was a fundamental part of the school’s extensive network overhaul. Comprised of a variety of models, including the 2800, 3500, 4200 and 5400 series, the switches offer access security and advanced prioritization and traffic-monitoring capabilities for secure network routing. At Wesleyan, the solution has yielded numerous advantages.

“They definitely help us a lot with network traffic at the school,” Piedra says. “The file transfer and access to the network are so much faster. The computers run a lot faster. There is much less wait time, which makes for happier students and teachers.”

In fact, the new switches have increased network access so dramatically that earlier plans to upgrade Wesleyan’s Internet system have been shelved. In addition to improving the ease of Web surfing – as well as delivering lightning-speed file retrieval for students and teachers – the functionality of the new switches allows Wesleyan to run virtually all of its applications through the network, as opposed to on individual desktops.

“We have moved almost all of them to the server, which gives us the ability to run a lot more applications,” Piedra says.

Furthermore, by providing remote access to more than 600 computers spread out among nine campus buildings, the switches are preserving some significant IT work hours. “This solution saves us a tremendous amount of time,” Piedra says. “That’s a very precious thing around here. It’s great that we no longer have to go to each individual desk or building to access a computer.”

Ideal for medium to large networks, HP’s ProCurve switches deliver exceptional performance advantages for PCs, notebooks and servers. Piedra says that he especially appreciates the solution’s management capabilities, much of which are facilitated by the ProCurve Manager software that works in conjunction with the switches to supply all of the tools needed to effectively manage the network.

Boasting features such as device auto-discovery, troubleshooting alerts and easy configuration options, the switches and software are a powerful combination for customers using ProCurve devices with limited administration resources, as is the case at Wesleyan.

“There are only two of us here [in the IT department],” Piedra says, “but we have 20 servers, more than 600 computers, plus various other pieces of equipment, and networked printers. It’s nice to be able to sit at one desk and manage all of the switches from one place at one time.”

ProCurve Manager provides users with simple health status, event visibility and network mapping of devices. Upon boot up, a status screen displays high-level information on various network devices, end nodes and events. At this point a user can research any one of these areas to obtain further details.

In addition, an events summary screen sends alerts categorized by severity via e-mail or pager any time there is a potential problem, making it easier to track and resolve bottlenecks within the network.

“They will tell us if there is a problem with anything,” Piedra says.

Deployment of the switches at Wesleyan was effortless thanks to ProCurve Manager’s Link Layer Discovery Protocol, which allows fast discovery of network devices. The software automatically creates a map of discovered equipment, with color coding to reflect device status, while connection relationships between devices are denoted as traffic lines. “The management is very easy,” Piedra says.

Noting that Wesleyan has experienced a hefty return on investment from its switch purchase, Piedra also praises the overall affordability of the solution. “It was very well priced,” he says. “And the reliability is excellent.”

The installation of HP wireless access points at Wesleyan School is also delivering many benefits throughout the campus. In addition to providing a variety of hot spots where students and teachers can use their notebooks to access the Internet or network, the wireless access points have been especially helpful to the school’s facilities department, most notably the grounds crew.

Grounds crew workers, who are issued their own notebook, are now able to activate the sprinkler system, power air conditioning units and control various other facilities equipment regardless of where they are physically located on the campus. “They have remote access from anywhere,” Piedra says. “They love it.”

To ensure that its network revamp went off without a hitch, Wesleyan School turned to CDW•G to help identify and implement the best solutions.

“CDW•G arranged for one of HP’s engineers to help us design our whole network,” Piedra says.

“Wesleyan is a growing school,” explains CDW•G account manager Chuck Chiasson. “Last year, they were adding multiple buildings and needed to upgrade and expand their network. They weren’t 100 percent sure which direction they were going to go.”

It was at that point that Chiasson engaged a representative from HP/ProCurve. Together they visited the school. The HP rep was able to go over the entire switch line in detail and help Wesleyan select the products that would best fit their environment. “We worked with them over the summer and were able to get all the switches in a timely manner,” Chiasson says. “The network has been working well, and now they’re moving on to the next stage of implementing VLANS to make it even better.”

Regardless of the IT equipment needed or the specific project requirements the school may have, Piedra is confident that as Wesleyan moves forward, CDW•G will be there every step of the way. “Their customer service is what we like best,” he reports, adding that the school also received very competitive pricing, as well as quick delivery and hassle-free exchanges.

It is this ease of doing business that makes CDW•G such a premier vendor, Piedra notes. “If we have any problem, we call them and they take care of it,” he says. “I don’t have to call [the manufacturer] and sit on hold for half an hour.”

The busy network administrator also sings the praises of Chiasson. “He’s great,” Piedra says. “I just have to call and ask him for something and he’ll find it for us – even if we don’t really know what we’re looking for.”

Adds Piedra: “He will always find us a solution.”