In the highly competitive IT services marketplace, long-term success demands that managed service providers deliver the right mix of technology and products, backed by reliability and service to satisfy their customers' needs for dependable connectivity and agile performance. Celebrating 30 years of providing unparalleled service and peace of mind to more than 300 customers, Miami-based Compuquip Technologies has proven to be a dependable partner to companies in the finance, healthcare, nonprofit and other mid-market and enterprise industries.

Recently, the company added Paessler AG’s PRTG Network Monitor to its arsenal of tools to ensure optimum network performance and more efficient troubleshooting for its clients. The result has been a dramatic improvement in Compuquip’s efficiency that has saved the company time, money and resources, while giving it a distinct competitive edge to strategically grow its business beyond the confines of South Florida.

Filling the Void

As a growing managed IT service provider, Compuquip had begun to notice a void among its customer base—few had any way to monitor their network performance beyond uptime/downtime, despite their increasing reliance on connectivity. A few were using metrics solutions like SolarWinds or Whatsup Gold to track uptime/downtime, and occasionally an ISP would offer some type of basic solution, but none of these seemed to offer the cost-effective scalability Compuquip required in order to extend the solution across all of its clients.

Looking for something to fill the void, Compuquip’s director of technical services Jorge Azcuy discovered PRTG Network Monitor at a Cisco conference. After giving the free trial a test run, he was eager to see what the latest full version brought to the table.

“We began using the PRTG Traffic Grapher years ago, which provided superior graphing capability for visualizing network status and performance; we upgraded to the full version of PRTG in 2008,” he said. “But this new version 8.0 of PRTG Network Monitor, with the remote probe capability really sold it for us. This is where PRTG absolutely stood out against other solutions and does a very nice job of rounding out our managed service offering.”

PRTG’s remote probe feature uniquely enables the Compuquip team to collect and monitor network performance data from its customer sites in Florida and other parts of North America without the need to infiltrate the customers’ firewalls and eliminating the need to access on-premises equipment or network services. Azcuy says this unique minimally-invasive capability was unlike any other monitoring system on the market and came at an unbeatable price point.

“PRTG blew away the competition in terms of value and functionality,” he said. “The other products we looked at didn’t offer the remote probe feature, yet they were in the $80,000 range. PRTG’s combination of extremely useful features and all-in licensing made it the natural choice.”

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Advanced Monitoring Improves Internal Efficiency

With PRTG on board, Compuquip is able to deliver more efficient service with less manpower.
The company uses Kaseya to manage its service offerings, which also provides up/down network status indication. But with the addition of PRTG, Azcuy says his team gets much more detailed data about performance metrics, event logs and the ability to schedule, run and monitor the performance of custom scripts.

“PRTG fills in a lot of gaps,” he said. “Now, if we are losing ping packets, we can see the exact time of day the problem occurred and look at what might have happened immediately prior that could be the cause. It saves us a tremendous amount of manpower in running down a problem when it occurs.

PRTG’s ease of installation and roll out on new systems is also a significant time-saver. Because most of its clients are geographically disperse, Compuquip’s ability to remotely deploy and configure the monitoring probes dramatically reduces setup time, travel costs and other expenses. Even new releases and updates made to the PRTG system itself deploy and install seamlessly across all locations

This efficiency helps Compuquip maintain a fixed-fee pricing structure with its clients and eliminate out of scope work that can sometimes jeopardize relationships. “We depend on efficiency here, and try to centralize and automate as much as possible,” Azcuy said. “PRTG definitely fits right into our model.”

Granular Network Performance Detail

In addition to enabling the Compuquip team to work more efficiently, it also allows them to do so more thoroughly. With built-in NetFlow capability and granular reporting detail on as many ports and nodes as they desire, PRTG enables the team to track down and isolate the specific root cause of network issues. PRTG’s historical reporting functions track performance and activity and condense this detail in to useful, easy-to-interpret graphical snapshots.

Network performance lags that would have once taken hours or days to find the culprit—if a source could even be found in the case of intermittent problems—can now be tracked back to specific activities and events within minutes, down to the specific switch, router or even end-user workstation.

“One of our clients actually had a virus outbreak that was sapping their bandwidth. Based on the network activity reported by PRTG, we were able to track it back to the specific computer that was causing the problem in a very short period of time,” said Peter Cook, enterprise network engineer with Compuquip. “With any other system, we would have only been able to get to the switch level and would have resorted to manual troubleshooting from that point.”

PRTG’s automatic alerting features help the team keep abreast of adverse or out-of-spec network events. The system allows them to configure specific thresholds for a wide range of monitoring and reporting functions. When a problem occurs, such as a circuit nearing capacity, PRTG sends an alarm to Azcuy and his team via text message, email or phone call.

When the alert comes in, the team can quickly jump onto the PRTG console from home or any other remote location—anywhere with a web browser—and assess the situation. (An iPhone and Android app even puts mobile access right in the palm of users’ hands.) The PRTG portal consolidates reporting from all 15 remote probes into an integrated user interface that allows the Compuquip staff to view and compare data from multiple sites, solutions and nodes on the network.

Optimizing Resources

Not only does PRTG speed troubleshooting for Compuquip but it also allows them to provide proactive resource planning and provisioning analysis for their customers. By examining the PRTG performance log, the Compuquip team can provide usage and capacity statistics to help customers determine when it’s really time for a bandwidth upgrade—or if another solution can help them save some money.

“When network capacity issues arise, it’s easy to blame the ISP and jump to a bandwidth expansion in the hopes of resolving the bottleneck,” Cook said. “PRTG lets us see the traffic and accurately determine whether the bandwidth is truly maxed out. Why spend four or more hours on the phone with your ISP when you can look at the PRTG data and make a decision in less than 15 minutes?”

To help customers optimize bandwidth usage, Compuquip even consults PRTG traffic analysis to determine the lowest-bandwidth times of day to configure backups and other data intense transactions. This enables these high-demand functions to run when the network is free, rather than while it’s under load from user activity. Compuquip can even look at bandwidth consumption for individual applications to see if and when an upgrade is needed to move more data faster.

All-in Pricing Yields Competitive Advantage

With all of these features, Azcuy says the one that really sets PRTG apart is the fact that you get all this at such a competitive price point. No other solution offered the wide range of functionality with an all-in-one licensing model. All of the other products Compuquip looked at were monitor-price dependent, which would have restricted them to monitoring only core switches. PRTG offers the ability to monitor all ports at a reasonable, fixed cost eliminating the need to have to choose specific ports to save money. This not only saves Compuquip money, but enables the company to provide more comprehensive service to its customers.

“PRTG enhances our standing in the market and gives us the same capabilities of larger, more nationwide firms,” Azcuy said. “It definitely separates from the competition, especially smaller firms that don’t have the resources to offer this kind of service.”

From a usability standpoint, Azcuy said the company is most impressed by the bona fide enhancements made in each new release. Whereas in other applications, marketing seems to become the primary driver for new releases, new PRTG upgrades always include feature enhancements that make the program more user-friendly and efficient.

Azcuy says the company has plans to expand its use of PRTG to take advantage of virtualization monitoring in VMware environments this year, a capability they have yet to fully utilize.