How Stadtwerke Frankenthal ensures the daily supply of energy by monitoring with Paessler PRTG
About Stadtwerke Frankenthal
Stadtwerke Frankenthal GmbH is a public utility that provides a wide range of energy products and services in the areas of gas, natural gas, water, heating, and electricity. The company also runs an energy advice center with experts that provide personalized tips to local citizens on how to optimize their everyday consumption of energy.
As services providers, energy suppliers have a special responsibility: if access to gas, water, or electricity is severed, then the daily lives of consumers are affected to an extreme degree. In order to ensure a continuous supply, IT must be available – and monitored – around the clock. Over the years, the number of IT networks and components at Stadtwerke Frankenthal has grown considerably. The utility needed a powerful network monitoring tool that could keep a constant eye on its entire infrastructure from one central location. It entrusted this enormous task with PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG. PRTG provides a comprehensive overview of the IT in both the main office and the remote locations, and promptly alerts the utility’s team of potential IT issues.
Stadtwerke Frankenthal has been serving the citizens of Frankenthal and the northeastern part of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate for over 150 years. 200 of the modern service provider’s employees are responsible for supplying gas, water, and electricity to both private and business customers. In addition to the main office, the company operates two waterworks in the nearby vicinity. The utility not only focuses on the supply of energy, but is also responsible for the operation of the local Frankenthal “Ostpark” sauna and swimming pool. Furthermore, Stadtwerke Frankenthal operates the “Strandbad,” a large local water park including three outdoor swimming pools, a lake, a water playground, and a miniature golf course. In downtown Frankenthal, the utility also maintains two public parking garages.
“PRTG has had an extremely positively impact on our day-to-day operations. Before, we had to dig through all our helpdesk emails to learn of IT problems. Now, we can anticipate issues in advance and resolve them quickly. In the event of an emergency, PRTG sends us an alert immediately. In our new NOC at our headquarters, workers maintain an overview of our entire, distributed IT infrastructure.”
Rouven Bauhof, member of the Stadtwerke Frankenthal IT team
Monitoring to safeguard important operations
All the utility’s buildings are dependent upon a locally distributed infrastructure composed of around 200 connected devices and 80 servers. The servers are particularly important as they provide the applications for the energy supplier’s operations. Potential errors and disruptions in these IT components would not only affect employees, but also numerous consumers. In order to keep Stadtwerke Frankenthal’s services running smoothly, a team of administrators must keep a constant eye on the entire IT infrastructure.
However, due to an ever-increasing number of components and networks, this monitoring had become more and more difficult. In particular, the external sites (e.g., the waterworks and the “Strandbad”) needed to be monitored more closely. The goal was to use monitoring software to promptly detect anomalies in the distributed IT environment – before they led to server failures or other disruptions.
Successful test, quick decision
The IT admins at Stadtwerke Frankenthal initially tested open-source software. They also tested industrial software. It quickly became clear that neither provided the comprehensive functions which were needed. In addition, due to the limited support offered by the open-source solution, the utility would have been required to make several tweaks to the software and its servers for the tool to work properly.
Stadtwerke Frankenthal therefore began looking for an affordable alternative that could meet its specific needs. One day while searching online, the IT team discovered PRTG from Paessler AG and immediately decided to test the tool. The team was impressed by the software’s wide range of functions, large number of sensor types, customizable display options, handy mobile apps, and numerous notification possibilities. Intuitive monitoring software, PRTG was quick and easy to install and administer.
Comprehensive overview: From the server to the vending machines by the pools
Stadtwerke Frankenthal had to set up the required sensors before the monitoring could begin. These special “measuring points” provide PRTG with data on various parameters of all the network devices in both the physical and virtual IT environment. The admins configured more than 1,500 of these sensors, including SNMP, Windows Update, and Event Log sensors. As a result, PRTG continuously receives information on internal processes such as Windows Services and server systems. In addition, the software monitors modems and firewalls around the clock to ensure everything is always in order. Thanks to the many monitoring possibilities offered by PRTG, the public utility even decided to monitor the vending machines by the swimming pools to prevent problems with the payment system.
The company paid close attention to its remote locations, such as the waterworks, the “Strandbad,” “Ostpark,” and two public parking garages. Monitoring multiple networks is usually impossible with a single software license, or only at a great additional expense. PRTG is different: the tool comes with so-called “remote probes,” which collect monitoring data from the various locations before sending it to the main PRTG server for analysis.
In this way, the main office can (among other things) monitor the loads of the switches at the waterworks and the water park. PRTG consolidates all monitoring data on an intuitive, web-based user interface. Among other things, this makes it even easier to remotely monitor the barrier arms at the parking garages, the server systems at the waterworks, and the payment terminals at the pools.
Prompt alarms if things get hairy
All PRTG sensors and remote probes can be configured with customizable threshold values, e.g., with regard to the CPU load of an IT component. If one of these values is exceeded, the respective sensor sounds the alarm immediately. A notification is sent via email, SMS, or the PRTG app. The notified person can then access the detailed alert in the PRTG web interface or the PRTG app for iOS or Android. Thanks to these notification methods, admins can stay connected to the monitoring environment at all times, regardless of their location. Using the live data, they can immediately assess the extent of the malfunction or error and initiate appropriate countermeasures.
PRTG also sends all alerts to the NOC (network operations center). At the main office, a centralized monitoring instance has been set up with the monitoring tool. What’s more, the NOC keeps a dashboard open around the clock with the PRTG web interface. Inside the center, the admins can keep a constant eye on performance data – including data displayed in easy-to-read pie charts.
Concise overviews of all IT
When searching for a new monitoring solution, Stadtwerke Frankenthal wanted to be sure the tool would display meaningful monitoring data. With PRTG, processes and dependencies can be defined both quickly and easily. In addition, admins can now create easy-to-read maps and reports for specific monitored areas, and have these maps and reports sent to their coworkers. This has immediately led to more transparency: the company’s various departments now have a pretty good idea if an IT problem is about to arise, thereby sparing the main service desk any number of frantic messages. Moreover, collecting long-term data or comparing current data with historical data is easy with PRTG. As a result, impending problems or bottlenecks can be identified in advance.
Stadtwerke Frankenthal now uses PRTG for the centralized mapping and monitoring of its distributed IT infrastructure. The team of admins can conveniently check the status of the network by glancing at their smartphones or PCs. And in the event of an emergency, PRTG alerts them immediately. Thanks to the comprehensive overviews and quick troubleshooting enabled by PRTG, the utility has been able to secure its services for the future: employees can identify IT issues much faster and in a more targeted manner, while customers benefit from a reliable supply of energy and smooth-running public swimming pools and parking facilities.