WMVision keeps an eye on the sky while Paessler PRTG keeps an eye on the network
A pioneer in the broadcast industry, WMVision (formerly Weather Metrics) is a cutting edge provider of digital channel systems and revenue generating products to hundreds of television stations in the U.S. Its advanced system of remote weather stations and 100% digital, HD-quality tower cameras, employ leading-edge technology to deliver images and live video from remote locations to meteorologists at broadcast stations, emergency management officials, and ski resorts across North America.
In addition to weather sensors and cameras, WMVision has developed a broadcast system that allows television stations to automatically integrate existing content, data and new revenue streams into an on-air or mobile TV channel.
To ensure optimum performance of its camera/weather station network, WMVision relies on PRTG Network Monitor by Paessler AG to provide comprehensive, affordable IT network monitoring services and ensure maximum uptime and availability of its advanced weather/camera network.
By reducing the amount of IT staff time spent in manually monitoring network uptime, troubleshooting glitches and resolving issues, PRTG has generated a substantial return on investment for the company, essentially paying for itself in just the first few months of operation.
"With PRTG, we've not only been able to avoid additional personnel, but also freed up more time for our existing team members to focus on other efforts."
Kevin Linden, IT Director
WMVision keeps an eye on the sky
Chances are that anyone who has watched a television newscast in North America in the last five years has seen WMVision's technology at work. In order to provide its state-of-the-art weather data and tower cam images to hundreds of stations around the continent, the company maintains an elaborate network of weather stations and hi-resolution cameras in some of the most unforgiving weather conditions on the planet. From the scorching heat of the Mojave dessert to the bone-chilling cold and wind-whipped slopes of ski resorts in the Western Hemisphere, WMVision systems keep the public informed about changing weather conditions, but also can be used to broadcast local events and traffic situations.
In addition to the camera system's outdoor components, an on-air server installed at each station location collects and analyzes data using WMVision's customized, proprietary software. Weather measurements and camera images are transported over the public internet back to the weather station owners-typically the local television station, EMS office or resort management. The data and images can also be made accessible to other stations through a pseudo-syndication system, as needed.
"PRTG's remote probe technology works extremely well for us, allowing our technical team to oversee the monitoring of machine-to-machine even in very remote locations."
PRTG keeps an eye on the network
Despite this elaborate network and heavy dependence on public ISPs for data transmission, Kevin Linden, IT Director, says that the company's previous monitoring systems were ill-suited to meet its rapidly expanding needs
"The in-house monitoring systems that were being used were not as reliable as we wanted and didn't really provide the advanced visibility we needed to maintain satisfactory up-time and system reliability," Linden said. "Our relationship with our customer is extremely important to us and we felt strongly that ensuring network reliability was crucial to providing the kind of service our clients expected."
Without the right monitoring in place, clients were required to call in to report network issues, leaving the company always in a reactionary posture. Sensing that the situation was beginning to frustrate clients – especially those under maintenance agreements – Linden made a pitch for PRTG to WMVision's management.
In this instance, unlike in most installations where PRTG remote probes are deployed to monitor internal devices over LANs, WANs or VPN tunnels, WMVision's network of external devices connected through various ISPs made for a unique challenge. With each field MPC functioning as a stand-alone device for its weather station, each managed MPC was setup with its own remote probe.
"Deployment for us meant setting up hundreds of remote probes, making it more of a field monitoring solution akin to an MSP network than a traditional datacenter installation," Linden said. "PRTG's remote probe technology works extremely well for us, allowing our technical team to oversee the monitoring of machine-to-machine even in very remote locations."
Seamless automation for improved efficiency
Aside from monitoring for up-time and network availability, PRTG enables automated response for certain events to reduce the number of manual configurations and resets required when things do go wrong on a system component. The WMVision team has devised pre-programmed scripts to successfully restart programs and services, clear logs and initiate file transfers with the automatic launch of a customized script to automate the process. By configuring PRTG to automatically run the script when certain network conditions are present, this immediate response and resolution dramatically reduces the amount of manual tech support required to maintain the network and provide better support to WMVision's clients.
Perhaps even more beneficial, PRTG provides pre-emptive notifications that alert the team when certain customizable thresholds are reached, pointing to a potential outage. The alerts allow Linden and his team to be proactive and solve the problem before a failure threatens to take the weather station or tower camera offline and interrupt data transmission.
"The more we can do through automation, the more efficiently we can operate and be more responsive to customers needs," Linden said. "PRTG cuts our tech support demand dramatically and allows us to spend more time developing strategic products and services for our customers."
Reliable, affordable system enhances customer satisfaction
While efficiency is just one aspect of the PRTG advantage-the cost savings are also substantial. Even with monitoring all internal network devices, servers, databases, third party applications, file transfers and development, test and demo systems, plus all the external weather stations, cameras, client server installations and managed PCs, PRTG quickly generated a positive ROI for the company, essentially paying for itself in just over three months.
"We looked at some other options, but with price tags around $20,000 or more, we just couldn't justify that expense. One option was bringing on additional staff on to help relieve some of the network maintenance load," Linden said. "With PRTG, we've not only been able to avoid additional personnel, but also freed up more time for our existing team members to focus on other efforts. When our executive team looked at the numbers and the benefits, PRTG just made sense."
Now with 250 remote probes running to monitor about 1,000 camera/weather station systems, Linden says their customers are ecstatic about the response. Still in the roll-out phase, WMVision focused first on deploying PRTG with the clients who had experienced the most issues. The immediate feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
From once receiving numerous requests for service prior to PRTG to rectifying problems before the customer is even aware of the issue, PRTG provides WMVision with the proactive approach to customer service that gives them an advantage in the marketplace.
"We can now assert that our system is the most reliable on the market thanks to PRTG," Linden said. "This not only makes our sales team more confident in their approach, but also helps to keep our costs down and make our solutions more affordable for customers."
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