South Staffordshire College

South Staffordshire College is a further education institution spread across 5 campuses in Staffordshire, United Kingdom.

11,000 students

600 staff

We’ve created five dashboards so far and SquaredUp’s already given us 100% more visibility than we’ve ever had before. It was a wow moment.

Jason Whitaker

Director of IT and Project Performance

Challenge 1: Struggling to see application performance or root cause

When Jason joined the team two years ago, there was limited infrastructure monitoring in place. So, he invested in PRTG. It proved useful to provide the team with instant alerts when there were outages and they gained visibility when things were running poorly.

“We needed to add intelligence on top of our our monitoring. PRTG ticked a box to start with and got us to stage one – availability and visibility of systems. However, it was very insular, and we needed to quickly move on to stage two – application performance monitoring.”

Challenge 2: SCOM was too complicated

“In the early days, we tried to implement SCOM on its own, and failed. We found it overly complex and our in-house teams did not have the relevant skills.”

SCOM has all the data, and using SquaredUp was like a light bulb moment for the team. Now we can access every piece of information in a few clicks!

Solution: Enter SquaredUp + SCOM

1. Easy to use, no need for subject matter experts

“SquaredUp is genuinely really easy to use. We found that it was easy to install and simple to get data out of, unlike in SCOM where you have to drill into so many different areas. Our in-house team can now make full use of SCOM’s capabilities by managing our applications from a high level using SquaredUp.”

With SquaredUp, Jason’s team now has a clear view of their entire estate from just a few dashboards. They can now see when their SQL databases are backed up or if a particular database is underperforming. “And it’s application aware, which we’ve never had before.”

“We’ve not had to invest in highly skilled engineers for this solution. For most solutions, you do.”

2. Uncover root cause quickly

“SquaredUp’s drilldowns were like a wow moment for the team – when you click through and finally uncover the root of the problem. It gives us an end-to-end solution. I don’t know how I’d live without it now.”

Use case: Campus Wi-Fi
Within a month of purchase, Jason’s team used SquaredUp to fix a major WiFi issue that had been ongoing for 4 months. They were seeing delays when users tried to connect their devices to their new £200,000 WiFi solutions. Prior to using SquaredUp, the team assumed that the problem lay with the new WiFi – and multiple third-party consultancy companies were brought in. They replaced devices and access points, upgraded the switches network, changed the DNS pointers for servers, but after four months and a chunk of budget spent, they still couldn’t get to the bottom of the issue.

SquaredUp was a game changer. Once they implemented SquaredUp and got visibility, the team realised that the issue lay with their domain controllers that were getting too many requests from one of the access points. “Just one access point was causing poor performance for the entire solution. There was no way we could have seen that before. Thanks to SquaredUp, all we had to do was fix the access point and we started seeing good performance again,” said Jason.

3. Proactive problem solving

“We’re having less unplanned downtime now because we’re seeing the issue before it causes a problem.”

SCOM is a beast of a tool. It often generates far too much noise, so much so that issues become onerous to manage and visualize – until it’s too late and you get alerted of a failure.

“With SCOM, you need to keep drilling down into lots of separate areas to identify issues. SquaredUp gave us that layer on top. We’ve got dashboards in our Network Operations Centre now – plugged into Office 365 and our new server infrastructure – so we can keep an eye on the errors we’ve got before the problem escalates, all without having to delve too deep.”

4. Visibility across the business

“The Open Access feature helps us prove to the business that we’re making a difference. And it displays exactly the info we need with such simplicity.”

Use case: Sharing VPN availability publicly

Using SquaredUp, Jason’s team has instant visibility over how many users are connected onto the VPN, what the CPU utilization is of their VPN solution, and how many DNS requests hit their domain controllers.

They have SLA/SLOs set up for the VPNs, and have taken visibility to the next level by sharing this information across the business using SquaredUp’s shared dashboard feature – Open Access.

“With people working from home, it was important to give them visibility around the VPN availability. It also makes our lives easier. Instead of ringing us straight away, anyone who has connectivity to Office 365 within our tenant can see our VPN availability published publicly on our intranet. We’re now trying to nurture people to look at the dashboards before logging a ticket.”

No onslaught of emails, no call center calling admins in the middle of the night!

Jason’s favourite things about SquaredUp:

“Moving to SquaredUp has given us that enterprise class monitoring solution that we’ve not had before.”

“I love the way you can easily move things around – you aren’t stuck with a rigid dashboard. You can customise it to your heart’s content until it is right for you.”

“It’s simple to use, but so in-depth that it gives you as much or as little information as you need to keep the system performing.”

Jason Whitaker

Director of IT and Project Performance