Hammonds is one of Great Britain’s biggest custom-fitted furniture making and retailing operations, with more than 80 years of success. Eighty-six store outlets stretch from Plymouth to Falkirk in the UK and they have partnerships with major furniture retailers, offering a full range of bespoke, UK-made furniture for installation in bedrooms, kitchens and offices.
To keep furniture prices affordable as it competes for business, Hammonds stresses efficiency throughout its operations, particularly in IT, says Jordan Oldham, Hammond’s network and server administrator. “Approximately 700 users are on line at any one time, working from 119 remote sites and two main offices in Leicestershire. Sixty servers and 150 Cisco® network devices tie the enterprise together.”
Jordan concedes that he’s surrounded by a complex network environment. But he is all for avoiding complexity when it comes to monitoring and managing it all. That is why Hammonds invested in Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold® software in 2013, and then upgraded early in 2014 to WhatsUp Gold Premium — all in an effort to make IT easier.
“There are two main systems that drive the business — one for sales and marketing and the other an iSeries IBM® system, and both are used company-wide,” Jordan explains. “These systems deal with ordering, sending customer details to our manufacturing team, scheduling and more. Without them the company would struggle to function. Knowing in real time if these systems are down is of utmost importance to us.”
Prior to acquiring WhatsUp Gold, Hammonds investigated its options. First it looked at a well-known open source solution, but the effort was unsuccessful, and the software’s complexity was the culprit. “We tried using it — I say tried,” Jordan explains “It was so complicated that we gave up on it. In fact we never, ever got to the main setup page.”
Shortly after that Jordan downloaded a popular off-the-shelf solution, and things began to look up, but only briefly. “The commercial software was a lot easier to set up and we were able to get it working. But after a few days, we began to see that it did not give us the level of detail and monitoring functionality we had to have — information on utilization, service monitoring and so on.”
The company continued its search for something that could do a better job. “When I typed in ‘leading monitoring software’ into my browser I found WhatsUp Gold.” Jordan says. “Our reseller, Grant McGregor Ltd of Edinburgh, Scotland, got us started on a trial of the WhatsUp Gold Standard edition and helped with every stage of setup and getting it working. WhatsUp Gold really impressed us, so we purchased it.” Jordan describes WhatsUp Gold as a better choice than the two candidates preceding it, because of its functionality, but especially its true ease of use.
“Our fiber line, which is our main internet line, is the key to all our connections for design bookings and every other communication from remote sites, to remote users via VPN and our web services. If it goes down there will be no connection for any of them. One Sunday it did go down. Prior to getting WhatsUp Gold, we wouldn’t have known about it until people phoned into our managers, who would then phone us.
As it was, we received an automatic alert as soon as the line dropped. We were able to review the report detailing the incident and move to fix it before users began to complain.”
One year later, early in 2014, Jordan marked the anniversary of Hammonds’ initial WhatsUp Gold purchase by upgrading from the Standard to the Premium product. It offers additional discovery and monitoring functionality appropriate for a network of Hammond’s size, including fully integrated wireless network mapping and monitoring, enhanced real-time monitoring graphics, WMI application monitoring and hardware monitoring.
Jordan appreciates the way WhatsUp Gold Premium monitors hardware down to the component level because it allows the IT team to uncover previously hidden problems and address them before they affect user access to the network and its applications. “If a fan fails, or one of the servers in our server room has a power supply issue, we will get an alert and we can go in and fix it — replace it if needed — before it gets worse and triggers a malfunction.”
Jordan has also taken advantage of WhatsUp Gold’s advanced Layer 2 discovery. “It is proving quite handy. Just after we created a map of the whole network, with all of its connected devices, we could immediately see that a link was down.”
Through the year, Hammonds’ reseller Grant McGregor has stood by them with high levels of personalized service. “They’ve been a great help. Any issues we have, we send them an email and they come back and give us a hand, sending us screen shots and guides that tell us what to do.”
Jordan remains pleased with his WhatsUp Gold experience and its highly intuitive interface. “It is so easy to use this software. Bear in mind the size of our network; monitoring it is quite a big task. But I had WhatsUp Gold monitoring the entire network in one day. That, to me, is impressive.”