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Independent Network Consultants: INCases

Telephone:  301 789-7975

Mid-Sized Enterprise Headquartered in the Washington, DC area. We became involved with this client when they were experiencing difficulties with their electronic mail system. To put it simply, e-mail wasn't working reliably, failing intermittently, sometimes for minutes at a time, sometimes for hours at a time. This was especially painful for this organization, since it had satellite offices in several countries all over the world, and e-mail was meant to be their primary form of communications between the hundred plus users at the headquarters and the hundred plus employees in the overseas offices.

The e-mail problems were so severe that we suspected there were possibly fundamental flaws in the design and the implementation of the network. The client expressed concern that we might advise them to throw out most or all of their network resources to start from scratch. Having invested well into six figures for their network resources, the prospects of having to replace most or all of those resources wasn't at all appealing. We assured them that that's contrary to our approach, and they approved us moving forward with a detailed design and configuration analysis. At the conclusion, we found that the overwhelming bulk of their resources were of high quality and value, and could be incorporated into a functioning network. However, we found that the implementation of resources was badly flawed and resulted in a more or less non-functioning network. E-mail, as we suspected, was only the tip of the iceberg.

We presented a written remediation plan that included the acquisition of a modest amount of new hardware and software, but mostly focused on re-designing and re-implementing existing resources in ways that would result in a reliable, robust network. With functioning e-mail. At the successful conclusion of the remediation project, they contracted with us on a long-term basis to provide senior network engineering support. We assist with all senior levels of evaluation, design, implementation and support, as well as assistance with IT strategy, budgeting, disaster recovery/business continuity and related issues. Over the years, the network has grown to more than 200 users, and the resources implemented have grown in complexity and sophistication. As communications and access from overseas offices has increased in importance, we have implemented a variety of telecommunications technologies to accommodate these needs.

Specialized Regional Construction Company. When we initially came to this client, they had a small 20-user network at their headquarters that just didn't operate reliably at all. It had been built from scratch with a variety of home-built servers and desktops, a mix of desktop operating systems, and a patchwork cabling environment. At first, we thought that the primary remediation herein would be related to upgrading the network resources and configuring them more consistently and coherently. We were engaged for an initial study and evaluation to result in a remediation plan.

What we found were links to several regional satellite offices had been improperly configured in such a way that the company had significant security holes exploitable by anyone with Internet access. Thus, the scope of our work expanded to largely redesign and rebuild the network in a secure fashion. Over time, we moved the client to standardized hardware and software and introduced lifecycle management of their network resources.

As a result of our remediation, the network became increasingly reliable and robust. Over time, it grew as the company grew, and the company found that the secure, reliable links to satellite offices permitted expanding network services in these offices. Our work with the client significantly reduced the amount of "firefighting" with the IT systems, and permitted management to focus on more strategic uses of their IT resources. This ultimately resulted in creation of customized applications that permit the organization to plan and monitor mission-critical operations from start to finish.

We continue to provide most IT services for this client.

Educational Institution. In 1999, we were asked to perform the Y2K review for a local educational institution. After making modest adjustments to their network, and getting through Y2K unscathed, we were ultimately asked to take the lead in managing their information technology resources. With about 1200 users, a handful of servers, campus-wide switching, routing, cabling, all integrated with parallel wireless resources, the network has grown in both size and sophistication over the following decade of service. We provide lead senior network engineering support, long-term IT strategy, design, implementation and support of critical and higher-level network resources, and emergency support.

Small Business Enterprise. This client came to us believing that their network likely needed a major overhaul. The network appeared to work poorly, unreliably, and with significant performance problems. They were hesitant to engage us because their previous two vendors had recommended significant network hardware and software changes, and they were concerned about throwing more good money after bad. What we heard from the client didn't lead us to the conclusion that they needed another major network overhaul, and we told them that. We were engaged to evaluate their network and their business processes for providing IT support.

What we found was, the network certainly needed some tweaking, and would need updating over time, but that the primary problem was in how their IT services were provided. The process for obtaining services was not properly designed, documented or implemented. Once we determined that the problems were primarily in business processes, we engaged with the client to determine existing client expectations, real client needs, appropriate response levels and other parameters that constituted the raw data for designing an appropriate IT support and service system. We designed a new system for providing IT services, guided the client to the acquisition of appropriate software to assist with providing IT services, trained the users to use the new system, and then began long-term support.

After approximately six months of implementing needed changes and the new system, perceived network reliability and performance increased dramatically, the number of problems experienced by users dropped significantly, the client's satisfaction with the network increased, and their overall IT support costs fell by 25%.

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