Since efficient customer service is core to Schneider Electric's offering, it was critical that employees had fast and effective access to both the Internet and the company’s intranet. These requirements, coupled with the challenges associated with copper cable theft, led directly to the decision to upgrade to a fibre network while also consolidating Schneider Electric's national wide area network.
According to Gordon Trinder-Smith, Schneider Electric's IT Manager, the company initially made the decision in 2010 to consolidate and improve its national wide area network (WAN) and implement a fibre network to replace the existing traditional PST copper network.
“The benefits of fibre are well known – higher speeds, greater bandwidth capabilities and generally less downtime – so the decision was an obvious one, both in terms of improving our network and, ultimately, reducing our long term costs. In addition, there is the ever present challenge of copper cable theft, which is also negated by utilising fibre,” he says.
Furthermore, by consolidating its sites across the country and channelling them all through a single facility, security was improved and redundancy was added.
Schneider Electric investigated various service providers to compare solutions and technologies, before deciding to proceed with Neotel. This decision was based not only on Neotel’s proposed solution, but also because of the service provider’s track record at providing connectivity and exceptional service to Schneider Electric's Midrand office.
Neotel suggested connecting all 13 sites to a single facility through Neotel’s NeoOne VPN, a cost effective connectivity solution with high levels of reliability and security. Each site would connect via a secure virtual private network, over a fibre network and included total redundancy at major sites.
With regard to the WAN implementation, Schneider Electric adopted an all or nothing approach for its 13 sites. This was considered necessary, as the nature of the national network meant that it couldn’t really be done using a piecemeal approach.
“For this reason, it was important to choose the best and most capable organisation we could to implement the WAN for us, and Neotel was clearly the best,” says Trinder-Smith.
In addition to the new network, Neotel also assisted in consolidating several older sites into one. Schneider Electric closed some branches and moved others and yet Neotel was able to provide good links and regular connectivity.
From the outset, says Trinder-Smith, Neotel’s technology and equipment was of the highest quality, and although the project took a little longer than planned, the Neotel team was very professional and kept Schneider Electric up to date at all times.
“We now have a flexible and efficient WAN that allows us to remain in contact with our sales teams wherever they are. We’ve also seen an increase in efficiency because our people have access to essential data and mission-critical applications, via a reliable network access.”
“Most critically, we now have access to a fibre network that delivers the reliability that is so crucial to our business. Downtimes are minimal and we have the additional flexibility of being able to perform any upgrades required via a fairly simple process of request and initiate. This means no long lead times, as no additional infrastructure needs to be installed.”
Schneider Electric was particularly impressed with the professionalism of the Neotel team, its excellent management, and how well it was able to align with Schneider Electric's own infrastructure.