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Plixer's Scrutinizer sheds light on network traffic for UK manufacturer

Gina Narcisi

The James Walker Group, a U.K.-based global manufacturing and sealing organization, used to monitor overall bandwidth consumption across its global WAN links, but it wasn't enough.

The company -- consisting of 11 U.K.-based customer support sites and 40 global sites -- was blind to data traffic patterns on its network. IT wanted to make better use of its bandwidth, and implemented

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Plixer Inc.'s Scrutinizer Netflow analyzer for traffic monitoring across all global wide area network (WAN) links.

"We didn't have any details -- including what sites were being accessed and what users were downloading," said Andrew Story, senior technical analyst for James Walker. The IT organization only had tools to measure the percentage of bandwidth used, "without knowing exactly what the bandwidth comprised of."

Story adopted Plixer Scrutinizer because he wanted to identify how much bandwidth mission-critical applications where using, and weed out any recreational Web-browsing that was eating up corporate bandwidth across the WAN.

Plixer Scrutinizer: All eyes on the network

Scrutinizer was selected after considering several other network monitoring products from other vendors. "We weren't really using anything before [Scrutinizer] -- especially to monitor traffic at the flow-based level," Story said.

More on network traffic analysis:

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Scrutinizer appealed to the James Walker Group because the technology has a simple interface and can integrate with some of the company's existing systems, including its IT service desk system.

Integration with a service desk is particularly helpful for companies that want to use Scrutinizer for network troubleshooting. "If an organization thinks their network was compromised in any way, Scrutinizer can show IT the exact flow for each data log, and even the exact user in order to stop the bleeding," said Michael Patterson, CEO and co-founder of Sanford, Maine-based Plixer.

Plixer Scrutinizer monitors Netflow from the Cisco routers and the Dell PowerConnect switches within James Walker's network infrastructure, Story said.

Once Story's team installed Scrutinizer across the company's WAN interfaces, IT was able to start analyzing data traffic within minutes, including source and destination IP addresses.

Plixer Scrutinizer identifies misuse of network resources

Scrutinizer has given Story the ability to accurately quantify exactly how much bandwidth a particular application or session requires. It allows the company's network administrators to accurately size up the appropriate line speed for the business applications users are consuming, and alerts IT when a line hits high utilization, Story said.

With Scrutinizer, Story has identified recreational and other inappropriate uses of network bandwidth, such as users downloading music videos and movies on the WAN. Now he can block this traffic.

Plixer Scrutinizer as a troubleshooting tool

"[Scrutinizer] allows us to quickly and more efficiently troubleshoot any potential problems with rogue traffic and rogue machines, as well as systems malfunctioning in different branch offices," he said, noting that if a system suddenly begins sending out large quantities of data, IT can immediately see that activity on the network.

"We are quicker to react to any potential bottlenecks because we can often see what's happening before users even know there was a problem."

Story would like to be able to classify traffic by subnet -- a feature he suspects will be added to future releases of Plixer Scrutinizer.

"It's great to have another pair of eyes [on the network]," Story said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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