VPharma End-User Network Monitoring for Retail Stores
Learn how Obkio works with retail pharmacy business, VPharma, to provide a solution for monitoring network performance from the end-user perspective to identify and troubleshoot network slowness and disconnections in all their distributed retail locations.
- About VPharma
- Network Problems in Retail Stores
- How VPharma Found Obkio
- VPharma’s Monitoring Setup with Obkio
- The Benefits of Network Monitoring with Obkio
- Start Monitoring Network Performance
Contrary to many modern businesses with IT staff readily available, retail businesses rarely have local IT resources on hand when network or connectivity issues arise in store.
With over 50 retail locations and no local IT staff in stores, VPharma was looking for a tool to help them pinpoint and troubleshoot the cause of network and application slowdowns affecting users in their multiple sites.
This was where Obkio came in.
VPharma is the leader in pharmacy distribution and care in the district of Verviers, Belgium.
They are a fast-growing business currently experiencing a massive expansion with new retail locations opening every month. They currently have over 50 pharmacies with more than 135,000 customers.
Although their core business is not IT, an optimal network and IT infrastructure is critical to the success of their numerous stores. After all, bad connectivity, no Internet or poorly performing applications means loss of revenue for retail businesses.
Although they have a centralized head office, VPharma’s remote sites use a distributed network architecture.
In each site, VPharma uses a router with 2 Internet broadband connections on which they establish VPNs towards their head office. When connecting to the Internet, they use the local connection, which doesn’t pass inside the VPN.
Seeing as the connection is local, it makes it difficult for traditional centralized monitoring solutions to monitor performance from the end-user perspective.
With VPharma's business growing, it meant a larger reliance on quick Internet connection and network performance to run applications like POS systems.
Unfortunately, VPharma’s IT team was:
- Frequently receiving complaints from users about application slowdown, poor Internet connectivity and unstable VoIP performance.
- And had no IT resources or tools available on-site in the multiple stores.
So VPharma’s team knew that they needed a tool to help them identify and troubleshoot intermittent network problems affecting their users in their retail locations.
In an interview with VPharma IT Director, Vincent Raze, Vincent explained, “We were looking for a solution that allowed us to monitor our central location, with the possibility to monitor around 50 pharmacies with many points-of-sales and no IT staff on-site.”
Most importantly, because their users aren’t IT pros, they needed a solution that was:
- Extremely simple and easy to use
- And could be managed by their IT staff remotely
“We’re a very small IT team, so we needed something quick and easy to identify network problems. We needed a solution that was simple to use, and very visual,” said Vincent.
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At this point, the VPharma team knew they needed a quick and easy monitoring solution to help them troubleshoot network issues in their growing number of stores.
During their search, their team tried a variety of different solutions. They needed a monitoring solution to monitor Linux servers, network equipment, plus inter-site connectivity.
Vincent explained, “I started looking for a monitoring solution that could do it all. But I soon realized that the solutions available that could do it all were way too complex for our small team to configure and use.”
Then came Obkio.
They immediately signed up for Obkio’s free trial and were impressed by the simplicity of Obkio’s interface, matched with the detailed information it provided.
In just a few hours, VPharma deployed Obkio Network Monitoring Agents in all their sites for end-to-end network monitoring.
VPharma, like most businesses, found it difficult to work with Service Providers' Level 1 technical support when performance issues arose. They were usually given generic solutions, like restarting the modem.
Obkio provides continuous measurements of core network metrics and critical network data that allows users to quickly escalate problems to level 2 or level 3 network engineers, who have the expertise to help.
“Obkio helped us tremendously and allowed us to collect the information we needed so we could share it with our Service Provider for quicker troubleshooting,” explained Vincent.
- Less time troubleshooting
- Faster resolutions
- Less negative impacts on end-users
With Obkio, the VPharma team immediately got the visibility they needed over their network and the performance in their retail locations to begin troubleshooting their performance issues.
Vincent described, “Once we had all the sites connected, half of them were in red. Obkio immediately identified a problem related to our ISP, which was affecting all of our sites. Our ISP didn’t have the visibility to identify that problem. At that point we realized that end-to-end monitoring was extremely important, and it was something that had been missing at VPharma."
By continuously monitoring performance with Obkio, VPharma is able to proactively identify and troubleshoot problems before their Service Provider notice, or even before their users feel the impacts.
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With Obkio, VPharma now has a simple network monitoring solution that can instantly alert them of network problems in any of their distributed sites, and provide them with the information they need to troubleshoot.
Most importantly, their IT team can monitor network performance remotely and troubleshoot network problems for employees working from home, without having to travel to any of the stores to fuss with network equipment.
Obkio was designed to be easy to deploy and simple to use, with a variety of visual graphs to help users understand their network performance, even if they aren’t network pros.
Simplicity was VPharma’s most important criteria when looking for a monitoring solution because they aren’t network pros. “We don’t have Obkio’s expertise, we need to be more generalists. So it’s great having a tool like Obkio to help us out,” explained Vincent.
Take SNMP Polling for example. SNMP monitoring can be complicated, but Obkio makes it simple without any MIB or OID configurations required.
Vincent explained, “We monitor routers in the pharmacies using Obkio Agents, which give us important information to help us understand the impact of our routers on network performance.”
SNMP Polling is a basic feature for many monitoring solutions, but Obkio uses SNMP mainly as a troubleshooting tool to determine where a problem is coming from.
Obkio's main objective is not to monitor equipment but to measure performance from the point-of-view of the end-user with troubleshooting tools which pinpoint where the network problems are located.
Most importantly, Obkio continuously monitors network performance in order to detect intermittent network problems, which are sporadic, and often extremely difficult to pinpoint.
Because intermittent problems can pop up and immediately disappear, Obkio measures and collects historical performance data, so users can analyze, compare, and troubleshoot intermittent problems that may have popped up in the past.
With historical data, VPharma can go back in time to identify and troubleshoot intermittent network problems that may look like they may have disappeared.
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With Obkio, VPharma now has a continuous end-to-end network monitoring solution for all their sites. Their small IT team now has visibility over their network and Internet performance in their retail locations, and can identify and troubleshoot problems remotely.
VPharma’s use case can apply to other retail businesses as well!