Childers Architect Success Story
Childers Architect is an Arkansas architecture firm with 25+ employees. Their designers and architects access and share large CAD and 3D models as well as O365 files from multiple offices. Work is performed from anywhere, including on-site field work from multiple contributors and working from home. The success experienced by Childers when integrating our solutions was so significant, that their story was featured on Riverbed's website. We spoke with Phillip Bell of Childers about Working From Anywhere, SaaS Acceleration, and CSG’s Proof of Concept model.
How Did Childers Ramp Up For Working From Anywhere (WFA)?
When the mention of covid was first heard on the news we knew changes were imminent. We all listened intently as to how it was impacting people and how people were working / not working. My employer asked me what I thought about covid, what I thought about the impact of the virus. I stated that I believed covid would become a global pandemic and possibly mutate. The decision was made to ready our office for remote capabilities. Gateways, VPN hardware/software, and the Riverbeds were all updated. New laptops capable of running the 3D modeling and design software we use were implemented over a short period of time.
What Challenges Did Childers Have In Adapting to WFA?
As far as hardware, bringing our office fully online remotely impacted VPN performance. Access time for anything with a network / internet connection was slow. The limitations of a VPN tunnel, as far as bandwidth along with the amount of data that was being pushed, were a source of frustration amongst everyone. End users were not opening just one session of any given software but multiple instances. Each end user might have two to four sessions of 3D modeling software running on their systems at one time. That is only one instance of software…now add on PDF editors, Microsoft Office products, voice and video conferencing, etc. Our VPN was seeing severe performance issues that were unforeseen due to how the end users were actually using the systems. Keep in mind we are going from a Gigabit in-house connection down to VPN speeds. We went from decent performance to almost unusably slow performance. Personally, from an IT standpoint, my mindset was keeping the company in operation and the employees productive through a global crisis.
What Were Some Of The Most Challenging Aspects Of Managing Your Work From Anywhere Team?
Keeping systems up to date and running was a struggle at first due to the number of unexpected updates that Microsoft was releasing for their operating system as well as Office 365. Ensuring the systems were operational proved to be a difficult task remotely due to not being able to see what was actually happening with the systems. My access time to an end user's system was limited by the amount of bandwidth the end users were using. Many calls were placed with the end users to see what the status of the particular system was. Electronic collaboration was cumbersome at times with network latency and overall internet speed.
What Were You Looking For In A Work From Anywhere Solution?
Price point, professionalism in the representatives, tangible results. We looked at software and hardware optimization, both cloud hosted and in-house based solutions.
What Made CSG’s Work From Anywhere Solution The Best Choice For Childers?
The solution we implemented allowed us workflow flexibility in the number of users that could now be “remoted” in at the same time without “negatively” affecting network performance. The reduction in data sent by each end user has resulted in better time allocation and expenditure for all end users. Multiple users, multiple programs, each program with multiple connections to in-house servers through VPN, not to mention outsourced servers, became possible once again. On a personal note: CSG’s sales and tech team stands out. The camaraderie between myself and “The CSG Team” made the implementation smooth and seamless. On a hardware note: CSG represented one of the top compression and optimization companies. CSG provided us with a solution that reduced data throughput at a cost that is affordable. CSG’s solution allows smaller businesses the ability to bring corporate technology to their part of the world. The impossible is now possible.
Does the CSG Solution Enhance Your Competitive Advantage?
Yes. Less network latency through data compression has allowed for interactions with in-house and outsourced servers to be quicker, more responsive, as well as more stable. The technology implemented accelerates almost all aspects of our profession. The benefit realized is the space for more creativity to be introduced into our designs due to the time saved by compressing and optimization of our data.
Why Is WAN Acceleration So Important To Childers Architect?
This sums it up: one end user would have pushed 22.1 gigabytes through the WAN without Riverbed technology, and only 2.2 gigabytes with Riverbed technology in place in a month's time span. I have been seeing a 90% to 98% drop in utilized bandwidth over 96% of the company. That is a huge success story in anybody’s book.
We are seeing benefit on most accesses back into our in-house servers across a range of protocols. Accelerated connections. Less unexpected connection drop rates. Massive reduction in data throughput. From business documents, spreadsheets, mail management, email, 3D modeling, design software, graphics software, and connectivity type programs.
Optimized mobility, optimized infrastructure. The time that was being spent waiting on network/internet latency has a direct effect on the bottom line. This implementation will allow Childers Architect to be quicker at most everything we do that involves the WAN. Quicker designs, quicker solutions. People ask me if CSG and Riverbed are doing what we need: Proof is in the pudding!
The Future Of Working From Anywhere
I haven’t readdressed this topic with the owner post-covid, but I see the company maintaining a remote stance to some degree in the workplace. As architects, we perform field work with clients, contractors, and sub-contractors to see our designs come to fruition. This means we must remain mobile while being productive. Our optimized connection becomes increasingly important when time constraints from the aforementioned issues are introduced.
Tell Us About CSG’s Affordable SaaS Accelerator Service
Many businesses use Office 365 (Outlook, Excel, Access, OneDrive, SharePoint, etc.) from Microsoft. But, performance for these hosted (SaaS) applications can be very slow when accessing from any location with a high latency connection. Utilizing a SaaS Accelerator makes these applications feel local to the end user. Many smaller businesses were priced out of this solution due to minimum license requirements that only larger corporations could afford. Now, smaller companies can get the benefit of Riverbed’s SaaS Acceleration through a unique licensing arrangement with CSG. CSG provides SaaS Accelerator licenses on a scale and a price point that makes financial sense for smaller customers. This monthly rental service is only available from CSG. By working directly with CSG, medium and smaller sized businesses can now enjoy the benefits of a SaaS Accelerator.
What Was Your Experience Like Using CSG’s SaaS Accelerator Service
We are using the SaaS acceleration to enhance and improve our connection to Microsoft cloud hosted solutions. We use all Office 365 apps for business: Word, Excel, Access (occasionally), PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Teams. These are our primary go-to programs for documents. These cloud hosted apps are accessed from a variety of electronic devices. Other non-Office 365 apps include: Revit, AutoCAD, 3DMax, BIM 360, QuickBooks, Clearview InFocus, Edge, Chrome, Dell Diagnostics, and of course remote management software. This list isn’t all inclusive but it gives you an idea of the amount of data being shuffled through the WAN.
What Applications Have Benefited From The SaaS Accelerator?
Any programs / apps that access our server or Office 365 are gaining some type of benefit, whether it be just header information being compressed or actual data: business documents, mail management, email, and our design software. Connectivity programs to some extent depending on use. Anything that has static data will benefit from this technology. Just the optimization of email traffic and connections back to SharePoint are worth the cost of the service.
How Is The SaaS Accelerator Service Working?
Phenomenally! No other word describes better.
What Are The Benefits Of CSG’s SaaS Licensing Structure?
Price point. CSG’s licensing structure has made the small number of deployments that we needed affordable. They’ve made corporate technology solutions affordable to us smaller businesses.
What Are The Benefits of CSG’s Proof Of Concept Model?
CSG’s No Risk Proof of Concept allows its customers an opportunity to test drive the CSG solution on their own network as a proof in point.
Why Did You Choose To Do CSG’s Proof Of Concept?
Simple. I was skeptical of what I was being told. Most products or services are hyped up, then you are let down when the product or service fails to deliver. This was the complete opposite with the CSG Proof of Concept. I literally had not expected to see that much gain in data reduction.
What Products Were Involved In CSG’s Proof Of Concept?
Riverbed Virtual Steelhead at our data center and Steelhead mobile controller with client accelerator installed on the laptops and workstations. Both the Riverbed Virtual Steelhead and the Steelhead mobile controller are running in Hyper-V virtual machines.
What Was CSG’s Proof Of Concept Like?
Seamless. Not one single issue. The end users would have never noticed had I not taken the time to demonstrate the technology. The best thing was not having a single complaint about performance. When does that ever happen in IT?
Were There Any Surprises Or Unexpected Insights During The SaaS Proof Of Concept?
Our whole premise with the Riverbed solution was to speed up access to our in-house and outsourced networks. I knew we would see some benefit through discussions with Mark and Kevin. I failed to understand how much benefit we would realize from the implementation. To say they told me so would be an understatement to say the least.
What Did You Learn During the Proof of Concept?
Mark and Kevin were being completely honest when they said I would be impressed with not only the amount of data compression, but the performance associated with that compression. Honestly, I thought uh huh…we shall see. After we initiated the Proof of Concept, Kevin took time to demonstrate. We copied a 25 meg file from our in-house server to my desktop. It took about 7 seconds. Kevin told me to delete the file just copied and to repeat the process. On the subsequent copy the file was just there…no progress bar…just there. That was impressive!
I did further testing over the proof with smaller and much larger files. All with similar results. The amount of data being sent was being compressed at a substantial rate. The reports from our Proof of Concept solution backed up what I was seeing with my own eyes. I demonstrated on each end user's system so they could see the benefits of our newly implemented trial solution.
Would You Recommend CSG’s Proof Of Concept To Other Businesses?
100% without a doubt. If you are skeptical like I was…do the Proof of Concept. It turned personal skepticism into a very viable solution that works with the way we work. Make sure you record the expression on your face when you see the results for the first time.
What’s Working With CSG Like?
CSG is a company that cares about your success. This was proven time and time again with each interaction with CSG. Our success and concern for our plight was expressed from the initial contact through the actual in-place implementation.
What Prompted You to Contact CSG Again in 2020?
We had maintenance renewals on our physical Steelheads and Mark had asked questions about our Work from Home initiative. We discussed a software solution which was different from the hardware that we have been utilizing for years; a solution that allowed for more flexibility in where our users were working.
I was asked by Mark to watch a CSG YouTube video that he had posted, which demonstrated their Work From Anywhere solution. As an office we decided to move forward on a Proof of Concept, which also included the SaaS Acceleration service, which they had just introduced to the market. Ultimately, we applied our maintenance renewal funds that would have been to applied to the old hardware solution toward the new software solution.
What Were Some Of Your Key Considerations When Evaluating The CSG Solutions?
The reputation and longevity of CSG, solution cost, implementation cost, implementation impact on systems and end users, and overall performance considerations.
CSG Prides Itself on Delivering Creative Solutions for Smaller and Medium-Sized Businesses. Did You Happen To Experience It, And If So, Could You Comment On It?
CSG has worked hard with us and for us. They promised a viable solution and they provided! One of the many factors in consideration for a solution was their ability to back up their words. The Proof of Concept and discussions with “The Team” allowed trust to be built.
Based on Relationships With Other Vendors, How Does CSG Rate In Terms Of Their Expertise?
Professional, intelligent, and very well versed in their area of expertise. I am extremely happy with Sales, Technical Support, and the product.
Has Working With CSG Impacted Your Business Productivity?
Yes, without a doubt. To CSG’s credit. I just wish we would have looked at this solution earlier.