How CalSTRS Benefits from Real-Time Mapping and Monitoring

Benefits provider delivers smooth services to retired educators with Intermapper


More than 800,000 educators and their families depend on the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) to support the management and delivery of their retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. To serve these customers, approximately 900 employees rely on CalSTRS network resources and websites.

To keep things running smoothly, Shawn Hickox, Lead Network Engineer of Enterprise Initiatives and Technology, needed a product that could work on his network, 90 percent of it Cisco products. “We needed something to monitor all of our systems and send us alerts when a device goes down or has problems,” said Shawn. He selected Intermapper for its affordability, ease of operation, graphic live-mapping, and real-time monitoring. “We also like that Intermapper is multi-platform. It’s nice that I can run the client on my Mac, when everyone else here has Windows.”

CalSTRS Counts on Network Monitoring

Shawn relies on Intermapper to retrieve traffic and error rate statistics from 180 devices and connections serving their Sacramento headquarters, two remote offices, a disaster recovery location, mainframes, and multiple websites. Network technicians receive alerts of potential problems, real-time network maps locate the devices and connections at the root of the issue, and the interface allows for drilling down to more detailed information.

Intermapper’s wide range of Cisco probes can monitor IP SLA (jitter and packet loss), CPU utilization and power supply, memory, hardware health, and more. These probes deliver essential information on the operating status of switches, routers, firewalls, wireless devices, and even the CalSTRS phone system.

“Probably 90 percent of our monitoring uses a standard SNMP traffic probe,” he continued. “But we also use specialized probes for ASA 6500s, ACP, and Windows Interface probes. The probes monitor battery capacity and room or device temperature. We can also monitor ports to see if services are backed up after a device has been rebooted.”

Shawn keeps information easily accessible on 10 to 12 different network maps. “We can see who is downloading what and where they are. That’s important because there might be a 20 to 45 megabit circuit that usually runs at 10 to 20 percent of bandwidth capacity, but it gets hit and goes to 90 or 100 percent. We need to figure out what’s hogging the bandwidth. Sometimes it’s a digital signage video that’s not supposed to go over or too many video streams. It really helps to pin that down quickly.”

On his high-level network map of California, each CalSTRS location is marked with an icon. If one turns orange, Shawn knows there is trouble and he can click the icon to drill down to diagnostic information. He doesn’t have to constantly keep an eye out for orange icons; email alerts let him know when devices or connections are in trouble or packets are being dropped.

Low Risk, High Return

Shawn added, “We have had monitoring before. What we like about Intermapper is that it’s not expensive and is very easy to learn. It’s very graphical. A lot of other tools are table-based; you have to set up tables and devices. It gets complicated. There were some other nice tools that were expensive and complicated to set up."

Intermapper gives CalSTRS the industrial-strength tools and real-time, targeted information they can trust to keep benefits flowing for California’s educators and their families.

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