Sonoma County Sheriff's Office Ensures Reliability Across Radio Network with Intermapper

How network monitoring connects the office and the field

Situated in the heart of California wine country, Sonoma County covers nearly 1,800 square miles of beautiful landscape. For the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, ensuring the safety of 500,000 residents and nearly seven million yearly tourists is no small feat. Maintaining clear and consistent communication is key to accomplishing that task, and the department relies on an extensive network that supports communications coverage to staff members and officers in the field.

Maintaining Safety and Security

In Sonoma County, the Sheriff’s Office TCOMM Bureau is responsible for maintaining communications for its law enforcement personnel, Fire and EMS, Public Works, and other public services.

To provide radio, voice, and data connections, the TCOMM Bureau must manage a network made up of more than 400 devices, including Cisco Ethernet switches, IP cameras, microwave radio equipment, in-vehicle laptops, and other niche devices across 15 remote sites all around the county.

Communications Technician Vince Hurst and his team of four technicians have the weighty responsibility of making it all work. They know that even the shortest outage can impact the safety and security of officers and residents.

“The Sheriff’s Office relies on us to keep communications open,” Mr. Hurst said. “They need to have access to data and to be connected to dispatch and other officers at all times.”

A Myriad of Devices, Monitored Across the Miles

After dealing with TCOMM’s outdated network monitoring software, Mr. Hurst compared a number of options, including one offered by the county’s microwave radio vendor. After his extensive search, Mr. Hurst chose Intermapper, and has been pleased with the decision. From the moment he began installation and implementation, as a government network monitoring tool, Intermapper proved its value.

“We chose Intermapper because of its affordability, ease of use, and flexibility, and haven’t been disappointed,” Mr. Hurst said. “We also liked being able to develop our own probes or download probes other users have created. Using probes we’ve developed, we’re able to monitor a lot of the niche equipment that other solutions couldn’t. I’ve created probes that allow me to monitor transmit and receive signal levels, bit-error rates, and more on microwave radio links and other network devices. This was a big deal for us because of the many different types of equipment we use.”

Intermapper’s ability to automatically detect and map any device with an IP address helped Mr. Hurst create detailed maps of the county’s network sites and the myriad of devices throughout the network. Using Intermapper’s hierarchical map feature, Mr. Hurst maintains a map of the entire county with smaller, more detailed sub-maps of each network site. “I can look at a map or sub-map and instantly know what devices are having issues and exactly where those devices are located,” Mr. Hurst said.

He’s also created a series of email and text alerts to notify staff of key events, such as a device malfunction, network outage, or bandwidth issues. “We were able to create alerts based on our own thresholds and designate which staff members receive each alert,” Mr. Hurst said. “It is very helpful to be able to designate the alert recipient based on the event type or how critical the event is.”

Mr. Hurst and the Sonoma County Sherriff’s Office rely on the entire suite of Intermapper products to maintain their mission-critical radio network. Using Intermapper Remote Access, Mr. Hurst and his team maintain constant awareness of the network wherever they go.

The team also uses Intermapper Flows to monitor network traffic in real time. “Flows is a very cool feature,” Mr. Hurst said. “I am able to look at my routers and see network traffic in real time. It’s a beautiful application that lets me see exactly what is going on.”

Faster Network Troubleshooting

Intermapper has helped Mr. Hurst maintain consistent network uptime. “The ability to monitor every device and the strength and state of the network in real time has helped us keep the network operating at peak efficiency,” he said.

Intermapper has also helped Mr. Hurst’s team save time and money by providing them with the details they need to address and troubleshoot issues across multiple sites.

"Intermapper has helped us diagnose problems and address them remotely. On several occasions, we’ve been able to avoid two-hour drives to network sites,” Mr. Hurst said. “If I do have to make a trip to a site, I know exactly where I need to go, what I need to do to fix the problem, and what equipment or supplies I need to bring with me.”

Mr. Hurst isn’t the only one impressed with Intermapper; he regularly uses an interactive whiteboard to show upper management maps of the network. This has proved invaluable when discussing network performance and future planning.

“Management really likes Intermapper’s graphical representation. It makes it very easy to understand device conditions and network status,” Mr. Hurst said. “Intermapper makes sense to everybody—it's made it a whole lot easier to monitor and maintain our network.”

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