Gigabit made easy – and affordable

IMB Building Society has moved to gigabit Ethernet, but the supplier it used may come as a bit of a surprise if you think gigabit Ethernet is an enterprise-only technology.

When your network is large enough to require nearly sixty 24-port switches for the head office, plus almost 40 more for the branch offices, you might not expect the purchase order to feature the Netgear brand. But savvy network managers are well aware that along with the budget-oriented consumer and small business product lines, Netgear is also in the business of supplying affordable yet serious networking grunt.

The technology team at Wollongong-based IMB building society had done their homework and knew they could acquire industrial strength switches at a competitive price by specifying Netgear, and local reseller AVC wasn't at all surprised when the request arrived. The secret is well and truly out of the bag. You can now afford to upgrade to a high-speed managed network. AVC's knowledge of the switching market meant they were able to confirm IMB's choice of products.

"The IMB IT team had a very clearly defined set of outcomes for this upgrade before we approached AVC," said Ian Treweek, IMB's IT support services manager. He explained the company's IT infrastructure needed a complete refresh to better cope with the demands of the business. "We were spending too much time managing a network that wasn't delivering the required performance outcomes."

"We wanted to upgrade to switching to increase our administrative control of the network to allow early identification of problems before any disruption to the work environment. We also looked to switches with greater throughput to speed up the operation of the network and consequently improve productivity. Our research showed Netgear was best positioned to provide intelligent Gigabit switching with the type of management features we were after, with plug and play usability, delivered within the project budget," said Treweek.

IMB has installed 56 managed gigabit switches in the head office in Wollongong and carried out a complete refresh of the 38 branch offices with unmanaged gigabit switches. From research, planning, implementation and 'flicking the switch', the upgrade took IMB approximately six months. "We rolled out the head office refresh one floor at a time over a six-week period," said Treweek. "The Netgear switches were installed to work at the edge of the network and integrate with core switching infrastructure from another vendor. We then spent around 10 weeks rolling out the new infrastructure into the branch networks.

Moving to a managed switching environment which didn't require the purchase or installation of a separate software suite was an added bonus. "A key requirement was being able to administer the network effectively internally and do our own basic problem solving," said Treweek. The Netgear managed switches meet that requirement, allowing IMB's IT team to login to a switch and see what is going on using any PC on the network, by simply opening a web browser. There's no premium to pay for this functionality.

As far as the actual rollout was concerned, Treweek reported minimal configuration was required and despite Netgear's reputation for good technical support, it just wasn't needed. "The rollout was extremely smooth," said Treweek. "We found the Netgear switches integrated easily with the switches from the other vendor and required minimal configuration. We've always found NETGEAR tech support to be responsive, but this time the rollout was that smooth we didn't have to rely on them at all."

The proof, as they say, comes after the pudding is cooked, and the feedback is looking positive. "Since installation, we've had several reports back from our branches indicating a performance improvement, so we're very pleased with the outcome," said Treweek.

The GS724T ProSafe 24 Port Gigabit Smart Switches installed by IMB are designed to enable fast delivery of data for bandwidth hungry applications such as multimedia, databases and video. "The ProSafe Smart Switch range enables network administrators to monitor switch performance, prioritorise traffic, configure VLANs, and set up port trunks," said Greg Basford, Netgear's sales manager for corporate and education clients. "An intuitive web-browser interface walks administrators through every step of installation and configuration."

The Netgear GS724T ProSafe 24-Port Gigabit Smart Switch comes with a lifetime warranty, is stackable, and includes support for power-over-Ethernet options, as well as two optional fibre optic slots to extend the Gigabit capacity across longer distances.

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