At a glance:

We helped a major Northwest broadcaster turn an unruly collection of disconnected transmission sites into a modern, orderly network that can be managed from one central location—and saved them money in the process.

The Problem:

With five offices and 70 transmitter sites, Oregon Public Broadcasting has a reach that many commercial broadcasters would envy. Unfortunately, at the outset of this project these sites were served by a patchwork of various Internet providers, operating at varying service levels.

This hodgepodge of service agreements and bills created an ongoing headache for OPB’s accounting department. For the IT staff, the arrangement meant lots of costly, and sometimes even dangerous, technician visits to remote sites to service equipment—equipment that could have been managed remotely if it were on the kind of dedicated network used by less far-flung enterprises.

As it was, some of this hardware could scarcely be managed at all—some of the sites were literally inaccessible in winter, creating the potential for lengthy outages.

Solutions: Analysis, Recommendations and Strategy

Our first task was to bring order to this chaos by compiling a thorough inventory of services at all 75 locations—providers, costs, usage and performance—which we could weigh against each site’s needs.

The next step was to create a standardized set of goals and budgeting requirements to apply across all these sites, making sure to get buy-in from stakeholders for all the relevant departments at OPB.

We then ran numbers for each site, determining the true costs of downtime and calculating the long-term savings from right-sizing the services at each location.

Finally, armed with this substantial trove of data we developed a detailed, site by site plan, or “runbook,” for making the systemwide switch to a standardized solution.

Solutions: Action and Implementation

Our core recommendation for OPB was to implement SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) across all their sites. This solution allows an organization to establish a dedicated, enterprise-level network—with all the security and performance that implies—through a standard consumer-grade Internet connection.

To keep that network up and running, we established two independent Internet connections at all mission-critical locations—redundancy to eliminate the system’s vulnerability to garden-variety outages. Backup Internet at the more remote locations was set up using the cellular system.

As hinted at above, SD-WAN does support remote equipment management, and we made sure the tools to use it were installed. We also reduced complexity by consolidating the provider patchwork into a manageable number of accounts.

Finally, we standardized all sites onto a single cloud-based platform, finally making it possible to remotely monitor and manage the whole system at once.

The Results:

For the technicians, the benefit of this arrangement was fewer time-consuming (and potentially dangerous) visits to hard-to-reach locations. For OPB’s broadcasting, field operations, and engineering departments, the process helped them better understand each other’s technical challenges.

For the IT staff, a unified standard afforded the opportunity to make apples-to-apples comparisons of service levels between sites. And for the viewers and listeners, the benefit was fewer outages, and more time to enjoy OPB’s broadcasts.