Founded in 1919, holding the fifth oldest active contractor license in the state, C.W. Driver is one of the longest-operating contracting firms headquartered in California. Their client list spans prestigious higher education institutes like the University of Southern California, to high-end retailers like Bloomingdale’s, to major corporations like DreamWorks Animation.
Within the last decade, C.W. Driver underwent rapid growth, increasing employee count by almost 3 times. Yet, as the company grew, their IT infrastructure remained the same, which was inadequate to support their increasing user load.
The ability to centrally manage the entire network was important for C.W. Driver. Multiple project sites are active simultaneously all throughout the state of California. Initially, the wireless configurations and network architecture, including the physical hardware devices, varied greatly. Employees had to deal with inconsistent wireless experiences from site to site and across regional offices, and IT struggled to manage such a fragmented network.
As Blaine Crawford, Director of Information Technology, explains it, “the pre-existing WAN architecture was 8 years out of date, the MPLS circuits were too expensive and didn’t have enough bandwidth, and we were using end-of-life equipment that could only be found on eBay.” It was time for a change.
When Crawford began at C.W. Driver, his main goal was to establish a cost-efficient, standardized network that would support over 500 employees across 7 regional offices, enable open space access larger than the regional offices, and equip up to 40 remote project sites that could have as many as 9 mobile trailers and more than 30 people per shift. Most importantly, C.W. Driver wanted to be sure to provide a consistent, quality network experience for all end users, no matter where they were located.
For Crawford and his regionally dispersed IT team, Meraki’s cloud-managed security and wireless devices, which users can access and manage through a simple web-based dashboard, not only made it easy to set up multiple job sites but also manage their entire network remotely from a single location.
We no longer have to send people all over the county—you know, LA County, San Diego County—fly them up to San Jose to configure job sites. We can do it all from an arm chair in the “mission control” room of the IT department.Blaine Crawford, Director, Information TechnologyThe new Meraki network was set up so that regional offices and job sites had almost identical networking experiences. Regional offices utilize MX80 Security Appliances, with the data center housing a single MX400 for the VPN hub. Job sites are similar in set up, with MX64s at smaller sites or MX80s at larger sites.
“Simply by deploying the Meraki devices, almost immediately everything was standardized,” Crawford said.
Eventually, Blaine and his team created their own “NIAB,” or Network-in-a-Box, which is a self-service site set up kit. In the NIAB is a portable metal case that includes a standard network equipment rack, rack mount UPS and LAN switch and a shelf with a Meraki MX device bolted into it. The IT team then uses Meraki’s automatic Site-to-Site VPN to configure the devices and connect the sites without ever having to do a manual on-site VPN configuration. From there, anyone at the site can just plug in the Internet and the network will be up and running. As Blaine described it, “it’s pretty much just ‘plug n’ play’.” No additional configurations and no onsite IT assistance are required, both major benefits for their lean IT team.
From HQ, Blaine and his team use the Meraki dashboard to monitor bandwidth usage and enforce best practices for a more efficient network, such as placing limits on music streaming and P2P applications. Meraki cloud management provides real-time visibility into the network, which has enabled the IT team to proactively detect any ISP outages or failures in the system, so that patches can be made before business hours even begin.
In one instance, one of the offices was experiencing latency issues, so the IT team used the dashboard to monitor traffic flows. The problem was traced back to a client device that was automatically downloading Windows updates. The IT team just adjusted their settings to avoid bandwidth constraints by scheduling major application updates to only be made during off-business hours.
Today, C.W. Driver utilizes Meraki devices to maximize security, remote management, and an overall standardization of their ever-changing network. They were able to cancel out many extraneous expenses such as MPLS contracts, expensive controllers, and high fees from consultants who had previously managed their internal WAN architecture. The additional security and malware protection of Meraki MXs also eliminated the need for an entirely separate security budget. Now, the entire network is managed in-house through a single budget, and cost savings were realized within the year.
Crawford and his team were able to turn the previously inadequate and stressed IT situation into a successful and efficient network that is capable of supporting the company’s growth and business needs. From Crawford’s perspective, everything has improved dramatically, from the overall networking experience to the cleanliness and presentation of the IT closet. However, overall feedback from employees at C.W. Driver has been relatively quiet—which pleases Crawford.“The best IT department is one that you don’t know because that means things are working,” he explained. “When things aren’t working then everybody wants to find you. I think that’s what’s happened here. Now they’re just used to it. This is the way it is. This is the new standard. It just works the way it should.”