We are a small team. As much as we can automate, that is what we need to do. Between the Exinda appliance and our firewall, we put policies into place. If they need to be adjusted later on, that is great.
With Exinda, I log into it at least once a day, though I'm not on it all day long. We have reports automated to show usage. So, we can adjust that. We look at overall bandwidth, what's actually coming through, and how much of that is actually being prioritized.
The solution allows us to focus on application performance, rather than just “throttling” traffic and bandwidth. When I do this, I'll put an app out there just to peek here and there. For example, there is an application that our football team uses called "Huddle", which they use for scouting. They will also post their practices there. So, this is an essential tool that they use. When it's performing, it is all streaming video. and I keep watch over it.
For athletics' streaming video, we do have a custom app that we put in there to monitor performance. It is cool that you can actually put a custom app in there. It's not just all the predefined stuff; you can create your own applications and monitor them. I don't do a whole lot of that, but I do it a little bit of it.
Exinda has enabled us to gain control over our network traffic. I don't know how I would control it otherwise. You can do some basic stuff, e.g., at the firewall level or switch level, where you can do quality of service. However, that doesn't touch on the granularity that you get with an optimizer, like Exinda, which allows you to go in there and and look at ranges of IP addresses. In my network, I have certain ranges for certain machines, e.g., classrooms fall in this range, my faculty and staff might fall on another range, and then students fall into another range. You can identify based on location essentially, then pull those computers out and give them priority. So, I know that during the day my classrooms will take priority. So, I'll just pull out that entire network range and bump it up a bit. That is something that we use it for a lot.
I use Exinda's dashboard to see what’s happening on our network. It allows us to look at our top applications, like the most prioritized and used applications, and look at what they are doing. For example, our current top applications are:
- PlayStation Network
- Amazon Prime Video
It really gives us an idea of what students are actually using. We can trend applications, and say, "This is what they're using today."
It used to be where everybody was downloading MP3s and movie files, now not so much. We only allocate a certain amount of bandwidth for that now, because torrenting invites a lot of sketchy stuff, like malware, which you do not want on your network. Aside from that, we are not allowing torrenting to take priority. If you don't want something there, you can even go ahead and drop the traffic as well. Though, I don't like using it so much like a firewall, then dropping the traffic.
We look at traffic patterns or how much it's being utilized during the day. You can definitely see in the morning that traffic is at an all time low. I have maybe 150 MB coming across my network, because early morning is just classroom activity. You're really only using the network for what is needed. If we don't have all the entertainment stuff and it was just simply work-related and academic-related, then we wouldn't really need that much bandwidth at all. However, as the day goes on, it'll get up between 500 to 800 MB. So, it'll get pretty high.
We can also kind of look at our utilization during the day. I've used it before to make a decision on when is the best time to reboot network equipment, e.g., when are the fewest number of users going to be on the network. You get kind of creative with how you can use it, because now you're looking at utilization to start planning and your work maintenance.