IP VPN Case Study
Promethean Graduates to a New Virtual Private Network (Cont'd)
We are ensuring that we offer the right technology to our employees to do their job, and therefore get the best out of our people.”
Darren Murray, CIO, Promethean
Conduct business-critical communications across globally-dispersed locations while supporting enterprise-wide applications
Multi-function MPLS-based network with layered applications including voice, data and high-definition telepresence videoconferencing
Enhanced collaboration between sites worldwide, ease of expansion and hands-off network management
Education technology solutions
Around 860 employees in 12 locations worldwide
Founded in 1997, Promethean is a global education company committed to
supporting teaching and learning. The company designs, manufactures and
distributes a range of products to promote
student-centered and collaborative learning and communication, including its ActivBoard whiteboards, ActivExpression wireless student response devices, tablets and ActivInspire software. Promethean also hosts the world’s largest online community of whiteboard educators, Promethean Planet, where more than one million subscribers share content and lesson plans. Now this educational solutions provider is expanding from its core scholastic market to serve enterprise and government customers.
Headquartered in Blackburn, England, Promethean has grown rapidly and added locations worldwide, from the U.S. to China, Germany, and Bahrain. As the company implemented global CRM and ERP systems, it needed one cohesive network to support these applications. Service was inconsistent and costly. Adding new locations was challenging at best. This fragmented and difficult-to-manage arrangement negatively impacted internal communications and could hamper future growth.
Promethean united its global locations through an AT&T Virtual Private Network (VPN). This fully meshed and managed network cost effectively delivers consistent services and enables interaction across all sites. Several communications applications are layered on the network, including AT&T Voice over IP (VoIP), email, instant messaging, data and, for a growing number of sites, high-definition video conferencing. The network can easily expand as Promethean grows.
New Tools for Effective Learning
Teachers use Promethean technology to present lessons, involve students and assess their level of understanding. “It’s about the excitement of technology within the classroom and how it engages young people,” said Darren Murray, CIO. Promethean’s products are found in more than 750,000 classrooms worldwide. The company also provides teachers with product training.
My contact at AT&T said to me, ‘The minute we have one global system, all these issues we were having would disappear,’ and it’s true today.”
Darren Murray, CIO, Promethean
With mobile devices in their pockets and computers at home, students are increasingly attuned to digital information. Promethean’s solutions modernize the learning process for these tech-savvy learners. The company’s best-known product, the ActivBoard, is an interactive whiteboard that replaces the traditional chalkboard. Connected to computers in real-time, the whiteboard can stream Internet content, lesson plans and video. Teachers and students connect with the ActivBoard through both direct and remote interaction allowing teachers to gauge student progress and understanding. The solutions are shaping the future, and not just in the classroom. “As these students become working adults, they will expect to use the most current and appropriate technology for their continued learning,” said Murray.
From its base in education, the company has begun to draw corporate and government customers. “We don’t just learn at school,” Murray said. “We carry on learning at work all through our lives, and that is the fundamental DNA of our organization.” Employee training is a primary example of education in the business sector, and Promethean’s products enable dynamic engagement.
Seeking Support for Growth
Being at the cutting edge of learning technology has enabled Promethean to grow fast. In 2004, just nine employees worked at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. Today, that number is 250. Just as communication is key to learning, it is essential to business success. Promethean’s operations require frequent contact between administrative offices and manufacturing and distribution sites, now spread all around the world. And Promethean must maintain relationships with a number of business partners for product development, acquisition and distribution. Voice and data communication are key.
“As it became a global brand, Promethean needed its primary network provider to have adequate global reach. The company did not want to deal with local carriers to negotiate necessary arrangements. Ensuring the security of its business-critical communications and having consistent service quality were also essential. “We absolutely had to have cost-effective and totally reliable service,” said Murray.
The mish-mash of carriers that had been employed left gaps in support, causing delays when service was disrupted. Promethean’s primary provider didn’t have the resources to improve network capability. “The systems we had weren’t capable of supporting the kind of growth pattern we were predicting,” said Murray.
A Night and Day Difference
Promethean moved to an AT&T VPN, creating a single infrastructure for internal communication. The gains were clear at once. “It was a matter of hours, not weeks or days, to get things settled and configured,” said Murray. The new network was first installed at four of Promethean’s locations; all twelve are now on board.
The VPN simplifies and strengthens Promethean’s communication system. The network’s multiprotocol level switching (MPLS) easily handles different Classes of Service for optimal performance. Promethean first switched over its voice communication to AT&T Voice over IP. “The routing of calls via the cloud, via the MPLS network, is a night and day difference,” said Murray. Next the company layered on its data, including the support of its global ERP and CRM systems. Now, Promethean conducts all internal business over the network, from email and video communication to financial reporting.
The global network connects Promethean’s dispersed locations with quality and consistency. “From Georgia to Hong Kong, we have exactly the same telephone system in every location, down to the same machines, the same laptops and the same access controls,” explained Murray. “It gives everyone the same standard around the world.”
AT&T uses rigorous processes to select and manage Local Access Suppliers worldwide to ensure consistent quality service. Thus local carriers no longer represent unknown variables.
The VPN has made network management far easier for Promethean staff. “My contact at AT&T said to me, ‘The minute we have one global system, all these issues we were having would disappear,’” Murray said. “And it’s true today.” With scalable bandwidth, Promethean can add more network capacity as needed. The affordable solution supports cost-effective growth.
The high quality of network service means optimal performance across the company. “We are ensuring that we offer the right technology to our employees to do their job, and therefore get the best out of our people as well,” Murray said. Staff members don’t have to waste energy on service disruptions or data security issues.
The VPN also makes it possible for Promethean to link its locations through high-definition telepresence conferencing, using Cisco TelePresenceTM equipment provided by AT&T. Promethean has installed five telepresence meeting rooms in just four months alone. The company estimates it has received a $240,000 savings in travel costs as face-to-face meetings were replaced with high-definition video conferences.
Opening New Possibilities
Today Promethean is looking at how to further update its infrastructure. Currently hosting its hardware with another company, Promethean is considering synaptic hosting arrangements with AT&T for its back office systems. “And don’t be surprised if every location by the end of next year has telepresence in it”, added Murray.
AT&T has been a good fit for Promethean. In addition to creating business-critical solutions, the two companies enjoy working together. “This is just the start of a very good relationship,” said Murray. “It’s professional, but it’s fun as well.” AT&T supports the Promethean network around the clock, speaking with the company on a daily basis if needed. AT&T also regularly analyzes the network’s performance and provides ongoing performance reports.
With its internal operations running smoothly, Promethean can focus on new offerings. The company has plans for increasing remote interactivity, hoping to roll out a product to enable cross-location teaching. It continues to make new connections, to learn and grow. “We strive to be number one,” said Murray. Promethean now has the network to make that happen.