Grundy County, IL (Switching, Firewalls)

With much foresight, the Grundy County IT team creates an infrastructure ready to face some issues and even lightning strikes—despite strict budgets, thanks to D-Link’s low TCO.

In Pursuit of a ‘Shockingly’ Diverse Network

With much foresight, an IT team creates an infrastructure ready to face issues and even lightning strikes—despite strict budgets, thanks to D-Link’s low TCO

Situated outside of Chicago, Grundy County, Illinois, is home to some 37,000 residents. To support continuity of government and provide a better value to the taxpayer, particularly in times of emergency, Grundy has implemented parallel high-bandwidth network backbones that back each other up via fast failover. All of it was founded on versatile and highly affordable D-Link® equipment.

The Vision: Evolving from primitive to preeminent
Most citizens would be impressed, and IT executives awed, by the robust network Grundy County has built over the years. But when IT Director John Watters arrived in 2002, that was far from true. Then, tax processing was done using a dozen computers with dial-up for Internet access connected to a server with a single Cisco switch.

Seeing a critical need for a broader, more diverse IT infrastructure to unite Grundy’s five buildings and 18 departments, Watters quickly set to work. His first order of business was establishing managed networks and introducing VLAN stacking so that the various offices could operate as separate work groups. His overarching goal was to ensure they all could continue functioning—even amid a crisis, or in the aftermath of all-too-common electrical storms.

“Our mission is supporting government action with an infrastructure that functions well... even in the darkest hour. It’s all about total cost of ownership and providing value to the taxpayer.” — John Watters, Grundy County IT Director

Yet from the outset he encountered some serious challenges in finding the right supplier/partner. The current SMC solution had a management interface, but it was not user-friendly enough to make it a good long-term choice. HP, Cisco and D-Link all offered managed infrastructures. And though compelling, the Cisco solution was expensive, including an onerous SMARTnet Service contract; whereas the D-Link option included technical support at no extra cost. Ultimately, Watters and his team discovered that D-Link offered a comparable feature set to the Cisco solution, was much less expensive, and required no hefty service add-on. “For us,” he remarked, “the value of the D-Link equipment was that it not only matched the competition feature-for-feature, but was less than half the capital cost.”

The Solution: Ready when lightning strikes thrice
After a careful vetting of competing technologies, Watters soon realized his vision, thanks in large part to D-Link affordability.

Grundy’s backbone is strictly D-Link’s xStack® DXS-3250 Layer 2 switches, ideal for medium to heavy voice, video and data applications, and featuring the latest stacking technology. Their five-building IT“footprint”is now interconnected using licensed microwave relay backed up by fiber, with rapid failover via the stacking implemented by DXS-3250s. They run D-Link wireless enterprise-wide connected to DWS-1008 eight-port switches in each building. The recent addition of the new Dlink DWS-3024 24-port PoE Wireless-Ready switch has significantly improved in-building wireless speed and reliability. They further use three DFL-1600 firewalls, and were in fact the first such installation in the continental U.S.

Just as important, compelling D-Link economics have enabled Grundy to purchase the standby equipment they sought for emergent and unplanned work, future emergencies and other unforeseen events.

Prophetically enough, the county has suffered three lightning strikes over the past three years— the first wreaking some $300 thousand in damage, taking out their main firewall, three switches, many computers and their Emergency Operations Center’s backup 911 call answering system. But thanks to a solid failover architecture and “hot spare”D-Link switches, the county was able to carry on. “In the last two strikes most users did not even know anything was wrong,”Watters said proudly.

Into the Future: "Well grounded" against the unexpected, and unwanted
Like many small local governments, Grundy is not in an especially aggressive growth mode; though they are planning to use D-Link equipment in their new animal control building. But, as one would expect, they are quite proactive. And they’ve found personalized D-Link support to be very beneficial in bringing solutions for troublesome trends. “In the last year,”Watters said,“we have seen an increase in issues that need to be resolved due to Web content, malware or spyware."

Noting this uptick, they are taking D-Link’s recommendation and preparing to upgrade their firewall. Specifically, they’ll be upgrading from the DFL-1600 to the DFL-1660 NetDefend Unified Threat Management (UTM) firewall, offering a built-in comprehensive defense against virus attacks, unauthorized intrusions and harmful content.

The mixture of perceptive IT management, D-Link’s low TCO and proactive D-Link support bode well for Grundy in their quest to provide excellent ongoing value to taxpayers. In fact, they found themselves very well prepared to add extra network capacity for a recent election. As for the occasional bolt from above, one suspects it will just be another spark of inspiration spurring them to accomplish even greater things.