Caribou Coffee Company, Inc. - NetCrunch Success Story

Minneapolis Minnesota, USA

"One of our core values at Caribou is that 'The customer always comes first, everything else waits'. NetCrunch has helped us make sure that our stores are serving customers first and not worrying about network outages."

Scott Ficek
Director of Information Systems
Caribou Coffee, Minneapolis, USA

Key benefits:

  • Unattended monitoring and centralized control of the 300-site WAN network
  • Dramatically reduced time to detect and correct problems due to the advanced network visualization and proactive alerting mechanism
  • Improved performance of critical business-affecting services

The Challenge

Caribou Coffee's extensive network infrastructure spans approximately 300 sites, mainly coffee shops. Each of these remote sites has one Cisco router that connects it to the corporate headquarters, which is comprised of 3 labs, 4 Cisco routers and 12 Dell servers. Of crucial importance to the company's business continuity are the WAN links between the corporate headquarters and the field locations. When a remote site handles customer transactions, all credit card authorizations are processed on the corporate WAN. In addition, the WAN network is used for pulling sales data for Caribou headquarters.

Challenged to ensure that those geographically dispersed remote locations are up and running and processing transactions, the Caribou IT team - entirely based in Minneapolis - found itself in need of a solution that would provide instant notification of problems. Scott Ficek, Director of Information Systems (IS) for Caribou Coffee, revealed that previously when a critical node on the network went down he and his teammates relied on network users for problem reports. What's more, it was common to have at least one critical error a week: "[Before we had NetCrunch], someone at the store would need to notify us that they could not ring credit cards and we would figure out that the line was down. The customer would usually be accommodated by the store automatically going into modem back-up. Unfortunately, this system took credit card authorization from sub-5 seconds to up to 40 seconds. Additionally, only one credit card could go through at a time."

For online transactions, the difference between 5 seconds and 40 can mean losing a customer. In this situation, Caribou faced a choice of either continuing to rely on phone calls for problem notification - and risking lengthy root cause diagnosis and inordinate downtime - or adopting monitoring and alerting technology that would automate and speed up problem detection and recovery. Because of NetCrunch's proactive approach to network monitoring and its ease of configurability, Caribou Coffee tapped this solution to constantly track corporate data centers.

The AdRem Solution

Deployment of NetCrunch substantially improved the effectiveness of the monitoring strategy used by Caribou's IT team to determine the root cause of hardware and software breakdowns. Instead of the traditional phone calls that often came too late, now predefined network administrators can depend on NetCrunch to monitor the WAN configuration for all 300 sites and automatically issue problem alerts on detecting a network degradation or outage. Ficek said, "The ability of NetCrunch to diagnose network problems, specifically outages, has been our key goal in network management. We are notified immediately when the service goes down and can fix the problem usually before the sales clerk notices."

In this essential capability, NetCrunch offers a wide selection of event responses that include notifications by email, pager, SMS, SNMP, ICQ or syslog message as well as running a remote program and script or executing traceroute to a particular host.

However, apart from alerting, Ficek was impressed with the visual aspect of NetCrunch that was of primary use in his daily maintenance and diagnosis tasks. Having scanned the entire WAN network, NetCrunch neatly ordered the discovered network assets in color-coded maps that display up-to-the-minute logical and physical connectivity of the network. The Caribou team used this powerful visualization mechanism to create personalized views of the network and assign monitoring and alerting policies on a per group basis. In addition, NetCrunch's event log consolidates events from the entire multi-site WAN infrastructure on a single screen and, if necessary, generates informative reports on network performance and utilization issues. The bottom line is that now it is much easier for Ficek to quickly pinpoint problems areas and take timely steps to prevent or eliminate issues that could impact business performance.

Without question, NetCrunch is paying dividends for Caribou Coffee. By reducing downtime NetCrunch relieved the administrative burden and allowed the internal IS organization to better support the business."One of our core values at Caribou is that 'The customer always comes first, everything else waits'", says Ficek. "NetCrunch has helped us make sure that our stores are serving customers first and not worrying about network outages. We are able to fix problems before they ever affect the customer experience. Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending NetCrunch to other network administrators. It is cost effective, robust, and sophisticated."

About Caribou Coffee

This Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee Company is the second largest non-franchised coffee house chain within the United States with more than 310 stores in nine states and the District of Columbia. The company is renowned for its mountain lodge style stores that serve high quality whole bean coffee and offer a wide variety of specialty drinks and related supplies. Currently Caribou employs about 4,000 people.