Q&A: Adventure Company Taps Kaseya IT Complete to Fully Manage Far-Flung Staff

Intrepid Travel is one of the world’s largest small-group adventure companies, taking travelers to exotic parts of the world to be immersed in the host nation’s culture.

As such, it has consultants spread all over the world, which can be tough for IT to manage. The solution turned out to be VSA by Kaseya, a tool that track tickets, remediates problems, and fully updates end points. After VSA, Intrepid added Traverse from Kaseya to monitor, repair and optimize their global network.

We spoke with Adrian Vanderdoes, Global Infrastructure and Service Operations Manager at Intrepid about his experience with Kaseya solutions, and what the Kaseya IT Complete Strategy means to him.

Kaseya: What IT challenges do you face on a daily basis and how do Kaseya tools help?

Vanderdoes: I wasn’t here when Kaseya came in, but here’s what happened. There was no actual desktop management tool — they were just making it up as they went along. And as the company grew and grew and grew, and we went from three countries to 27 countries in size, they needed a tool.

At the same time, they wanted replace their current help desk solution with one that gave them a more holistic view of the IT operations.

Kaseya: So you started with Kaseya VSA. Did you add Traverse after that?

Vanderdoes: Yes. Once the product (VSA) got chosen, there was a whole big change in the way IT was delivered. I started on as the new service ops manager here. I took a completely different tact to what they were doing. I didn’t really worry about what tools we were going to use. I had to fix the organizational issues first. We had to downsize all of the redundant staff. And then upsize into one single 24/7 operations based out of our office in Sri Lanka. So they’re still our staff. We didn’t outsource the operations, but we’ve gone to a 24/7 operations in Sri Lanka.

Essentially we drove VSA in first. I put Traverse in to fix monitoring problems.

We needed to make the operations run smoothly. To do that, we put the 24/7 operations in with escalations outside of the operations as needed.

What Kaseya’s giving me, and what it’s giving the business, is a whole single view of our IT operations from a service ops perspective. The 24/7 guys, they only have to go into one or two places now to do all of the work that they need to do.

Kaseya: You found that the Kaseya set of products helped improve the IT services for the rest of the Intrepid organization?

Vanderdoes: It definitely does. There’s multiple ways of getting their issue into Kaseya. We’re taking live feeds from email. We’re taking phone calls. We’re doing Skype. There’s multiple ways that they can get their issue into Kaseya. But once it’s in Kaseya, it doesn’t leave Kaseya until it’s resolved. That’s the big thing that we’ve done.

Very quickly we see where trouble points are, and then fix those root cause issues. This has then enabled us to take the pain point away rather than just superficially fixing the problems the users were reporting, which is what was happening in the old system. They’d just keep reporting the same issue and the people would just fix the same issue. They wouldn’t fix the underlying problems.

Kaseya: Kaseya helps you streamline these processes?

Vanderdoes: Definitely. I looked at some statistics, because we’ve just done 12 months of running 24/7 operations. We’ve gone from logging 140 tickets a day to 35 tickets a day.

We’ve gone from the minimum that someone would look at a ticket which was 48 hours before someone even looked at a ticket. Now 95% of tickets are resolved within two hours.

That’s the whole change, to fix all the problems underneath and then to give everyone visibility of the tickets. As a result, the user base is very happy now with how the operations supports them and fixes the problems. And we quickly see where underlying problems are starting to come back into the business, and we those quickly. Now we have a real stable environment. We have probably the best experience the users have had in a long time.

Kaseya: Has all this had a big effect on your budget or staffing as well?

Vanderdoes: It’s huge. The satisfaction level of the staff with dealing with IT now is chop and cheese. Whenever I go and talk to staff now, you don’t hear the “IT have not fixed any of my problems,” you know, the usual banter that people say about IT, and that “What’s the point in logging the ticket? They don’t do anything anyway.” Now it is “I was pleasantly surprised. I logged a ticket, and half an hour later they’d fixed it.” I hear that every day.

It’s given the guys more job satisfaction at the operational level because they see the feedback, and see the happy customers.

Everything becomes more productive for everyone. No one’s sitting around, can’t do their work because they have no IT at the moment to “It’s great, IT will fix it. Don’t worry about it.” That’s the turnaround.

Kaseya: It gave your business more faith in your IT to solve the issues that need to be fixed?

Vanderdoes: Issues would linger for a long time and now they don’t. It’s simple — they log their ticket, and it gets fixed.

There’s more than that. It’s all the other things that sit in the background with the Kaseya product that allow us to see that, “Hang on, all of these PCs haven’t been patched for however long.” And VSA would start patching the machines. We don’t end up with an issue because someone’s running an out of date version of Adobe, and log a ticket because they go to use Adobe, needs an update and won’t run.

Skype is a classic for us. We use Skype extensively in our business, and it just automatically updates, and the users never log tickets for Skype because the system’s just fixing it. Or we run an audit to proactively patch machines with the latest versions of the applications.

Kaseya: Can you pinpoint any specific cost savings that Kaseya’s helped you achieve?

Vanderdoes: We’ve now got the platform where we don’t have to do any more incremental costs or any more large outlays in staff to meet the business growth. As we grow as company, we already have the platform there to meet that growth. The cost saving would be that as the company grows, it will be able to grow without having any incremental costs in IT to support that growth.

Kaseya: The combined suite of Kaseya products, VSA and Traverse, has helped you enhance your operations overall?

Vanderdoes: It definitely has. Let me talk about the Traverse product. When we first implemented it and did just initial discovery, it highlighted back to us within about 40 minutes some pain points that we’d been having for years, especially in our database areas. All of a sudden we could see from an IT perspective why the databases would run slower at certain points in time.

Turns out we had the disks split. We had the wrong databases on the wrong disks. It was a very simple fix.

We never had that visibility before. Now we can say, “Well, there we go. We need to fix this problem to fix that issue.” And away we go.

Ever since we put Traverse in, every day it’s highlighting more and more things that have been misconfigured over the years that we can fix fairly simply without any downtime.

Kaseya: Before you started using Traverse, how did you do network monitoring?

Vanderdoes: We had a lot of monitoring solutions within the company. Let’s say ‘Joe’ knew how to use a monitoring solution, so he put the monitoring solution he knew in. But at no point did anyone have what a best practice was for the monitoring solution would be.

We found Traverse did everything that we wanted it to do. Traverse out of the box had all of those best practice tunings and best practice alerts.

Kaseya: Are any new synergies that exist because of this greater level of visibility you have across your IT infrastructure from the Kaseya suite of solutions?

Vanderdoes: It has enabled us to talk more with the other groups such as the development teams. They now see that we actually know what we’re talking about. With the new tools coming in, we can talk to them in a language that says, “Hey, guys, do you notice that your systems are going slow at this point in time? This is the reason for it.”

Before they’d say “Hey guys, our systems are slow. What’s going on?” and we’d have no clue. We’d go out, CPU’s fine, RAM’s fine. But didn’t look deeper. Now we’ve got cohesion amongst all of the teams that they can confidently come to us and say that these databases are running slow or the application’s running slow or that we need this new system provisioned for this reason. They can confidently say that the data behind that decision is there now, and they can move forward with confidence that it is correct.

It’s the right tool for all of our users. They only have one place to now log a call, whatever that call is doesn’t matter. It’ll get triaged and sent to the right place and fixed.

Kaseya: We’re interested in the fact that you use Traverse and VSA, and that right now you’re evaluating BMS. What is the value of using more than one product from a single vendor? On the BMS side, what are the synergies when you put VSA together with BMS?

Vanderdoes: It comes back to Kaseya and your view of IT Complete. I have my view as well, and it’s the single pane of glass for IT support. If all the tickets are in the one system, we can service the users fairly quickly.

That one system performs these other duties, patch management, software deployment, and the things we do with the agent procedures. The more stuff we can bolt into that one area makes my job easier. That’s why we went with Traverse.

Even though Traverse sits outside of the VSA product, it has direct integration. When there is an alert, it goes straight into the ticketing system.

Probably the bigger part of that is Live Connect. Because all of the assets are in VSA, we don’t have to have the assets also in Traverse or in another system to do Live Connect. We do it straight from either VSA or Traverse. I like the ability for the guys to Live Connect to someone’s machine without remote controlling their machine.

The biggest loser for productivity for our IT support teams was they would take over someone’s computer for two or three hours trying to fix a fault. Now they don’t have to. They can be trying to fix that fault, but the user’s still working. Every now and then they do a quick remote control, check to see if something’s fixed, and if it’s not they keep isolating the issues. The reason we’re putting everything into Kaseya is Live Connect, and how it works across the products.

Kaseya: Can you talk about your environment, how many end points, what type of end points, and how they are geographically scattered?

Vanderdoes: We have about a thousand end points under management. Currently we’re in 24 countries, soon to be 26 by the end of the year. And we’ve got a couple of countries where we’ve got multiple offices in. Peru and Vietnam, for example. So we have about 27 offices all up around the world.

I suppose you can tell there’s a lot of computers in a lot of different places that we have to look after.

We are also a big SaaS user. We’re fully in Office 365. We’re in AWS and Azure in a big way.

We’re in four regions in AWS and will have one Azure region soon. Then we’ll just have some local file servers to resolve to get them fully into the cloud.

Our model for the way that we’re heading is that so long as the computer’s on the internet, the use should be able to access the resources they need, which adds challenges. We have to change the way we deliver and maintain and manage that environment going forward.

Kaseya: Does Traverse play a critical role in making sure that what is now an increasingly complex network is running efficiently and that you can isolate problems and fix problems?

Vanderdoes: We’re changing the fact that we think that AWS will always be available — but our systems might not be. We need to make our systems highly available (HA).

The next big push is to do that wherever we think we need to do to not have a single point of failure.

Kaseya: How is it like working with Kaseya as a company?

Vanderdoes: I see Kaseya evolving, and becoming more customer focused. You’re engaging with us to make sure that we’re using their tools better. We can have a one or two hour GoToMeeting with product experts, and they’ll show us the best way to be using the tool or ask “Have you noticed that you can also do this with this part of the product set?”

Kaseya: Talk to us more about IT Complete.

Vanderdoes: I saw IT Complete for the first time at the Kaseya Connect event last year. It grabbed me as a concept. The tool set that IT Complete is giving, that single view of IT, really attracts me.

Kaseya: How would you define IT Complete in terms of applying those concepts to your own environment?

Vanderdoes: For me, it’s that anyone who needs to do a support ticket for can do it in one place. And that’s across all of our teams.

If the internal development team builds a new application, and they want to deploy that to the users, then they can do that themselves. That means the IT services are all in one area, in one view.

Kaseya: What aspects of your operation are you most proud?

Vanderdoes: We moved into our new global head office, and went from a really old, dingy place to a really brand new, state-of-the-art building. We put in innovative solutions as well. We’re WiFi-only, so we’ve no blue cables. We’ve enabled 300 staff to be able to roam within the office, which enabled people to interact with different area of the business We’ve extended that. All the projectors and all the meeting rooms are agile and people can use the facilities really simply, all from their laptop.

They’re the things that having a fairly stable IT environment has enabled me to do. As long as the user’s got an internet connection, they should be able to work anywhere, and that’s the model that we’re heading down.

Using solutions such as VSA enables me to become more innovative rather than reactive.

Kaseya: Tell us something cool about yourself.

Vanderdoes: Even though I work for a travel company, I’m more traveled than most people who work in travel companies. I’ve been to 153 countries. I’m doing three more again this year, so it’ll be 156 by the end of the year.

Learn more about VSA by clicking here.

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.
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