Torch Technologies: An SD-WAN Case Study

Torch Technologies sees a 25% decrease in monthly phone and data spend since deploying enterprise-grade SD-WAN with hosted telephony. 

June 30, 2021

Torch Technologies is a 100% employee-owned company, headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama. Their employee-owners are located at numerous sites throughout the United States. Providing superior research, development, and engineering services to the Federal Government and Department of Defense, Torch Technologies is not just another services company. They combine superior technical services with in-house labs, tools and expertise needed to solve the toughest engineering challenges. 

The Challenge

Torch is a fast-growing company, frequently opening up offices in areas that were not best served in terms of communications. Bringing new locations on to their MPLS network and installing the required circuits could be a lengthy process, taking up to 120 days at times.

In addition to the lengthy process associated with bringing new locations onto their MPLS network, their MPLS provider had some significant performance issues. Mike Bearden, Director of IT, elaborated: “We had several outages that lasted periods of several hours to almost an entire day. That really put us in a world of hurt, as our corporate data centers are at our headquarters in Huntsville, so if this site was down, all of our sites were down.

“The MPLS provider was also giving us hosted phone services, so typically when the network was out, the phone system would be out too. Being on-premises at the time meant that access to email in these situations was also non-existent.”

John Lorance, IT Lead at Torch, went on to add about the relationship, or lack of, with their former provider:

“Whether we were dealing with support sales or our local account reps, it seemed like we were no longer recognized as a partner in our relationship. That was something we really wanted to have – a stronger connection with the provider.”

The IT department at Torch is small, which makes it that much more important to have a provider that can act like an extension of your IT team, bringing the skills, resources and execution that is not always available with lean teams.

John continued, “We are primarily an on-premises house, so when moving to cloud solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 and Cisco Webex, it makes a different case when you’re designing the network. We were making changes in moving to cloud resources and not really thinking about the impacts of where our internet connections were until we’d already made those changes.”

Mike added, “Managing this project was something we felt we could probably do, but we hadn’t done it before. So, we really needed some top-level engineers to help us design the network and move forward with the implementation.”

Solution

Due to the outages, IT was getting a lot of attention from senior managers. They knew they needed to do something and started to look into alternative providers. From the start, Mike knew he wanted a co-managed solution from a partner they could feel more connected to. He also needed a network that was fully redundant with multiple points of failure in case of an outage. As a government contractor, whilst not technically providing the network for employees located at government facilities, they were providing access to the services they used. This meant security was paramount, and any cloud solution needed to be FedRAMP compliant, placing emphasis on security and protection of federal information.

Having had a very positive experience working with Intrado before, back when they were known as Smoothstone, Mike contacted Intrado.
Following meetings with several providers, ruling some out quickly, Mike and John were left with two in the running, plus a massive spreadsheet to compare the services offered, the costs, and what they felt was the better-quality solution. They then took their findings and recommendations to their C-Suite.

Intrado presented an enterprise-grade SD-WAN solution using Maxxis, a next-generation application-aware network service, providing high bandwidth, improved performance, and enhanced voice quality, supported by redundancy and fault tolerance capabilities. VoiceMaxx CE, based on Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), with Cisco IP Phones was proposed for the voice and collaboration services.  
Mike explained, “We’re comfortable with the Cisco environment as our backbone network was all Cisco hardware. And based on our past experience, and the SD-WAN solution they provided, we selected Intrado.”

Implementation

John detailed: “We started with the smaller sites, making the network changes first. We’d then wait up to a week and then implement the hosted VoIP services.”

When asked about their experience of working with Intrado’s engineers, Mike was quick to point out the ease of it all. “The smoothness of it impressed me. When we’d switch over to voice or data at those locations, we didn’t really have any significant issues at all, even though I was expecting something to totally break during the process. I think a lot of this has to go back to the solution proposed and the team implementing it.

“I think it’s an awesome team we’ve worked with. The whole project management process has been top-notch.”

Torch have also moved their data centers off-premises to two three-tiered data centers about 80 miles apart and are now part of the SD-WAN solution.

Benefits

Mike explained the benefits, “One of the big things is cost. We’re seeing a significant decrease in our monthly expenditure for phone and data services, even though we have twice the capability for redundancy as we had previously. It’s about a 25 percent decrease in our month-to-month bills. The overall performance and stability of the network has been huge for us. I’m not aware of any single outage we’ve had.”

John went on to add: “I can now see the alerts when broadband circuits go offline. Having that other fiber connection at our locations carrying the bulk keeps it going, so the site never goes down. It allows us to work with the carrier to get the issue sorted. Now we never skip a beat and that’s huge.”

Mike continued, “Now we feel we have a much better solution in place where it’s being co-managed between Intrado and Torch staff. To me, this is huge. We’re getting better access and better reporting capabilities out of the environment.”

Torch was also complimentary of Intrado’s support team. John stated, “With the support team at Intrado, we’ve been able to shift some of the support over. Every week we can have new hires rolling through our system. Provisioning the phones can now go through the ticket systems at Intrado, which has freed us up to do more things.

“The project team from day one has been solid. They have stayed on top of issues and helped push us through as we’re a small team with a lot of distractions. They’ve helped to keep us on track and have been patient with us as we work our way through the project. Even with support, they are easy to work with and stay on top of issues. And in situations, where we’ve wanted to add more services or sites to the mix, they all went very smoothly. Overall, I have no complaints dealing with Intrado, whatsoever.”

With two more sites poised to be added to the network in 2021, it seems Torch continues to enjoy steady growth. And Intrado looks forward to supporting them all the way.

Mike: “We’re very happy with the solution and support so far, and we’re looking forward to a long-term relationship with Intrado.”

Quick View

Company: Torch Technologies 

Situation: As a fast-growing company, Torch was frequently opening new offices. Frustratingly, this could take up to 120 days to bring new locations onto their MPLS network. Torch was also experiencing significant performance issues with their MPLS network and hosted phone services provider, resulting in several outages across all their sites. Invariably, when the sites went down, their phone systems went down too. Torch wanted a more robust, fully redundant network that could be co-managed.