GSX Solutions is the specialist in Office 365 service performance optimization. We’ve worked with many enterprise customers to measure their end-user experience with our Robot Users. We have the expertise; we want to share our knowledge with you by explaining real business cases that we face together with our customers.
Multinational pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Germany
Branches in more than 100 countries, research centers spread across five continents
Migration to Office 365 Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive.
- The use of SharePoint Online or OneDrive depends on the individual office’s activities and the usage of the central document management system.
- Information accuracy and availability are highly critical to the company.
The primary need
The whole project directly involves most of the business lines, the Office 365 team and IT management. Continuity of service is key, especially during migration, which was planned for summer 2019 to limit the risks.
Unfortunately, starting mid-July and despite the high number of employees on vacation, the number of tickets opened by end users for unavailability of the SharePoint environment or slowness of its main functions (upload, modification and download documents) increased considerably.
For most of the tickets, it was very difficult to understand whether they corresponded to real issues. Most of the “slow” situations occurred for short times so that it was nearly impossible to troubleshoot them. Nothing was set up to track end-user experience and relate it to network performance. As a result, there was no data to back up users’ claims and show to Microsoft support.
In moving to a cloud solution, the management knew that performance could become an issue in some regions. However, they had no way to diagnose or prevent it. Tickets were raised on both OneDrive and SharePoint Online environments.
We met during Microsoft Ignite 2019 and decided to present a Proof of Concept (POC) of our solution shortly thereafter. The objective was to understand if the Company could reduce the number of tickets with proper monitoring of the end-user experience at all critical branch offices.
Summary of the need:
- Understand the patterns of end-user experience
- Detect any potential bottleneck on the way to the cloud
- Understand the performance tickets that were opened and get data to discuss with Microsoft Premier support
How GSX was put in place
We immediately started the POC by configuring GSX Gizmo for Office 365 to:
- Check the performance of SharePoint Online and OneDrive login site by site.
- Perform end-user scenarios such as upload document, download document, create site and search services.
The GSX team worked with the customer’s Office 365 team to set up five Robot Users for the POC.
The first location chosen was the headquarters in Germany (Frankfurt), where the fewest tickets originated. That site seemed to run just fine, while offices in India, China and even Spain experienced many issues. So, it was decided to install one Robot User in Shanghai, one in Madrid, one in Bangalore and the last one at an important location in Switzerland (Basel).
On each Robot User, SharePoint Online and OneDrive tests were configured to log in, upload and download a document every five minutes. On top of that, all possible network tests were configured in parallel to provide data and aid in root cause analysis of the tickets. Round trip ping to the proxy and to Office 365 datacenter, analysis of packet loss, DNS resolution time and availability checks were performed.
Alerts were fine-tuned to be sensitive to end-user issues so that we could quickly detect any performance problems. We detected many issues during the first week of the POC.
All data was then centralized and extracted into Power BI reports to show the end-user performance pattern to management and the local network managers of the critical branch offices. The POC lasted one month, with a deep involvement of GSX experts to assist the Office 365 team to analyze the tickets and understand how to fix and prevent them.
The outcome for the company
The outcome for the company was so positive that they decided to expand the use of Robot Users to additional branch offices.
So, what did we find?
The first step was to understand whether people were complaining for a good reason or not. In a first phase, the team decided to focus on the tickets opened by end users and not the alerts that GSX Gizmo was generating. The purpose was to measure the effects of end-user performance and network statistics on ticket creation and compare them with a “normal” situation as shown in the data stored and displayed in Power BI.
It was quickly shown that performance issues were really happening, but only for very short periods of time. On top of that, the traceroute analysis provided by the Robot Users showed an important change in the number of hops to the cloud at those times. The packet loss was extremely unstable on the network.
Results from China and Spain showed the same problems. For Bangalore, it quickly became clear that the internet connection itself was causing major issues in the use of SharePoint Online and OneDrive. With these findings, our customer performed a general update of the local equipment in the Chinese and Spanish offices to improve reliability and performance.
The Indian office had to change its Internet provider contract to permit a much higher bandwidth than before. This reduced the amount of tickets after just a few weeks.
The use of Robot Users was key to determining if the changes really improved the overall user experience. The Robot Users provided clear data and reports for the branch offices to justify the costs of the network changes to their management.
The second phase was to understand the GSX alerts and work on them immediately, while creating a new process to alert the branch offices that issues had been identified and IT was working on them.
Thanks to GSX’s unbiased data, the company set up a simple process to alert the support team before users complained. This contributed to drastically reducing the number of tickets from the branch offices. Two months after the solution was released in production, the reduction in tickets approached 60%.
This led to a global reduction of the Office 365 TCO, allowing the Office 365 project and support teams to focus on change management and end-user adoption.
As a result, the company decided to expand the use of GSX Gizmo, increasing the number of Robot Users to 20.
These monitor all critical locations; a few are kept for troubleshooting. When a branch office experiences repeated end-user complaints and tickets, the SharePoint project team installs a Robot User there to analyze the situation, resolve it and track whether the changes have really improved the end-user experience. Once the situation has been resolved, the team can move the Robot User to another location.