A New Wave of Growth with SD-WAN

SkipperBud’s, a retailer of recreational boats, has grown from one location in La Crosse, Wisconsin, into one of the marine industry’s largest sales, brokerage, service and marina groups. With an outdated network slowing them down, the company turned to Windstream Enterprise for modern solutions to power their continued growth.

Industry: Retail
Customer: 21 locations in the U.S. Headquarters: Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
Challenges: Frequent outages, lack of redundancy, impact on productivity and customer experience, lack of network visibility, complex systems management, outdated communications systems, expensive and challenging maintenance, limited bandwidth, unreliable voice services
Windstream Enterprise Solutions: SD-WAN, cellular broadband, high-bandwidth ethernet, WE Connect customer portal
Results: Reduced outages, increased productivity, improved app performance, enhanced voice service quality, cost savings, network visibility and control

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More than a business… it’s a lifestyle

Some businesses can stay afloat by doing things the same way, year after year. But for recreational boat retailer SkipperBud’s, making waves took them to the top of their industry. By embracing change— adding new storefronts and marinas, a showroom for boat sales, new boat lines, storage facilities and additional services over the years—they have expanded throughout Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Washington and California. Throughout their journey, the company has always kept their sights on the commitment to bringing boaters a better place to enjoy the lifestyle of boating. From SkipperBud’s humble beginnings—a single location in La Crosse, Wisconsin—to their impressive fleet of 21 locations, the company has continued their quest to make boating fun and hassle-free for everyone. But with more locations came the need for more powerful connectivity and communications, and their outdated network weighed them down like an anchor. Knowing it was time for another change, SkipperBud’s turned to Windstream Enterprise for modern network solutions to support their growth.

Charting the course

The company’s vintage MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) network with copper T1s, wasn’t reliable or resilient enough to keep business running at full speed. Lacking redundancy, the increasingly frequent network outages caused downtime that could last for many hours. All applications were linked to the data center, resulting in lost productivity and a poor customer experience whenever an outage occurred.

Additionally, the MPLS routers were challenging to manage. They needed to be programmed on a location basis without visibility into traffic across the network as yet another disadvantage of the aging systems.

Windstream Enterprise met these challenges by implementing SD-WAN with a dual access active/active configuration, providing redundancy for greater uptime. SkipperBud’s provided their own cable broadband as the secondary connection where available. For remote locations where cable was unavailable, Windstream Enterprise provided Cellular Broadband connections. Since the new solutions were put in place, the company has benefited from significantly reduced outages and downtime, and, in turn, business continuity and enhanced customer experience.

“The Windstream Enterprise Technical Service Manager has been a great partner in helping us migrate to SD-WAN and resolve our issues.”

- Todd Rasor Technology Engineer

Riding the surge

Every new location meant more demand for bandwidth. As the business grew— along with the number of devices and applications requiring bandwidth, such as more phones, WiFi, faxes and printers— the T1 bandwidth simply couldn’t keep up. Systems and apps were slow, causing staff productivity to drop as well as putting customer satisfaction at risk. On top of the costs of overall inefficiency, since service providers were no longer investing in TDM infrastructure, T1s were expensive and a burden to maintain. Windstream Enterprise replaced the MPLS T1s with high bandwidth ethernet connections as primary connectivity for most locations, providing ample bandwidth, enabling apps to perform better and faster. Cellular Broadband ensured remote locations had redundancy.

SkipperBud’s rising need for technology advancements didn’t stop there—it rippled across their unreliable voice services as well. The implementation of SD-WAN created a highly reliable voice network with the ability to prioritize voice traffic over the best performing path to achieve optimal voice service quality.

Navigating with visibility and control

As sailors know, you can’t navigate what you can’t see. Without visibility into the network, the IT team couldn’t easily manage the MPLS routers, keep a pulse on the traffic across the network or optimize its performance. The Windstream Enterprise WE Connect customer portal provides the team with visibility and control over all locations, allowing changes to be made from a central location. Valuable time is no longer spent on managing each router independently, freeing up the IT team’s time to focus on innovation. The IT team uses the portal weekly for a variety of other time-saving functions, such as setting up new devices, troubleshooting and ticketing. Technology Engineer Todd Rasor notes that the WE Connect portal was a factor in choosing Windstream Enterprise as their SD-WAN provider, a feature not offered by other service providers.

“We chose Windstream Enterprise as our SD-WAN provider based on their concierge support and WE Connect portal, features not offered by other service providers.”

- Todd Rasor Technology Engineer

A sea of opportunity

With Windstream Enterprise as their technology solutions partner, SkipperBud’s can grow with confidence. SD-WAN gives them a reliable and resilient network to power each of their locations, remain dedicated to sales and service, and deliver on their promise to make boating fun and hassle-free.

Perhaps just as importantly, SkipperBud’s can continue to represent the boating lifestyle with flying colors for years to come.

About the Author

Windstream Enterprise

Windstream Enterprise believes people should expect more from their service provider. Our mission: as network, security and application performance become continuously more critical, WE will be the partner that responds to unique customer needs—a pathfinder to help lead them through technology transformation. A trusted advisor to help them connect, transform and elevate their businesses.

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