NaaS in Affordable Housing: A Use Case

ZZZ Community Development (ZZZ) is an affordable housing management company focusing on neighborhood revitalization in low-income areas. Over the last few years, they have undertaken numerous projects including new development, community engagement, and job/education programs. As ZZZ initiatives continue to grow, their current IT environment is becoming problematic.

Background information:

  • — ZZZ manages 105 properties that house over 85,000 families. They plan to add several additional properties this year by renovating vacant buildings near a city center.
  • — ZZZ employs three full-time IT professionals.
  • — ZZZ has a yearly budget set aside for technology upgrades for their organization.

Existing network equipment across multiple sites, such as firewalls and switches, are aging and several are reaching end-of-life. In addition, many acquired locations are equipped with incompatible hardware, making it difficult for the three-person team to manage efficiently.  The IT staff wastes valuable time traveling to each location for troubleshooting and upgrades. As a result, the network is less manageable and downtime risk is increasing. The following diagram shows an example of ZZZ’s existing IT environment.

Issues in this environment include security concerns, inability to control resources and end-user access, inability to apply security policies, restricting access, and no CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability).

In searching for a solution to overcome these issues, ZZZ had several concerns.

  • — Heightened visibility and ease of maintenance with a limited IT staff.
  • — Data security is a high priority, as ZZZ stores tenant personal and payment information.
  • — Maximize the IT budget with a standardized, scalable network for all properties.

With these concerns in mind, ZZZ chose to implement a Network as a Service (NaaS) solution utilizing Meraki equipment, leveraging an IT partner to assist their three employees with deployment, management, and support. The new network is being built in seven phases, with the first phase containing 15 buildings. The second phase is expected to begin in 6 months. ZZZ’s IT partner performs a network assessment to identify current hardware and WiFi coverage. They determine that the modem linked with the router/wireless creates security concerns and a single point of failure. The non-enterprise system also provides no manageability for staff.

To modernize, the IT provider installs a wall mounted rack and separates the network components to improve performance and redundancy. In addition, site-to-site VPNs connect all ZZZ properties with cloud-based hardware monitoring. The following diagram shows ZZZ’s updated NaaS structure.

Before implementing NaaS, ZZZ had several concerns regarding growth and lack of management in their existing network. They were primarily focused on three issues; simplicity for the IT staff, data security, and standardizing while remaining cost-effective and scalable.

  • — ZZZ’s small team collaborates with their IT partner to manage the entire property portfolio. Using the Meraki Dashboard feature, they can view and maintain network performance at each location without visiting. Network as a Service also includes 24/7 internet monitoring and access to skilled engineers to remotely solve issues.
  • — ZZZ’s partner ensures that all data security and compliance requirements are met by performing biweekly security reviews, patches, and upgrades. Enterprise-grade equipment and support protects them from both human error and external threats.
  • — The “As a Service” solution uses a single pane of glass to standardize network management. ZZZ will add several new buildings this year and anticipates continued growth in the future. Technology for the additional properties will be installed and maintained by the IT partner for consistency and cost-efficacy.

6 months later… The first phase is complete, with upgraded network equipment in 15 buildings. The IT staff utilizes the Meraki dashboard daily to supervise performance. Additionally, the 24/7 support their partner provides has decreased site visits and allowed them to spend more time with family. After adopting the Network as a Service model, ZZZ Community Development manages their network appropriately and cost-effectively. Phase 2 is expected to begin in two weeks.

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