Countryside Church

IT Infrastructure

Countryside Church



Countryside is a large church in Stillwater, Oklahoma, that places great emphasis on community outreach.

Technologies Used:

Services Used:

Countryside Church is one of the largest churches in Stillwater, Oklahoma. With a weekly attendance of about 850 individuals, their mission is “to introduce people to Jesus and equip them to follow him fully.” Like many churches, a lot of operational responsibilities fall on volunteers from the congregation. Such was the case with their IT networking.

With one person running their network in a volunteer capacity, they knew that a lot more could be done. Things were operational enough at the time, and the volunteer effort meant that they could use their budget elsewhere. That is until the volunteer had to move. This left Countryside with no one to maintain their network. But the outgoing volunteer didn’t leave them high and dry as he recommended the church contact InterWorks for help.

“A way that we love our community is by providing good internet for them when they are in the building, but we still needed to be able to do things like keep our livestream running. We had heard about InterWorks from others in the community, so we reached out to them to discuss a new network.”

– Stacee Harmon, Director of IT and Communications, Countryside Church

Assessing Their Needs

After the first call with InterWorks Regional IT Practice Lead Keith Johnson, Countryside got a feel for where they were at with their network. The news wasn’t great. Their five DHCP Ubiquity access points simply couldn’t keep up in their high-capacity environment, they didn’t know much about their ISP or internet speed and they were using a Raspberry Pi for a firewall. In short, it wasn’t an ideal setup.

To take a closer look at the situation, InterWorks System Administrators Alonso Duran and Ian Connally, went onsite to meet Stacee Harmon, Countryside’s new director of IT and communications, and Bo Blakey, their equipping pastor. After seeing the setup in person, Alonso and Ian had enough info to formulate a new networking solution that could more than adequately handle high network volume.

Finding the Right Fit

Requirements

  • High-capacity network
  • Stronger security
  • More insight into speed

Using a floor planner tool, Keith and Alonso were able to map out everything Countryside would need in a network. The new solution would be centered on a Ruckus Wireless controller and seven access points throughout the church. They included a properly sized Sophos Firewall and ESET Antivirus that would give a huge boost to network security as well as four Dell PoE switches and battery backups for the whole network. This also included some re-cabling and repositioning to make sure the network would perform at its best.

But Countryside didn’t just need things fixed; they wanted to understand the ins and outs of their network technology. To help them get a clear view of everything going on, Alonso itemized the solution and explained every piece of technology – even going so far as to diagram the entire network out on a whiteboard to show them how it all worked. In the end, it was this level of care that convinced Countryside to go forward with the solution and with InterWorks.

“We appreciated InterWorks’ ability to speak on different levels and answer any questions we might have had. They were great at communicating the difference between our old network and the proposed one in a way that both technical and non-technical people could understand.”

– Stacee Harmon, Director of IT and Communications, Countryside Church

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

With everything decided, the next steps were implementation, testing and seeing how the network performed at peak usage (i.e. Sundays). Implementation and testing took less than a week, wrapping up just in time for Countryside to test their network the following Sunday. This was the anxious part. Would the network perform at capacity on the first go? Not every network works 100% right out of the gate, so Alonso, and Keith were on standby in case anything went wrong.

Thanks to a by-the-book implementation and extensive testing, the network performed without a problem. This is particularly impressive as services are often interactive, with members frequently accessing the network to open a Bible app. Countryside gave Alonso a call to let them know how happy they were with the network. Alonso followed by coming on-site to do a little more connection work.

“The best part is that I don’t have to worry about my network. The first Sunday that college students returned to Stillwater, we had 1,000 people in the building, which was amazing. A week later, I realized that I never once thought about the internet. I was able to focus on loving people instead of managing a chaotic network crash.”

– Stacee Harmon, Director of IT and Communications, Countryside Church

A New Challenge: Students

Having passed the Sunday test with flying colors, Countryside had a new challenge for the network: Finals Week. Each year, Countryside hosts study sessions throughout finals week for Oklahoma State University students. This gives students a great place to lounge and study from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. each day.

New Benchmarks

  • 300+ concurrent users
  • No more network resets
  • Secure VPN for staff

With 300-400 students using multiple devices on the network, Stacee was anxious about it being overloaded. In previous years, with their more rudimentary setup involving the Raspberry Pi, they had to reset the network every 30 minutes. They did not want to repeat that, so Stacee reached out to Alonso who reassured her that the network would handle the traffic without issue.

Once Finals Week approached, InterWorks stood by listening for a call. The following week, Stacee reached out to InterWorks in amazement to let us know that the network didn’t break a sweat. In fact, one of their pastors was able to stream a movie with hundreds of students using the network at the same time.

Re-Focusing on What Matters

Effectively handling every challenge thrown at it, Countryside’s network thoroughly impressed their staff. Aside from providing them with solid infrastructure, Alonso also took the time to explain everything and equip Countryside with the knowledge they needed to truly understand their network. This attention to both the technology and the people using it is what Countryside appreciated the most. They weren’t just getting a nice solution fit to their needs, they were gaining the confidence to run their own affairs as well as a trusted resource in InterWorks.

With their biggest IT challenge in the rearview, Countryside can now focus on improving other areas. InterWorks has already helped them set up a secure VPN for their accounting staff, ESET Antivirus deployment and even added a fun splash page to welcome guests logging in to the network. Best of all, with IT woes a thing of the past, Countryside can devote more time to the mission their church was built on.

“I used to spend a lot of time managing our network, but now I’m free to focus on the more relational side of technology. I can help a Sunday school teacher set up their computer to show a video instead of worrying whether we have internet for our mission critical hardware. That’s been a huge benefit of this project.”

– Stacee Harmon, Director of IT and Communications, Countryside Church



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