The Palo Alto Networks Global Help Desk is the first line of defense when one of the company’s 16,000-plus workers—including employees, contractors, and interns—has a technical problem. The team consists of phone agents and desktop support personnel distributed around the globe.
Like many companies, Palo Alto Networks has embraced hybrid work, expanding the scope and complexity of issues the help desk faces as it supports critical collaboration tools, including Google Enterprise, Slack, and Zoom.
The help desk team uses all the tools and resources at its disposal to tackle each employee issue, identify the root cause, and resolve the problem. With many users working from home, however, the team had little visibility into employee endpoints and networks. ServiceNow trouble tickets included only limited information about a user’s environment, and tools like Jamf and Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager didn’t provide the necessary visibility.
As hybrid work increased employee reliance on Zoom for communication and collaboration, identifying the root cause of connectivity problems impacting user experience became a particular pain point. There was no way to see all relevant data on a single dashboard to quickly identify the issue.
“If an employee was working from home and having a connectivity issue, we had very little visibility,” says Daniel MacDonough, Director of Employee Success at Palo Alto Networks. “ Is it their ISP? Is it their router? Do they have a weak Wi-Fi signal? We had no insight into any of that. The help desk had to spend a lot of time working with the user to answer those questions, making the troubleshooting process time-consuming.”
With the company moving business applications to SaaS providers and the cloud, the help desk team needed better tools to close troubleshooting gaps to continue providing a high level of support to the company’s distributed workforce. Gaining greater visibility into user endpoints, networks, applications, and underlying infrastructure health were identified as priorities in the search for new tools.
Palo Alto Networks was an early adopter of Zoom Quality of Service Subscription, which provides details in near real-time about Zoom network traffic for users, hosts, and participants in Zoom Meetings and Webinars. Frictionless integration for Zoom troubleshooting was important. The ideal solution would correlate information from the user’s environment with Zoom Quality of Service Subscription performance data to streamline resolution of issues and identify the root cause of network and endpoint disruptions.
Palo Alto Networks believes in using its own products to satisfy its IT and security needs. “The First Customer program ensures that our IT teams test and incorporate all of the company’s products to deliver maximum security and productivity,” says Yousuf Hasan, Director of the First Customer program at Palo Alto Networks. “We not only drink our own champagne, Palo Alto Networks develops best practices for each product to share with our customers.”
Through the First Customer program, the IT and help desk teams became early adopters of Palo Alto Networks Autonomous Digital Experience Management (ADEM) to determine whether it provided the additional capabilities they needed. Natively integrated into the Prisma SASE solution, ADEM delivers real user-traffic insights, synthetic tests, and rich multi-domain analysis across endpoint devices to uncover the root cause of issues without requiring the installation of additional software or hardware.
After a few months of testing by regional help desk managers and a team lead, ADEM was rolled out to the entire team with great success. ADEM enables the help desk team to assess the enterprise-wide digital experience, application SLAs, incidents, and IT infrastructure–all from a unified dashboard.
Before ADEM, help desk agents had to rule out possible causes, one by one. Now, using the ADEM dashboard, they can identify likely causes with much less effort, saving both agent and user valuable time.
The help desk team quickly learned that ADEM was a powerful tool for resolving network connectivity issues. The tool gives agents the ability to access end-to-end data to pinpoint potential problems without having to spend a long time on the phone with users.
“ADEM gives us a much more holistic view of a user’s environment, so help desk agents now have a lot more actionable information at their fingertips,” says MacDonough. “We can now ask questions like, ‘Your Wi-Fi signal strength looks weak; can you move closer to the router?’ or ‘We see some packets are being dropped. Have you contacted your ISP?’ This allows us to zero in on the root cause much faster.”
Success with ADEM and Zoom Quality of Service Subscription integration
Zoom has become a critical application for Palo Alto Networks and many other companies, so it’s not surprising that early adopters of ADEM wanted greater visibility into the Zoom user experience.
“Zoom is much more sensitive to real-time traffic issues,” explains MacDonough. “If a user needs to access Google Docs, for example, and they’re running into a little bit of network jitter or some packet loss, the network typically recovers and the user doesn’t notice the impact the way they do with a Zoom meeting.”
Zoom Quality of Service Subscription integration was added to ADEM after the tool was in use by the Palo Alto Networks Help Desk. “The help desk team used to have to access the Zoom administrator portal and sift through user-level data separately,” notes Michael Alcantara, Manager of IT Video Collaboration at Palo Alto Networks. “Now all Zoom data is aggregated by ADEM, so agents can see the bigger picture. They can also ascertain whether or not there’s a pattern that impacts more than one user.”
ADEM and Zoom Quality of Service Subscription provide complementary data. ADEM correlates the comprehensive data it generates with the near real-time performance data available through Zoom Quality of Service Subscription to help pinpoint the source of service disruptions and reduce time to resolution. By aggregating end-to-end data and presenting everything in a single pane of glass, ADEM reduces troubleshooting steps for Zoom-related problems from twenty steps to just four, contributing to faster resolution of disruptions.
“Utilizing ADEM in tandem with Zoom Quality of Services Subscription offers a proactive lens to foresee and mitigate endpoint challenges before pivotal Zoom Meetings or Webinars,” says Pat Jensen, Distinguished Architect at Zoom. “By fusing metrics like packet loss and jitter with CPU data, we gain a comprehensive insight into endpoint health, steering us directly to root cause solutions.”
Improved help desk and user productivity
Palo Alto Networks employees are very busy. “Often a user will log a ticket at the end of their work day and then go offline. Before ADEM, we had to wait until the user was available to begin troubleshooting,” says MacDonough. “Now we can look at the data provided by ADEM to understand what the issue might be before we reach out to the end user. This saves everyone time.”
Moving from reactive to proactive support
The help desk team expects that ADEM will enable them to become more proactive so they can identify and correct issues before they’re even reported by users.
“With ADEM’s integration with Zoom Quality of Service Subscription we are already seeing that we can identify and solve network issues before a user submits an IT ticket,” says MacDonough. We are not stopping there, as we look to explore more integrations. The AI-powered incident management capabilities of ADEM will help us address potential issues before they lead to slowdowns without any staff integrations.”
Hybrid work has expanded the scope of issues that internal help desk teams must address. Better tools are essential to cope with the diversity of endpoints and networks that help desk agents now encounter every day.
By utilizing the Prisma SASE ADEM capability, the Palo Alto Networks Global Help Desk has been able to streamline the troubleshooting of endpoint, network, and user experience disruptions impacting Zoom and other critical applications. This is enhancing the digital experience for users and helping Palo Alto Networks employees and IT staff be more productive.
Find out more about how Palo Alto Networks’ best-in-class solutions can improve networking and security for your organization. Additional information is here.
If you’re concerned you’ve been affected by an APT attack and/or the TiltedTemple campaign, Unit 42 is ready to help assess your risk and remediate the incident. Call us at North America toll free: +1.866.486.4842 (+1.866.4.UNIT42), EMEA: +31.20.299.3130, UK: +44.20.3743.3660, APAC: +65.6983.8730, or Japan: +81.50.1790.0200, or get in touch by visiting start.paloaltonetworks.com/contact-unit42.html.