When forklifts keep the WiFi secure.

PRTG as a strategic monitoring solution at Bechtle Bielefeld.

Bechtle IT systems house Bielefeld naturally uses monitoring tools for their customers’ service projects. But until now they were often open source solutions or ones that the customer was already using, meaning yet more training on new monitoring tools for every single project, and adding up to a lot of wasted time. To further standardise the topic of monitoring, PRTG was tentatively trialled in monitoring the internal systems at Bechtle Bielefeld and found to be effective. 

Sven Pöttner, Service Manager at the systems house, has been using the freeware monitoring solution PRTG—from Paessler AG, Nurenburg—in his private life for many years. It let him monitor his farm’s stable with IP webcams and connect them to a 60 Ghz Wi-Fi bridge. “PRTG’s freeware provided me will all of the features of the paid version and 100 sensors too. This, together with its easy setup meant I enjoyed using PRTG in my private network and really did a good job. When we then needed to find a monitoring solution for our customer projects, I knew that PRTG would be a strong contender,” says Sven Pöttner. 

After a test phase, a clear decision was made in favour of PRTG. The solution is fully agentless, easy to install and operate on Windows, and simple and comparatively affordable in terms of licensing and price. Paessler offers technical support as part of the software maintenance and has frequently yielded positive results in customer projects when needed. In addition, the remote probes are a feature that offers a lean, secure and, above all, simple way to set up monitoring at the customer’s premises. 

paessler netzdiagramm

The diagram illustrates the various possibilities offered by PRTG when setting up remote monitoring with remote probes

The PRTG Core Server runs in the Bechtle Private Cloud. Option 1 (orange) via a traditional VPN to the customer network. The local probe, which runs on the same system as the PRTG server, collects the monitoring data via VPN. In larger environments, it can also make sense to set up a remote probe with the customer to relieve the local probe or to bundle the data traffic.

Option 2 (blue) involves installing a remote probe in the customer’s network – a Windows service that collects monitoring data from the customer’s network via common protocols and sends it to the server in the cloud, where the data is analysed. The probe uses TLC encryption and sends the collected data directly to the server via an approved port in the firewall. This has two main advantages:

  • There is no need to set up a VPN—saving time, money, and often a lot of stress.
  • Then there’s the security aspect: The probe is installed directly by the PRTG server and a clearly defined port is released only for probe-server communication rather than using a VPN tunnel—far less clearly defined and therefore more prone to risk.

Monitoring with or without agents?

In monitoring, agents refer to services that are installed on devices to be monitored. Many monitoring solutions require agents to function or at least use agents for many tasks. Agentless systems use standard protocols such as SNMP, WMI, FTP, etc. to monitor devices and applications. There are arguments for and against both methods, but for Bechtle Bielefield, PRTG’s agentless nature was one of the reasons it was chosen above other solutions. Apart from the fact that the use of agents is usually quite costly, they also pose a problem for Bechtle as a service provider. Finally, external services have to be installed and operated on the customer’s hardware. This is often difficult explain to the customer because not only do they create an additional burden for the devices, but corresponding channels have to be opened for the agents’ communication, which doesn’t always easily align with customer’s security standards.

Pöttner adds: “Thanks to the remote probes, PRTG enables enormously fast setup of remote monitoring scenarios—an important point for us as an IT service provider. We’re also very impressed by PRTG all round. And this has only been reinforced by our experience in the first customer projects.” One of the first customer projects using PRTG was provisioning WLAN for STIEBEL ELTRON.

WLAN service with a forklift connection.

Bechtle’s customer STIEBEL ELTRON is a global market and technology leader in home automation and green technologies. What began in 1924 with the invention of the coil immersion heater continues today with hot water appliances, heat pumps and ventilation systems: experience, innovation and the highest quality standards for the customer.

Production at the main location in Holzminden is perfectly in line with modern standards. The basic prerequisite for this is comprehensive and always available WLAN coverage. Not wanting to take any risks, STIEBEL ELTRON relies on the professional service of the experts at Bechtle Bielefeld. Sven Pöttner, Service Manager in charge of the STIEBEL ELTRON account at Bechtle, uses Cisco WLAN controllers for this purpose. The WLAN building coverage was set up in close consultation with the customer to ensure that critical areas are supplied redundantly, while less critical sections are covered normally. But even with redundant coverage, continuous monitoring of the entire setup is crucial. Undetected performance drops or even outages of individual components can add up and jeopardise WLAN service SLA compliance if they are not detected and resolved in time.

PRTG stores all monitoring data in the original interval, however long it is retained for. This enables Bechtle Bielefeld to prove compliance with the SLAs to STIEBEL ELTRON at any time. Thanks to the predefined Cisco sensors in PRTG, integrating WLAN setup into the monitoring was simple and went without a hitch. Other components that could have an influence on the availability and stability of the WLAN were also integrated into the monitoring with PRTG.

In the event of issues, as already mentioned, it’s crucial that Bechtle’s team can act immediately, and so PRTG was linked up to Bechtle’s ticket system. Doing this highlighted yet another advantage of PRTG. Notifications are sent as plain text, which means that the service technician on the case knows immediately what the problem is and does not have to decipher any error codes first. In addition, PRTG lets you create maps. These are dashboards that show where devices are located on a plan of the building, ensuring that devices with issues can be found quickly when on-site support is required.

paessler kontakt


“PRTG Enterprise Monitor lets us bundle all of our customers’ monitoring into a single solution. This provides the customer (or us, if necessary) with all information on one dashboard.”

Sven Pöttner, Service Manager, Bechtle

Forklifts connected to WLAN – am extra Bechtle service.

paessler monitoring

AGVs—automated guided vehicles—play a special role in STIEBEL ELTRON’s manufacturing. These forklifts act largely autonomously, meaning that they are not continuously controlled by a higher-level service, but only receive transport orders via WLAN at defined checkpoints.

The AGVs find their own way between the checkpoints using a guidance system. If a forklift does not receive a mission command at the checkpoint, it simply stops and this equals downtime. The reason for a missing command could be a problem in the WLAN coverage.

paessler history

Bechtle Bielefeld uses cases like these to improve its WLAN monitoring, surveilling the forklifts with PRTG via a simple ping. If no ping is returned, this could be an indication of WLAN problems. The team is then informed by PRTG immediately and can directly check whether there is a WLAN failure and, if necessary, rectify the problem asap. A side effect of this ingenious trick is that Bechtle is being continuously informed about the condition of the forklifts. 

And Bechtle provides STIEBEL ELTRON with this information on request, even if forklift failure is not due to WLAN problems. So in addition to guaranteed WLAN service, STIEBEL ELTRON also benefits from Bechtle monitoring the condition of its AGVs.

More monitoring.

After successful use in the initial customer projects, the IT system house in Bielefeld is planning to continue using PRTG more and more as a monitoring solution in the future. The PRTG Enterprise Monitor licence currently used allows the licence size to be easily adapted to respective requirements, as the licensing is on a a subscription basis. With a PRTG Enterprise Monitor licence, any number of PRTG servers can be used. This means that customer-specific monitoring scenarios can be implemented on a PRTG basis without exploding costs for Bechtle or license restrictions coming into play.

But Sven Pöttner also sees a lot of technical potential in using PRTG. “Thanks to the maps, we can very easily create customised HTML dashboards. This lets us provide our customers with exactly the overviews they need for their staff. This ranges from management overviews that show the availability and status of the most important services and processes to dashboards for helpdesks or technicians who need a detailed view or who are responsible for a smaller number of components but require very detailed information on them.

One reason for introducing a uniform monitoring solution at Bechtle was to create a standard in order to keep training costs down. By using PRTG for the internal systems, technical trainees now also come into contact with PRTG at an early stage and are thus optimally prepared for using it in customer projects. Time and again, clients are already using monitoring tools and want or need to keep them for various reasons. Thanks to the API and the ITOps Board, PRTG allows these solutions to be integrated into central monitoring. “PRTG Enterprise Monitor lets us bundle all of our customers’ monitoring into a single solution. This means that the customer (or us, if necessary) has all the relevant information in one dashboard at a glance” explains Pöttner and continues: “Bechtle Darmstadt also relies on PRTG for monitoring. We will use synergies and cooperate more intensively in the future. In this way, we create shared expertise, reduce expenses and can ultimately offer our customers better service.”

As Service Manager at the IT system house Bechtle Bielefeld, Sven Pöttner is responsible for the STIEBEL ELTRON customer project, among others.

paessler stiebel eltron fertigung
Nikolaos Stergioudis


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