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Brandon Buffin

bbuffin - Brandon Buffin

 

When Brandon Buffin began providing desktop support for Ball Homes, the company had one site and one Cisco router. Today, he is the systems administrator for an end-to-end Cisco network spanning seven sites. "The best part about Cisco Support Community is that members discuss real-world network issues-not just theory," he says.

 

BACKGROUND

 

Q. How long have you been in the networking industry and why did you get involved in it?

A. I graduated college with a degree in MIS [Management Information Systems] in 2000, and started my career installing point-of-sale systems for a book-store chain. The networking aspect of the job intrigued me immediately, so I started studying networking on my own. In 2001 I received my CompTIA Network + Certification. A few months later my company went out of business and I accepted a position with Ball Homes, providing desktop support. Since then my position has expanded to include server support and network planning. I've earned my CCNA® and CCVP® certifications and have passed the written portion of the CCIE® Voice exam. Now comes the hard part: the lab!

 

Q. Tell me more about your company.

A. Ball Homes' core business is residential home building in Kentucky. We also have full-service real-estate, mortgage, and rental divisions. When I started, we had one office, with just one Cisco router and a random collection of hubs and switches. Today, we have seven sites with end-to-end Cisco wired and wireless networks that we use for voice and data. I and just one other person support the entire network.

 

CHALLENGE

 

Q. What were the specific business challenges you faced that influenced you to use the Cisco Support Community?

A. We moved to a new headquarters building in 2003, and built a brand-new network. I found out about Cisco's Support Forums from the local partner we used for implementation. He recommended Cisco Support Community as a good source of practical advice when I took over day-to-day network management.

 

Q. How do you use NetPro to find solutions to everyday networking issues?

A. If we have an issue, usually I start with Cisco.com and look through the white papers and design guides. If I don't find the answer there, I go to the Support Community and do a search. Usually someone else has experienced the same problem, so I find an answer. If I don't find my issue, I post. With the wealth of knowledge and experience represented on the Cisco Support Community, I usually receive a rapid response. I also use the community to sharpen my skills and knowledge of problems we don't necessarily have, and to help other people troubleshoot their networking issues. I frequently go to the IP Telephony forum, and to a lesser extent the Network Infrastructure and VoIP-Service Provider forums.

 

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your networking career?

A. I'm proud of my role in the growth of the Ball Homes network over the last five years. To expand from a single-router shop to an end-to-end network spanning seven sites is quite a novelty in the home-building industry. Home builders are not usually leaders in technology, but Ball Homes understands the role of the network in efficiency and customer service.

 

Q. What was your toughest issue you had resolved on the Cisco Support Community?

A. One of the toughest issues involved problems with incoming calls on a voice gateway while we were using Cisco SRST [Survivable Remote Site Telephony]. I received an answer the same day - as is common on the forums. The person who responded pointed out a missing command in the gateway configuration. Another useful conversation occurred when our Cisco Unity® Voicemail users started receiving blank voicemails. Another Support Community user responded right away that it was a known bug that I could fix easily by installing a newer version of the Cisco Unity TSP [TAPI service provider] software.

 

Cisco Support Community

 

Q. What is your overall impression of the Community?

A. The Cisco Support Community has been a fantastic tool. I have yet to find a better place to interact with high-quality, experienced engineers from Cisco as well as other companies, all of whom are willing to share their experiences and expertise. I also haven't found a more economical resource for high quality, real-world training to sharpen my networking skills. The best part about it is that members discuss real-world network issues—not just theory. Hearing about other people's experiences is always helpful, whether you're installing a switch or planning next phases.

 

Q. How often do you come to the Community?

A. I definitely visit daily, and usually several times a day.

 

Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?

A. The search feature is the most helpful because it spares me from having to read serially through posts to find a particular topic.

 

Q. Do you have any suggestions for possible changes/modifications to the site?

A. Overall, I'm very impressed with the level of expertise on the Cisco Support Community. One suggestion would be to advertise the community to a greater extent. In some ways, I think it's an untapped resource. Another would be to allow frequent posters to use their points toward a book from Cisco Press®, as a reward for lightening the burden on Cisco support staff. An incentive like this might even encourage those excellent engineers who don't currently post to start answering questions.

 

Q. Do you have a message for your fellow Cisco Support Community users?

A. Please use the search function, because your question might already have been answered. Also, rate helpful posts and indicate those that solved your issue.

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