First ‘Extreme Makeover’ finalist: AGSI Inc.

When Alan Williams, the vice-president of IT for Angus GeoSolutions Inc., was tasked with building the network for his company’s first branch office and securely connecting it back to headquarters, he turned to D-Link Systems Inc. to make it happen.

It was two and a half years ago when the Hornby, Ont.-based geo-spatial information systems (GIS) firm opened up a satellite office in Scarborough, Ont. – a good distance down southern Ontario’s 401 highway – and staffed it with technically skilled people to develop their software products. “We have a bunch of hardcore developers working there,” he says in a phone interview. “These people are really highly focused on our key products.”

He built the network around a D-Link DSR 500n box, using one wired port to connect an officer server, and another one for a fax machine / printer /copier. The developers use notebooks on a WPA2 WiFi network to connect to the Internet. To connect it back to his head office’s D-Link DFL-800 box via a secured virtual private network (VPN), he looped in D-Link’s support team.

“They just gave me a couple of pointers to make sure it was correct all the way down the line,” Williams recalls.

It’s that combination of support and equipment quality that motivates Williams to enter D-Link’s $10,000 Extreme SMB Networking Makeover on He wants to replace some aging gear with new D-Link hardware and to run his two offices in a sole equipment vendor environment. AGSI not only relies on its network to support its staff of less than 100 (including part time contractors), but also to serve up its applications to some of its clients.

“If we didn’t have our network, we’d be done period,” he says. A network upgrade could mean a significant leap forward for his firm. “Newer things come out and they’re just better. To have those devices when you haven’t budgeted for them is amazing.”

AGSI develops GIS software that is highly accurate and extensively detailed for government clients and other companies that rely upon good mapping information. While consumers get by with Google Maps or similar products, emergency services rely on the products made by AGSI. Its GO360 platform allows users to search, view, and edit data records on a map grid in a real time format, and it is delivered over the Web.

Emergency Management Ontario is one client of AGSI. Tasked with coordinating all levels of government and emergency services in a crisis situation, the organization relies on AGSI’s solution.

“When a river floods or SARS breaks out, it’s our system that manages the province,” Williams says. “We can tell you the population, the soil types, the emergency service numbers … you name it. We have so much information about the lay of the land.”

The “search and view” module available in GO360 from AGSI.

Hydro One is also an AGSI client. The power provider to Ontario uses the mapping software to power its Emergency Services Information System, an always-on interactive Web service used to respond to emergencies that affect employees, customers, or power grid infrastructure. For example, the system could track workers and in case of an emergency situation, contact the closest emergency response unit available to respond.

HydroOne's Emergency Service Information System centre. (Image: AGSI)
Hydro One’s Emergency Service Information System centre. (Image: AGSI)

AGSI currently delivers its services in one of three ways. It hosts 14 Dell Inc. servers with fibre optic Internet connections and can deliver its GO360 application to any client device, Williams says. Or when a high level of security is needed, a local installation of the software can be done. A third option, such as in the case of Hydro One, involves a colocation partner that can provide 24/7 service and physical security.

Should he win the $10,000 grand prize of networking gear from D-Link – and there’s still two more finalists to be selected that AGSI will have to compete with – Williams is interested in adding another DSN-3200 Storage Area Network (SAN). He already has one loaded with 16 two terabyte hard drives, and wants another one loaded with three or four terabyte hard drives.

“We do really good valuable, important things,” Williams says. “We’re a privately owned company that continuously competes with the big boys.” and D-Link are still accepting entries for the Extreme SMB Networking contest. The next finalist will be selected Nov. 5, and the third finalist will be chosen Dec. 3. The grand prize winner will be selected Dec. 19.

Here’s one more client of AGSI – the City of Hamilton. It explains its use of the software to manage roadwork in this video:

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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