Thanks SD-WAN Secure, East Coast Radio is able to save on costs while keeping all of its broadcast systems synchronised without any fear of downtime.

The Industry

The ever-evolving, highly competitive world of entertainment and broadcast media.

The Company

Forming part of the Kagiso Media Group family, East Coast Radio (ECR) is the leading English commercial radio station in KZN that broadcasts to 1.2 million listeners across the province, on a daily basis, from its headquarters in Umhlanga, Durban. KZN’s NO.1 Hit Music Station has been the station of choice for more than 25 years. The station offers the widest variety of hit music in the province. Not only does ECR keep listeners entertained via conventional means, but the station also offers unrivalled, innovative multi-media solutions.

The Challenge

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in radio, it’s ensuring that all areas receive high-quality coverage. As ECR’s Technical Manager, Siyethemba Shozi, explains. “It’s always challenging to cover all areas of the province. You’ll find a lot of hills in Kwa-Zulu Natal, so we’ve got a lot of low-lying areas where it’s very difficult to penetrate. Obviously, with all the infrastructure and changes in climate, we’ll find the places we thought we could cover, we’re no longer able to.” Shozi adds, “In terms of technology, we have to ensure we always keep up to date. Our audience’s listening patterns and the way they consume our content is always changing. For example, some have moved over to streaming and that type of thing. We have to make sure we’re available on multiple platforms so they can continue enjoying our products.”

Working in broadcast media, downtime is a different kind of nightmare, as Reuben Baatjes, ECR’s IT and Broadcast Technician explains. “It’s not just that we need Internet to work, but we also have to connect to our remote studios too. We’ve got one in Joburg, we’ve got one in Suncoast Casino in Durban, and we’ve also got our transmitter sites. We need links to all of them so our broadcast systems can synchronise and stay up to date.”

The Solution

“We came to Vox because we needed a reliable service provider,” says Shozi. “We understand Internet broadband solutions aren’t stable by nature. But, as a client, we need a proactive service provider. If there are any outages, we need to be alerted about them and our Vox Account Manager, Ushika, is very good at that.”

There’s a little more to it than just guaranteed uptime adds Baatjes. “It’s not just Internet access but keeping all of our broadcast systems synchronised. When changes are made, they need to be replicated across all of our sites, so that if we need to broadcast from somewhere else, we can just say, ‘Yeah, sure, go ahead, we can do a show from there.’ And that’s where Vox SD-WAN Secure has been working really well.”

A software defined wide area network, SD-WAN represents a new frontier for businesses of all sizes, removing the need for traditional, limiting WAN and replacing it with a dynamic solution smart enough to leverage a customisable mix of last mile connectivity options. Including Fibre, LTE, Wireless and MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) to achieve 100% guaranteed uptime.

We were working with a VPN MPLS solution, which is similar, but it meant if any of our links went down, then downtime would begin immediately,” says Baatjes, adding, “That’s quite bad for broadcasting, which is 24/7. Now, with SD-WAN, we have automatic failover to secondary links at all our sites, allowing everything to carry on with no interruption.”

It doesn’t hurt that ECR’s switch from MPLS over to SD-WAN Secure in October 2021 was a breeze. Says Baatjes, “That was a big relief – when you’re running your whole broadcast system over one solution, you know there will be teething problems, but you don’t want major impact and downtime. This was seamless. It was just a matter of making a couple of IP address changes, changing a couple of cables and then things were working.”

The Benefits

Thanks to SD-WAN Secure, ECR is also enjoying a healthier bottom line. Says Shozi, “One of the main selling points for me was the cost-savings. Our MPLS solution was quite expensive, and, like all technology, it was becoming inflexible. When we saw Vox’s proposal and the savings it could bring, I was very happy with that. SD-WAN also gives us the flexibility of adjusting the solution as we see fit – adding or removing links as needed.”

The built-in security also sets SD-WAN Secure apart. “At head office, we have shared firewall management. Now we’ve got these other sites that we’re replicating our broadcast systems to, so we needed security there. With SD-WAN Secure, we have traffic going through firewalls at every site, so we’re secure at all points coming in, which is great,” says Baatjes.

While ECR has always enjoyed a great relationship with Vox, they were happy to discover SD-WAN Secure delivers exactly as advertised. Says Baatjes, “The service has been good. It’s something you want to expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. That and the proactive communication. Ushika will call me and tell me something’s down before I’ve even realised it yet. Having that extra backup helps us keep on top of everything.”