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How COVID-19 put Sky Muster to the test

Sally Creber, SkyMesh customer pats her horse through her home office window

[IMAGE SOURCE: Sally Creber provided the above image of herself at her desk at home patting her horse who has stuck his head through the window]

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I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Sally Creber, the SkyMesh customer who won our Get Snapping photographic competition in December 2020.

What a woman!

Sally has been working from her farm in Woorndoo, Victoria since the company that employs her – VMware – went into lockdown in March 2020.

In addition to her extensive corporate responsibilities, which stretch across the globe, Sally runs 1000 head of sheep as well as Angus Beef cattle, a sandstone quarry, a sugar gum plantation and dressage horses.

And as though that is not enough, she is also part of the local Country Fire Authority and does all her online training from the farm as well.

I’m tired just thinking about all of this but the truly impressive part for me is that the Sky Muster service supports her through every single facet of this very busy and complex existence.

Let’s hear about it in her own words.


Discussing corporate life from the farm with Sally Creber, SkyMesh Sky Muster customer

“Internet downtime is simply not an option for me,” says Sally very matter-of-factly.

She lives in Woorndoo in Victoria which, to quote Sally, is ‘literally in the middle of nowhere’.

The population there is 169 which means there really isn’t much around her farm.

Warrnambool is to the south.

Ararat is to the north.

Hamilton is to the west.

But all of these towns are between a 75- and 85-kilometre distance from the piece of paradise Sally calls home.

“We literally are in the middle of nowhere and this does present its problems, particularly when it comes to the internet,” says Sally.

Her property falls exactly halfway between two mobile repeater towers that offer incredibly poor reception.

“We’re lucky to get one (mobile phone) bar, and that’s if we stand on a rock in the garden,” she says of her current mobile reception situation.

Horse looks out over river and vast countryside

[IMAGE SOURCE: Sally Creber provided. Horse called Nick looks out over Salt Creek]

Is satellite internet reliable?

“For me, reliable internet is really, really important because if it’s not available, I can’t go to a wireless hotspot on my mobile.

“I work for a global company; my days are pretty full on. I’m working from home at the moment, our office having been closed since March, and I need to get on my Zoom calls, I need to have access, I need to email, I need to do online training and downtime is not an option for me.

“Over the past 12-months Sky Muster has been fantastic. There just hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been able to get on,” Sally says with an obvious sigh of relief.

Customer quote: Sally Creber says "Over the past 12-montjs, Sky Muster has been fantastic. There just hasn't been a time when I haven't been able to get on."

What’s the backup plan?

And why wouldn’t she be relieved? Afterall, her backup plan if the internet goes down is to drive 17 kilometres one way to the Lake Bolac Information Centre.

“They have a small library, and I can usually work from there if I prearrange it,” she says.

Sally works for global tech firm VMware. They’re a publicly listed company with about 30,000 employees, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, USA.

It seems unlikely that they’d be okay with their employees having unreliable internet when their business is all about the amazing wonders and efficiencies of the internet digital world.

VM stands for virtual machine.

They power the world’s complex digital infrastructure with a focus on cloud, networking, security and digital workspaces.

“I manage the relationship between my company, VMware one of the largest global partners we have reselling our products and so most of my communication with them at the moment tends to be via Zoom,” says Sally.

“Many times, people will call me on my mobile and I’ve got to leave the (home) office, go outside and stand on the rock near the vegetable garden.

“I’ll just stand outside talking. Which is fine with the weather at the moment but it’s not viable long-term.”

How much can one Sky Muster connection really handle?

The Creber family farm is more affectionately known by its property name, Malabar, where there’s sheep as well as Angus Beef cattle, a sandstone quarry, a sugar gum plantation and dressage horses.

“Over the one connection, we’re managing all the farming enterprises as well as my VMware responsibilities,” says Sally.

“I just had to redo my livestock accreditation and I’ve also just done my online training with the Country Fire Authority. There were a few things I had to do to enable me to go out and do firefighting and I’ve just completed that online.

[IMAGE SOURCE: Sally Creber provided. Sally in her Country Fire Authority uniform with two horses]

“But also, there’s been online involvement with maintaining accreditation for livestock purposes,” she says.

You might think that’s quite a load for one Sky Muster internet connection to contend with, given there is a finite amount of data included in the standard satellite plans.

Sky Muster Plus plan come with a much more substantial amount of unmetered data that will make your metered data go much further.

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And that’s all Sally has, a standard Sky Muster plan with 50GB peak data and 50GB off peak data.

Surely it couldn’t handle any more usage.

Oh, but wait, there’s more.

During the big 15-week COVID-19 lockdown that Melbourne endured in 2020, Sally’s son and his girlfriend moved out to the farm.

A move that would really test the endurance of Sally’s faithful Sky Muster internet connection.

So, how did the farm’s internet stand-up to a house full of people during Melbourne’s big lockdown?

On a normal day at Malabar in Woorndoo, it’s just Sally, her husband and all the animals hanging out together.

The load on the internet comes solely from Sally’s online endeavours during those days.

But in March 2020, when Melbourne went into its first big lockdown to battle the spread of COVID-19, Sally’s son and his girlfriend moved in.

“I’ve got two boys at university,” Sally tells me.

“One is in Melbourne. He just graduated late last year with a Bachelor of Science, but during lockdown, he was doing his online lectures here at the farm.

“His girlfriend was also here. She works for a construction company in HR and was doing all her HR meetings and training online.

“I was doing my normal VMware job, so we had three of us really hammering the internet,” she says.

“That’s the only time I’ve ever bought extra data blocks, which were very reasonably priced.

“It’s very easy to order them. You just log in to your online account and grab another data block.

“And the alerts you get if you’re getting close to your threshold are simple, they’re effective, they communicate what needs to be done.

“You’re always well informed if you’re getting close to your threshold.

“The quality of the connection didn’t deteriorate with the three people working online, being son Tom at university, his girlfriend Charlotte in HR and myself.

“There was no problem with connection, packet loss, no degradation at all. We didn’t notice any difference other than we were churning through a lot of data,” she says.

Customer quote. Sally Creber says "The quality of the connection didn't deteriorate with the three people working online, being son Tom at university, his girlfriend Charlotte in HR and myself

So that covers the business load on the one plan but what about the recreational aspects?

“I was surprised that our internet connection actually supported the use of Netflix because we’ve got a wireless router in the office, the TV is a reasonable distance from the office, and I had never actually tried Netflix at home because I had just presumed it wasn’t going to work,” Sally tells me, still sounding a little astonished but definitely happy about the result.

“When my son came down here and was studying for university early last year, he just set it up and away it went, and I was really surprised how well it worked.

“During lockdown, the free data allowance we got from SkyMesh was really handy, and I was very grateful because there’s no way I could have gone through that period without that extra data allowance,” she said.

Pull quote from Sally Creber: During lockdown, the free data allowance we got from SkyMesh was really handy and I was very grateful because there's not way I could have gone through that period without the that extra data allowance.

Then it’s settled, we’re a fan of satellite internet?

“I’ve never had packet loss, which is good. My video never breaks up. There’s a slight latency, but that’s to be expected given we’re on satellite,” says Sally.

“I do a lot of online education. We have quarterly training plans that have to be fulfilled and there’s a lot of video playing.

“I don’t get a lot of buffering and the responsiveness is generally pretty good,” she says.

“I’ve been with SkyMesh and Sky Muster for a number of years. I can’t remember how long. We had another provider prior to SkyMesh but that was a long time ago.

“I’ve been on the farm for a long time too, going back to the years when we had dial-up and I’ve had so many different options for the provision of internet to the farm. This is certainly the most reliable and effective I’ve had so far.

“Even going back to the days when we had a little dial up modem, things were pretty rugged out here on the farm,” she reminisces.

“Telstra came and put in an eight pair line (landlines) because I had a farm business phone, my work phone that I would divert my mobile to, plus the normal other business phone for a quarry we have running.

“We had multiple businesses for here, multiple phone lines and the only way to connect used to be dial up, then I’d divert my mobile to the landline because the mobile didn’t have a signal.

“So, with Sky Muster, it’s certainly made my working from home incredibly easy.”

Sky Muster and creating work-life balance

“I’ve got an apartment in Melbourne, in Southbank, and that’s where my VMware office is, where I used to go and work all the time.

“My apartment now is largely empty and the for the past many, many years – we won’t say how long – I’ve been driving from the farm, usually scooting down on a Sunday night or a Monday night, doing a couple of days work in Melbourne and then scooting back to the farm.

“It’s so much easier now. My car just gets left in the garage. I barely go outside the front gate and I can still manage to do all my work requirements from the farm office in Woorndoo.

“The good thing about working from home – which will be for the foreseeable future – is I can get up early, go out, work two horses and I’m in the office by 8.30am.

“By then, I’ve done my exercise, the horses have been worked and they’re back out in the paddock then I can get into my day-to-day work. So, it’s very much a balancing act but it’s a really nice balance to have: the farm, and then the corporate life which is totally separate.”

[IMAGE SOURCE: Sally Creber provided. Sally competes in dressage and works her horses on her farm]

Would Sally recommend SkyMesh and Sky Muster to a friend?

“I would definitely recommend SkyMesh and Sky Muster,” Sally says firmly.

“From a customer support perspective, those free data blocks that we were given, and the competitions that you’ve had, I just feel like I’m not just a customer.”

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Sally Creber, SkyMesh customer pats her horse through her home office window
Louise Hughes
Written by Louise Hughes

Louise has had a life-long love affair with beautiful words; writing because it drives her, and reading because it feeds her soul. She's the luckiest woman alive to be able to create clever content and intelligent customer experiences for a living.

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