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Walsall College, Education Sector IT Case Study

Walsall College is a leading educational institution in the West Midlands that supports over 3000 young people and 4000 adults in accessing education, training and vocational courses each year. The College provides real life practical knowledge and experience to enable fulfilled career success.

The current revitalisation of Walsall’s town centre and its surrounding area, led by the Walsall Regeneration Company (WRC), has resulted in the building of Walsall College’s Wisemore campus. Now open for learning, it offers world class facilities, providing students with an exceptional learning environment.

The Challenge
Amillan was commissioned by Walsall College to provide the networking project for the College’s new Wisemore campus. As a service partner of Amillan’s, Networks First was approached to assist in the implementation.

The College required a high performance HP LAN network with high availability LAN and HP Wireless LAN capabilities to sustainably support multiple applications including voice, data and video services within its campus buildings. Having worked previously with Amillan on several HP Procurve estates, the College was confident of Networks First’s capabilities and experience with the equipment.

Richard Reid, strategic director at Amillan comments: “This was a challenging project and we needed a skilled HP Procurve Partner to assist us. Having worked with Networks First previously, we were impressed with their knowledge and expertise, giving us great confidence that they would be able to ensure the project’s delivery on time and to the College’s exact requirements.”

Networks First’s expertise was required for three key elements:

  • Pre-staging and implementing the HP LAN Switch core and edge
  • Conducting a WLAN survey, pre-staging and implementing the HP Wireless network with 72 Access Points connected to the converged LAN environment to be controlled by a wireless edge service module.
  • Implementing and configuring HP Procurve manager plus – a network management suite designed to monitor the network’s health and performance and proactively alert staff to any potential problems.

The Solution
The campus network was designed to incorporate some of today’s most advanced technologies. Security, high performance, and resilience were essential elements of the network design; supporting key applications for the intelligent building systems and state of the art applications used by the faculty.

After an initial two month delay due to building construction setbacks at the Campus the implementation commenced in earnest. Using Networks First’s project office, engineering resource scheduling was amended to ensure consistency of engineering continuity and project knowledge.

Networks First’s engineers used their purpose built pre-staging labs to configure the network LAN and wireless LAN solutions exactly. This phase ensured that all the equipment was fully functional and ready for deployment as soon as the building was physically ready to house it. A thorough testing plan was devised to ensure that everything would function as intended which was utilised as part of the pre-staging process.

Once given the go ahead, the install was completed over a series of stages, working in conjunction with other suppliers to ensure the smooth procession of the project. Alex Cook, the lead engineer on the project said “As each floor was completed by the builders and handed over we started the network install. We had to work around the inevitable disruption that you get while in such a fast changing environment and work with the other suppliers to make sure nobody was delayed. The wireless site survey had been invaluable – the predicted results were an excellent match to what was seen after installation and we were confident that there would be coverage everywhere they had requested it.”

A second run through of the testing schedule was completed after installation to double check that the new network was performing to specification and any minor challenges identified at this stage were dealt with by Networks First’s experienced HP qualified engineers. As the building became fully functional to both students, and faculty members of staff, our engineers then focused on delivering any required technical support to the in-house IT team at the college. The new network was designed and configured to work alongside their old infrastructure to allow a smooth transition with no interruption to their service. Connection between the new site and the existing communications infrastructure was assured through a laser link to allow information to pass freely between the two sites until the old building was decommissioned.

The HP Procurve edge switches provide connectivity to desktop PC’s, printers and devices requiring Power over Ethernet (PoE), IP close circuit TV (IPCCTV), access points for the wireless LAN and Voice over IP (VoIP) for the telephone handsets. They also support non powered systems such as the Building Management System (BMS) for door security, digital signage, and active whiteboards, as well as normal desktop PC’s and printers, all employed on the same IP network secured by VLANs and appropriate Firewall and authenticated network access. The fully resilient, high performance design of the new network ensured that they would always have the bandwidth available to meet their needs in a modern IT dependent college.

Jason Peach, Head of Professional Services, comments “the project was delivered in partnership with all stakeholders concerned with its delivery; we were able to fully ratify and test the network components to a customer agreed configuration agenda in our labs. This minimised any onsite work required and avoided disruption or adverse delays in the campus construction impacting our solution delivery. I’m sure all agree the network works well for all of the diverse applications it supports on behalf of Walsall College”

The results
Walsall College has benefitted significantly from a greater level of integration across the campus. Using HP Procurve’s Manager Plus application it can now be alerted to incidents before they occur, preventing network downtime. The college is also able to meet its internal SLA’s, as well as the growing demands from students for the latest technologies and applications.

Lessons are now smarter using intelligent whiteboards that are linked via the same IP network to other PC applications and streaming media assisting the quality and effectiveness of learning process significantly. Building access control and CCTV systems also operate over the converged IP network which has additionally enhanced the benefits and ROI of the new IT infrastructure.

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