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Foxes Academy

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Foxes Academy - Case Study

Foxes Academy

Foxes Academy

“Lanode offered the most cost-effective solution to Foxes Academy’s hardware requirements and also provided excellent pre-sales support and technical advice.” - Foxes Academy

Foxes Academy takes advantage of the latest G.SHDSL technology to deliver new network connectivity opportunities for staff and students....

Foxes Academy is a specialist training college for young adults with learning disabilities. It operates a 24-hour curriculum focused on the catering industry, with pupils working in the main Hotel building and living in residential houses located near the town centre.

Foxes' catalyst for implementing a solution to network connectivity between the residential buildings was the impending deployment of a new management information system. Additionally, there existed a need to provide access for both staff and students to network resources based at the hotel and access to the Internet via JANET (Joint Academic Network).

The Challenge - A Cost-effective, secure, reliable solution enabling flexible provision of bandwidth

The college required a cost-effective, secure and reliable solution to connect seven residential buildings to the main network. The links had to provide sufficient bandwidth to support the current need for access to network resources and the Internet via the 2Mbps JANET connection and also allow spare capacity for future expansion.

With many users working from laptops, Foxes hoped that every building would be equipped to provide roaming access to the Foxes domain, allowing users to connect at their convenience from multiple locations. This meant that the selected solution had to be flexible enough and have sufficient bandwidth available to support peaks in usage at any particular site.

The Solution

Foxes Academy decided on EPS 9 circuits as they offered the best solution for achieving connectivity between sites given the bandwidth required and cost constraints. Regarding the hardware solution to support the connections, Foxes Academy needed to find “the most suitable and cost-effective hardware solution.” Lanode recommended both a CTC 4604 G.SHDSL modem and a CTC IP DSLAM. The CTC 4604 G.SHDSL modem enabled Foxes Academy to create high speed links over two-wire circuits such as those meeting the BT EPS 9 standard. The CTC DSLAM provided connectivity for up to 16 two-wire EPS 9 circuits and when connecting several buildings to a common ‘A end’ i.e. the Hotel, it could be used at the hub site.

“This unit was ideal for Foxes Academy as it met the requirement perfectly for a small capacity DSLAM, presenting 16 G.SHDSL ports. Initially only 7 of these ports would be used, allowing room for expansion should new buildings need connecting to the network.”


The DSLAM would be located at the Hotel and form the termination point for all seven circuits to the remote buildings. This would avoid having to use a separate modem at the Hotel for each connection and would also provide a central point for administration and management. Each residential house would have its own CTC 4604 to complete the link. The modems were configured with static IP addresses and operate as Ethernet bridges. The network comprises a single sub-net with IP address allocation through DHCP from the JANET router.

Implementation

Foxes took advantage of Lanode's 30 day trial offer in order to create test connections, linking two remote buildings to the main Hotel network. The aim was to assess fully the suitability of using EPS 9 circuits before the college went ahead with full scale implementation. The trial links would be set up by connecting Lanode's CTC modems at each site to the EPS 9 circuits.

“The connections have performed flawlessly.”

Two EPS 9 circuits from BT and four CTC 4604 modems from Lanode were ordered. Two of the routers were for the Hotel and one router was used at each of the two residential buildings. The plan was to redeploy the two routers initially used at the Hotel as subscriber units at the other residential houses  after the trial.

With one circuit handed over by BT, two routers were configured to create a connection from the LAN switch of one remote building to the Hotel’s network switch stack. Both modems were assigned with static IP addresses. The modem at the Hotel was set to ‘Provider’ mode and the modem at the residential house was set as a ‘Subscriber’ unit, as if it were connecting to a DSLAM. To permit the modems to automatically connect to each other on startup, the VCI (virtual channel identifier) on each of the units had to be configured to the same setting.

“The full line speed of 2.3Mbps was achieved and connection performance to the Hotel network was excellent.”

The connection was left active while several tests were carried out in order to assess the performance of the link in a working environment. Access speeds to network shares, the management information system and JANET were found to be more than satisfactory, achieving the maximum line connection speed of 2.3Mbps. When the second circuit came into operation Foxes found the results were identical to the first. For the final installation, Foxes took advantage of Lanode's pre-configuration service as, in their case,  the CTC DSLAM needed to be connected to a patch panel via a 50-core cable.

“Since Lanode were supplying both the cable and the patch panel, they kindly ‘punched in’ the required connections to the patch panel prior to shipment.”

Operational Performance and Reliability

With the IP DSLAM up and running, the two initial test circuits were transferred from the modem-router supported connections at the Hotel to the IP DSLAM without any problems or loss of performance.

“The network is working very well and meeting the college’s needs.”

The five new circuits were then connected to the IP DSLAM at the Hotel and the remaining modem-routers installed at the remote locations. All five of the new circuits performed identically to the test circuits, meaning that all seven circuits were now connected to the Hotel through the IP DSLAM at 2.3Mbps.

“Foxes Academy is pleased that the full line speed of 2.3Mbps was reached on all seven circuits. Access to all network resources including the new management information system is more than satisfactory; the connections have performed flawlessly.”

Benefits of the Project

The connection of all seven residential houses using a secure, reliable and cost-effective method was successful. Compared to the cost of other solutions, Foxes Academy has made great savings while still meeting all the requirements initially set out.

Foxes staff have felt the benefits of this technology upgrade as it has facilitated the creation of a shared resources drive. This new 'Resource Area' has granted staff access to company policies and procedures, among other documents that staff previously had to hold hard copies of and photocopy as required; now staff can print directly from the electronic version ensuring the latest version is always used. The network also enabled almost all faculty and students to have e-mail accounts, greatly reducing the amount of paperwork being passed between buildings via the internal mail system.

“The benefits of having all seven residential buildings connected to the network were immediately noticeable.”

Before the network was in place there was no JANET access from six of the seven residential houses. Now that Internet access via JANET is available for both staff and students, Foxes believe “it has quickly become an indispensable resource.” Overall Foxes felt “the project proved to be very successful.”

Foxes Academy is now looking at other ways to take full advantage of any spare bandwidth between the sites. Once the management information system is fully in use in the residential houses, the college will have a better idea of how much spare capacity is available. After further testing it may be possible to connect the digital phone system based at the Hotel to the network. This could potentially allow all residential houses to have Voice over IP phones, which would provide unprecedented cost savings without any further capital investment.