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West Cheshire College

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West Cheshire College - Case Study

West Cheshire College

“The improvements have resulted in much enhanced network services to staff and students on a major campus of the college. All the objectives of the project have been met, including provision of access to student records, enhanced web browsing and cost savings.” - West Cheshire College

West Cheshire College achieved a 2Mbps Megastream-like connection for a fraction of the cost...

West Cheshire College is a leading vocational college with three main campuses located in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Capenhurst. In addition to their main campuses, West Cheshire College also runs a catering college at Greenbank Centre in Chester, some 500m from the main site, where a routed ISDN-2 connection was put in place to support the staff and students at this site.

West Cheshire College found the ISDN-2 link to be unsatisfactory on two counts – 1) the expense of call charges and 2) the insufficient bandwidth to support access to student records on the College Information System based at the main campus. Internet access and e-mail over the link was possible, but very slow.

The college's motivation for the project was to make better use of the funds being spent on the existing ISDN-2 link through the provision of a better quality service.

The Challenge - Cost-saving provision of a better quality service

West Cheshire college wanted the link to support access to the student records system and the Internet. The student records system is an SQL server based database with a bespoke front end, therefore bandwidth-efficient, but with a minimum requirement of 256Kbps.

The Solution

“Lanode offered products capable of providing a solution.”

West Cheshire College opted for the EPS 8 solution and the Ascom AM2048-CAP from Lanode as it offered performance, reliability and low cost, thus proving the best potential value for money.

The first step for West Cheshire College was to contact BT to verify the two sites were connected to the same exchange. Moreover, the distance between the catering college, telephone exchange and back to main campus needed to be ascertained, as the achievable bandwidth is dependent on the length of the copper cables due to attenuation and noise. It was determined that the circuit length would be approximately 2km and Lanode's Ascom AM 2048CAP was capable of supporting the data rates indicated in the table below, assuming 0.4mm gauge cable.

Bandwidth (Mbps)

Distance (km)

1Mbps on 1 Pair

2.5 - 4.0

2Mbps on 1 Pair

1.8 - 3.3

2Mbps on 2 Pairs

2.5 - 4.0

For an interconnect wire distance of 2km the indication was that a bandwidth of at least 1024kbps would be achievable, which made the project viable.

Implementation

Lanode's DSL modems arrived on time. First a back-to-back test was carried out with the Ascom AM2048 units to check the units worked. Then they were connected to the EPS 8 NTUs (Network Termination Units) at each site. The units were then connected via RJ45 Ethernet cable to the LAN switches at each site. There was no need to carry out any modifications to network addressing at either site. The interfaces on the modem routers were simply configured for the various network addresses and RIP enabled. Testing over the circuit was achieved by copying across large databases. It was found that the circuit quality was such that a full 2Mbps transmission speed could be reliably achieved. There were no major issues encountered in the installation.

“Lanode performed admirably and the implementation went without a problem.”

Operational Performance and Reliability

“The college’s experience since installation has been more than satisfactory. The system has worked flawlessly and no further configuration or attention has been required.”

All staff PCs at the catering college were set up to access the student records system on the College Information System based at the main campus. It had hitherto been impossible to access these over the old ISDN link. Using the Ascom modem and EPS 8.2Mbps link, “highly satisfactory performance was achieved.” The major purpose of the project – to permit access to the student records system – was met on time and within budget.

Benefits of the Project

As hoped at the start of the project, the improved link has made possible access to the College Information System. This has had a major impact on the effectiveness of administration staff at the catering college.

The aim of the project was to make better use of the funds being spent on the existing ISDN-2 link. This has clearly been achieved. Expenditure on the ISDN link was running at £300 per month. The new EPS 8 circuit costs £62 per month. The cost of support and maintenance of the routers is similar to that for the ISDN equipment. Therefore a cost saving of approximately £240 per month has been achieved and “performance has been improved beyond recognition.”

“The improvements have resulted in much enhanced network services to staff and students on a major campus of the college. All the objectives of the project have been met, including provision of access to student records, enhanced web browsing and cost savings.”

Since the first Baseband EPS 8 link installation, the college has been able to make further savings by using this technology. One of the college’s 2Mbps Megastream connections between Ellesmere Port Library and the Grange site has been replaced with a much cheaper circuit, saving around £2,250 in annual rental charges. The two sites also shared the same BT exchange and were approximately 1km away from each other.

The replacement of an ISDN link with a 2Mbps link between local sites (less than 4km apart) using a BT EPS 8 circuit with DSL modem routers, has provided a low cost 2Mbps reliable connection between sites. The total cost of ownership over the predicted lifetime of the link is very much smaller than any other services available from telecommunications service providers and will result in a net saving of approximately £2,800 per annum on just one circuit.

Cost Comparison

Circuit

Bandwidth

Connection Cost (£)

Equipment Cost (£)

Annual Circuit Rental (£)

Total First Year Cost (£)

Broadband with VPN

2Mbps 256 kbps contended

300

300

1,300

1,900

Kilostream N 256K

256 kbps

1,500

Routers x 2

@ 1,000 each

3,796

8,796

LES 2

10Mbps

9,000

Router x 1

@ 1,000 each

1,400

12,400

EPS 9

(2 wire)

1-2Mbps quality dependent

840

Ascom x 2

@ 650 x 2

410

2,550

EPS 8

(4 wire)

Up to 2Mbps depending on line quality

1,080

Ascom x 2

@ 650 x 2

744

3,124