Network Infrastructure

The client has taken on a large country estate, many miles from the nearest town, and intends to convert it into a private school with adjoining nursery and outdoor activities centre. Their requirements include installing broadband internet, an internal network with wifi access and a communications system. At the start of the project there was no connectivity to the site and the remains of a few network cables at some parts of the site.

Open Sauce Systems took on the entire project and worked to a tight and rolling timetable to ensure the works were ready. The nursery school was already trading at the start of this project with summer schools starting in 2015 and the main school beginning in September 2016.

Project areas
This project can be broken down into a number of main areas and these are detailed below:
Internet connection
Internal network infrastructure
Outdoor activity centre network
Nursery network
Main building network
Boarding house network
Communications system

1. Internet connection
As a temporary measure we installed a standard BT analogue line with ADSL broadband to the main building on site. This was fed along an existing underground network cable to the nursery school which was already trading. This enabled them to have a phone and some internet connectivity although the maximum speed available was 2-3 Mbps.
We investigated having the phone line upgraded to BT Infinity but, after testing, this was found not to work.
In the longer term the school will need a much faster and greater throughput internet connection as most pupils require use of the internet and most school functions these days require the internet. Having attempted (and failed!) to get a quote from BT for installing a fibre optic connection we opted for a licensed radio link which will supply the school from the nearest major town/city. We tasked a specialist contractor to specify, install and maintain the link and this task is ongoing and will be updated when complete.
The aim of this connection will be to bring a fast and large throughput internet connection directly to the site at a reasonable cost.

2. Internal network infrastructure
There are several distinct areas of the site to be connected. The main buildings, the boarding house, the outdoor activity centre and the nursery school. The distance between some of these is several hundred metres with the nursery being across a road and several car parks. Due to the size of site and the limitations of using standard network cabling (both in distance and capacity), we specified a fibre optic backbone between parts of the site and a radio link to the nursery. The fibre link was run between the main IT cabinet in the basement of the main building and “mini-hub” cabinets in the boarding house and the outdoor activity centre. This connects the sites with a fast, upgradeable and reliable connection with plenty of capacity for numerous users.
Each mini-hub is fitted with a 24 port switch, with fibre connections and power over ethernet (POE) for ease of connecting wifi units and IP phones, a patch panel for local network cable connections and a fibre patch panel. The main IT cabinet is also fitted with a main internet router and a Linux based server for controlling the WiFi network.
As the main building has a grade II* listing we tried to ensure we were sympathetic when running the fibre backbone. We were able to make use of the extensive basements and tunnels as well as parapeted roofs to hide the fibre from view as much as possible and we also removed many old and poorly fitted cables while carrying out the work which enhanced the buildings.
The fibre link has enormous capacity and spare cores should the network need to be upgraded in the future.
The link to the nursery was achieved by installing a radio link running from the roof of the main building to the chimney of the nursery building giving a good line of sight connection over 200 metres. The main building transmitter is connected to the router in the main IT cabinet via specially shielded cable. This new link meant that we could disconnect the temporary feed along the underground cable which was slow and unreliable.

3. Outdoor activity centre network
Having installed a new mini-hub at the outdoor activity centre fed from the new fibre backbone we were able to install a local network. The site consists of a sports hall with a number of log cabin dormitories near it. The top floor of the sports hall includes an office which is where the mini-hub is located. The requirement was for WiFi access in the hall, office and log cabins.
We ran catenary wires from the main hall to the log cabins and installed Ubiquiti WiFi access points in them. These access points have the advantage of being centrally controlled and also being unobtrusively mounted on the wall or ceiling. They also allow users to logon to one access point and roam between all the others. An access point was installed in the main sports hall and an IP phone was installed in the office. The IP phone is currently connected to our cloud phone system until the onsite PBX is installed.

4. Nursery network
The nursery has already had a temporary network fitted with some basic WiFi access points and a hosted IP phone. This network has been improved now that the radio link has replaced the temporary underground feed but the internal network is still very basic and ad-hoc.
We will be installing a mini-hub cabinet with powered switch as at the other sites. We will also install 8 Ubiquiti WiFi access points and a number of standard ethernet points for fixed computers and IP phones.

5. Main building network
A temporary network feed has been run to one of the downstairs rooms in the main building as it is being used throughout 2015 even though the main school is not yet open. In the room we have installed a Ubiquiti WiFi access point and an IP phone connected to our cloud PBX.
Before we start the installation in the main building we will be carrying out a WiFi coverage survey as the building is old with extremely thick walls. We plan to install WiFi access points covering the whole building as well as fixed sockets for computers and IP phones. These connections will run back to mini-hubs installed in several locations and run back to the main IT cabinet in the basement.
This work will be carried out before the main school starts operating in 2016.

6. Boarding house network
In a similar way to the main building, this part of the school will be networked with WiFi access points and some hard wired connections for computers and IP phones. This work will be carried out prior to the building coming into use in 2016.

7. Communications system
As with most organisations, they will require a communications system. Currently we have installed several IP phones connected to our cloud based PBX. We will be installing an IP PBX in the main IT rack which will control all the IP phones on the site as well as some offsite for certain staff. Due to the size of the grounds and the nature of the work, there is a requirement for a radio system for mobile staff when out of the main buildings. We have specified a digital radio system that connects to the IP PBX so that calls can be made from and to the radios. This will enable mobile staff, such as the caretaker, to be contacted by phone wherever he is and staff needing emergency help to contact somebody even when they are on the sports fields or in the woods. Linking the system to the PBX also means that there is no need to ensure that somebody else has a working radio whenever they go out.

This major project has been designed, specified, installed and project managed by Open Sauce Systems. We will also be maintaining the system on a support contract and will control the main network remotely. This allows us to monitor and make changes to the various parts of the system without needing to make site visits.
The system has been designed with expansion and flexibility in mind so that the whole network will be able to keep up with the growth of the school and the changes in technology that the future brings.

June 2015