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The Warning Signs Your Network Needs Replaced

atlanticstormIf you think lightning can’t strike twice, think again. It can strike twice, thrice or even quarce. (Is that really a protologism?) A well known ferry operator on the West Of Scotland has the blown out network equipment to prove it. The coastal ferry terminals of Scotland are long standing facilities. Surprising to some, in the winter in Scotland, the seemingly constant procession of Atlantic storms frequently bring intense atmospheric instability with them as the UK’s TORnado and storm Research Organisation (TORRO for short) can testify. Lightning frequently is a major problem for many businesses in this area and it can have a devastating effect on their sensitive IT infrastructure. As Doug Rask, an IT manager in the area put it, “We would take an occasional lightning strike and the equipment would be fine initially, but after some days or weeks, they’d start falling over, and we’d have to analyse the problem and quickly get things replaced.” Lightning strikes are admittedly a bit of an extreme example, well concede, but they do qualify the problem of the constant environmental stresses and strains that your static sensitive network hardware has to face almost constantly.

When systems begin to show signs of this wear and tear, it can manifest itself in the shape of chronic network niggles such as poor throughput or frequent hangs, crashes and outages. The hardware may simply be coming to the end of its natural life, or perhaps the user enterprise has simply grown beyond the maximum capabilities of the network, says Pete Macsorley, IT manager at Corpach Pumps. Other factors that can cause an agency to consider a network refresh could be the deployment of new applications such as anti virus systems or phased migration and collaborative services. Usually the real world reason for a network overhaul is not just a single warning sign but a combination of multiple elements of the above.

CONSISTENT EQUIPMENT FAILURE

When lightning strikes a building, the earthing systems should and almost always will protect the systems but every now and again a strike of ferocious magnitude can overwhelm these safety systems to the point that damage is caused to the network  and IT equipment. “When we get strikes on our sites, it typically doesn’t kill of our systems there and then. It does however initiate a collapsing system which culminates in the eventual hard failure of equipment. This can take 3-6 months,” said Mark Forrest, IT engineer for a well known salmon farming company.

At some time in the next 6 months, the kit would begin to play up. Users would notice a badly performing network, intermittent hangs and patchy access to servers, forcing Forrest to carry out systematic fault finding and replace the failing kit. “Atmospherics and particularly lightning places a cost burden of 3 to 4 switches per hit” says Marks boss, Joe McGarry.

AGEING HARDWARE

headerAgeing or end-of-life networking gear can compel organisations to replace their systems, especially when the initial warranty expires and/or support organisations place a premium on their support due to the increased likelihood of call out and expensive engineering time. “Sometimes this cost uplift is so great that there is no option left but to replace new for old and enjoy the more relaxed maintenance landscape that ensues,” says Dan McDougall, CTO at a major food manufacturing company.

“Networks are there for one reason, to serve the business. Unless they’re failing too frequently, the main reason we would decide to upgrade the network is the cost of their support,” McDougall says. “Sometimes the kit on your business network is just so old that the cost of the warranty dwarfs the cost of new for old.”

For example, the salmon farming company mentioned previously recently needed to move their regional offices in Oban. It made perfect sense to look at equipping the new premises with a new network and servers because most of the kit at the old office was 5-9 years old and EOL (End Of Life), Forrest says “I was sure I didn’t want to be moving any of my old equipment that had been through the lightning hits more than once. I wanted new for old.”

They had also decided to move some services to the cloud such as their voice network services and had enhanced the resolution with which they remotely monitored the underwater salmon pens. They purchased 2 Cisco UCS servers, three new routers, eight switches and upgraded their WIFI network using Cisco Meraki, Furthermore in addition to moving to hosted voice, they improved the storage of their IP video inputs from the farm cages as well as a new access and building control system which also used the network. This network upgrade brought with it gigabit networking to the desktop and has markedly increased the performance and efficiency of the business unit.

For example, in the past, bandwidth contention had sometimes resulted in the live video from the pens squeezing out the traffic for the very control systems which were used to enable the application of feed to the pens. The upgraded network, using 802.1q VLAN trunking was able to segment the traffic and ensure that the requirements of each business process were safeguarded. Bandwidth contention had become a thing of the past. Finally and perhaps ironically, they also installed a new earthing system and new earthing cable, which should protect the new locations sensitive electronic equipment more effectively from future lightning strikes.

CREATING BANDWIDTH

Sometimes, the introduction of new applications on the network necessitates a network upgrade. For example, VoIP (hosted or owned) or realtime video services can place very specific demands on a network and if it isn’t up to the job, a refresh can prove inevitable,

An increased rollout of virtualisation and thin client technology can also drive cost savings in terms of network user hardware which may be partially offset by the costs of the new network to support it.

CONTINUOUS PHASED APPROACH

tick-tock-google-searchSome agencies adopt what is best described as a continuous phased approach to keeping the network at the cutting edge. This can prove to be a useful mitigation to the sometimes problematic expense of replacing the whole network every few years as well as enabling financial planners to smooth the requirement for capital across many financial years. It’s a cost-effective way of keeping the network stable and up to date.

DB Refrigeration in Ayr, for example, has gradually upgraded most of its 15 wiring-closet switches since 2012 and will replace a few more this year, says IT manager, Connor Piacentini.

This autumn however, it was the core routers turn to be replaced. The IT department upgraded its Gigabit Ethernet Cisco Catalyst 6509 core switch to a 6509-E which could support 10 Gigabit Ethernet. “It was 8 years old, so we knew we had to upgrade it finally,” Piacentini says.

SHARED SERVICES

Consolidation by agencies of the use of their expensive network resources seems to be a popular way to save costs these days. For example in the Public Sector, many regional councils share some of the higher end networked resources making the burden on each organisation smaller. This can however mean that the new network  must be far more capable than any of the incumbents.

Police Scotland, following its recent merger has to build regional backup emergency operations facilities, so if disaster strikes and one goes down, another can take over. The investment requires new network equipment to build the WAN. It is speculated at this time that they are also negotiating with infrastructure providers to build a proprietary fibre ring.

Upgrade Advice

1. Plan for future needs. When deciding how much bandwidth you need and what equipment to buy, don’t assess for your current needs. Spec it out for five years from now. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a 50 percent increase in bandwidth usage and a 30 percent increase in the number of employees.

2. Pair a network upgrade with a larger technology project. It’s often easier to prove return on investment and get a network upgrade funded if it’s tied to a bigger project. When IT administrators propose a private-cloud deployment, for example, they can argue that a network upgrade is critical for good cloud performance.

3. Purchase maintenance contracts only on the most critical equipment, such as main routers and switches. Purchasing contracts on all equipment can be cost-prohibitive. It can be cheaper to purchase one backup wiring closet switch and use that if a switch fails instead of purchasing contracts for each switch.

UK Telehealth is finally coming of age.

According to new a research report, around 2.2 million patients worldwide are using a home monitoring service based on equipment with integrated connectivity at the end of 2011. The figure does not include patients that use monitoring devices connected to a PC or mobile phone. It only includes systems that rely on monitors with integrated connectivity or systems that use monitoring hubs with integrated cellular or fixed-line modems. It is forecast that the number of home monitoring systems with integrated communication capabilities will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.0 percent between 2010 and 2016 reaching 4.9 million connections globally by the end of the forecast period. The number of these devices that have integrated cellular connectivity increased from 0.42 million in 2010 to about 0.57 million in 2011, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 34.6 percent to 2.47 million in 2016.

Some of the most common conditions being monitored today are chronic diseases including cardiac arrhythmia, sleep apnea, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These conditions cause substantial costs and reduce both life expectancy and quality of life. It is estimated that more than 200 million people in the EU and the US suffer from one or several chronic diseases where home monitoring can become a treatment option. “Home monitoring solutions that can communicate over a cellular network, landline connection or the Internet have already reached significant volumes within cardiac rhythm management, integrated telehealth solutions, sleep therapy and cardiac event monitoring”, says Lars Kurkinen, Telecom Analyst, Berg Insight. He adds that connectivity is gaining momentum in several other segments as well, such as glucose meters and medication adherence systems.

Exploiting connectivity technologies in the UK healthcare industry can lead to decreased costs, more efficient care delivery and improved sustainability of the healthcare system. New care models enabled by these technologies are also often consistent with patients’ preferences of living more healthy, active and independent lives in their own homes. Progress is being made in the adoption of wireless technology among manufacturers of medical monitoring equipment. However, there is still a long way to go before remote monitoring becomes a standard practise in the healthcare sector.

Rustyice Solutions is monitoring this sector very closely and has already made some strategic moves in respect of this field. Keep an eye on this Blog for further announcements coming soon.

Trade up to Advanced UCC from Siemens

Trade In your legacy communications system today and get advanced Unified Communications features for your entire company for free!

If you’re looking to simplify your communications infrastructure, move to a cost-cutting IP environment and roll-out productivity-enhancing unified communications, there’s never been a better time.

OpenScape Office MX/LX platforms deliver the flexibility and functionality your small or medium business needs.

  • Productivity: see emails, calls, faxes and vital business information in a single location
  • Instant access: check on team member availability and contact preferences via presence
  • Web conferencing: launch conference calls from the desktop with a single click and reduce bills by up to 90%
  • Customer satisfaction: get that important customer call first time with one-number reachability
  • Accelerated TCO: cut network charges by up to 30% with SIP (Internet-based) Trunking

Advanced UCC features for free

Trade Up to OpenScape Office MX or LX by June 30, 2012 and get Advanced UCC, including drag ‘n’ drop conferencing, mobility (including smartphone and tablet integration) and fax functionality for no additional cost. Saving 28%.

Deploying productivity-enhancing, cost saving unified communications couldn’t be easier. Trade in your legacy system for a new OpenScape Office MX/LX from Siemens Enterprise Communications and get Advanced UCC including ‘drag and drop’ web conferencing, mobility features and fax, at no extra cost. Call us free on 0800 012 1090 to discuss the many ways you can take advantage of this offer. Please quote promotion code – UCCSI28.

Inmarsat Fleet Global – The Maritime Communications Solution

Fleet Broadband is the smallest, most simple high speed Internet & telephone receiver for maritime communication. It can be set up by an individual with little or no training and operates globally, also requiring no particular training to keep it functioning. A fleet broadband antenna and controller are self contained, requiring only power. Switch it on, and your entire fleet is linked at broadband speed. This appliance can be rapidly implemented across your fleet and as a standard IP service, seamlessly integrated with corporate and headquarter networks. The service is such that anybody who operates a vessel of almost any size can easily see the benefit of the technology which reaches far beyond its cost. Contact us today to discuss the benefits Fleet Broadband can bring to your company. Read on for a flavour of these benefits:

 

Flexibility and control: Fleet Broadband supports the newest IP services, as well as traditional circuit-switched voice and data for your Current applications. You can choose between a standard, contended IP service and guaranteed data rates on demand – with the ability to choose the rate according to your application. 3 varieties of terminals are available, each present distinct performance capabilities.

Cost effective: With Fleet Broadband, performance and flexibility is not too pricey. Terminal costs are fairly low, with a selection of airtime pricing packages to best suit your needs. There is also no obligation to commit to a lengthy contract. Global voice and broadband data services are more accessible than ever before, enabling you to achieve better operational efficiencies and reduce the expenses of crew communications.

Worldwide coverage: Fleet Broadband ensures you’re never out of touch, wherever you sail. Voice, fax, and data connectivity in the Indian and Atlantic Ocean Regions is available immediately. Inmarsat delivers global coverage – excluding the extreme polar regions.

Easy to install and integrate: Finding a space on your vessel for your new FleetBroadband terminal shouldn’t be a problem. With the antenna set inside a neat radome cover, which ranges in diameter from 25 to 60cm, and a discrete below-decks terminal, Fleet Broadband is compact without compromising performance. As a standard IP service it can be seamlessly integrated with your shorebased systems, making your vessel a transparent link within your company network.

Inmarsat is one of the best providers of global satellite solutions in the world and Fleet Broadband is just one of those solutions. The Inmarsat solution provides global satellite communication, with multiple satellites covering the whole planet. Contact us today to discuss this or indeed any of the Inmarsat solutions which we will be blogging about in the coming weeks.