With Trafford councils growing need for agile working and a pressing need to temporarily vacate their town hall, Trafford Council worked with Ampito to deploy a government grade secure wireless network, underpinned with extensive high quality Aruba technology. This has enabled staff and users to become more mobile and productive and the IT department to offer exceptional wireless coverage while easing the burden on their resources.
Addressing the challenge:
• Ampito worked with Aruba Networks to satisfy all the requirements for government grade security
• Trafford's growing need for agile working is supported by extensive high quality Aruba wireless coverage, including the use of Remote Access Points for teleworking
• Self-provisioning gives library users BYOD Internet access, with a minimal staff workload
• Building out a temporary wireless network first enabled Trafford to gain a better understanding of user needs and the importance of wireless coverage
• Aruba's ability to build in resilience means wireless can replace wires for business critical networking
"We've worked with Ampito since 2009 – they and Aruba seem to have a level of expertise we don't have in house, they're always keen to have meetings with us and provide consultancy and information to develop the solution further." – John Mann, Head of Infrastructure at Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council.
When Trafford Council needed to vacate its town hall temporarily its IT department linked with Ampito their longstanding IT partner to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Utilising Aruba Networks high quality wireless technology the council was able to do something it had not done before; deploy government grade wireless networking and get BYOD and teleworking coverage for staff, councillors and local citizens into the bargain.
"The opportunity was that we had accommodation issues coming up – the town hall was closing for refurbishment, so we wanted an overlay network that we could quickly provision into other spaces, of course what we're finding now is an extension of that – people move and the networks must follow."
The town hall refurbishment and move to temporary offices permitted the IT team to check the need for wireless and enabled them to liaise with the building contractors to ensure the refurbished building would be well set up for wireless. They also aimed to future proof the network, opting to saturate the new building with wireless so that when the time comes to add wireless VoIP the capacity will be there.
"With the new town hall, a big selling point for us was agile working," adds Tony Kettle, Trafford's Network and Communications Manager. "We used Wi-Fi in a big way to cover the temporary accommodation, plus wired too – both were available everywhere. Now we are back in the town hall, fixed desk workers still use wired, but the others all use wireless. Going around the building I notice how many people are sat at desks, but the cables are not plugged in. The new building has a lot of breakout areas too, and it's common to see people sitting there with their laptops out."
When the council put out its tender for a wireless network, its demands were strict. It required a secure separation of public and private networks on the same infrastructure and needed to be flexible, scalable and had to meet the UK's Government Secure eXtranet (GSX) code of conduct, "That Aruba was US FIPS compliant was an extra selling point," notes Mann.
This project reinforced to the Trafford team the importance of doing full wireless network site surveys using the right supplier and the tools for the task, not merely a quick walk around with a laptop. Working with Ampito and Aruba enabled them to complete a full site survey and test the hardware on site before purchasing, "Before we bought the kit, we told Ampito and Aruba what we were thinking of and they lent us hardware to test, but we couldn't get it working properly," says Kettle. "We were hours away from giving up in frustration, then an Aruba engineer came in with a spectrum analyser and found the problem; the infrared detectors on the fire alarms also had Wi-Fi, and even though it was not in use it was turned on, so the Wi-Fi access points were constantly being knocked off channels." Fortunately, adding resilience is not a problem with Aruba Networks, because its Mobility Controllers can be paired and clustered for fault tolerance.
As well as business critical secure wireless, the other big wins from implementing Aruba wireless have been agile working, both within council properties and off site; Trafford now has key members of staff and councillors using Aruba Remote Access Points (RAPs) at home on personal and work devices. "People like that with RAPs there's no messing about and no need for VPNs – you just get your laptop out and boot up," says Mann. He continues: "Now libraries are telling us they need wireless, like an Internet café. We're not really seeing a big BYOD uptake at the council, but certainly in libraries people want to use their own devices, not the council's. So it's registering, on boarding and managing those devices, and self-provisioning is very important because our counter staff are busy enough already. We are looking next to ClearPass, because self-provisioning is very important.”
Trafford are now working to resurvey their earliest wireless network sites as they move from coverage focused on specific problem areas towards blanket coverage and to make the wireless network more robust.
Mann adds that the success of the town hall wireless has been extremely well received enabling staff and users to become more mobile and productive. The pilot installation at the central library supports the BYOD policy allowing larger volumes of users with minimal additional resource. Ampito and Aruba Networks have shown a new technology path that is adding value to Trafford Council in more ways than were originally expected.
"It's safe to say that our Aruba Wi-Fi has exceeded our expectations." – Tony Kettle, Network and Communications Manager at Trafford