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IT Projects

Completed Projects

Significant progress has been made in the past few years. Here is a list of achievements:

Implementation of wireless network

Two Linksys WAP54G wireless-G access points have been configured to implement a wireless network for 18 Dell notebook computers in the Teaching Laboratory. These computers are connected to PowerLab data acquisition units used for animal physiology experiments in the NST Part I course.

IP address audit and registration

All IP addresses of networked computers and printers have been configured logically by communal area/research group and registered with the University of Cambridge’s jackdaw database.

Web site redesign

The department’s web site, http://www.phar.cam.ac.uk, has been redesigned using Macromedia DreamWeaver MX. The redesign has seen new modular areas added to the web site and incorporates a new file name convention that should provide a more user friendly platform for the web technician to update as well web indexing.

Monitor card access system

A new card access system (Monitor Director FX) has been installed to operate 7 doors in the department. The database from the old system (Continuum) was configured into a CSV file to import into the newer user friendly system.

Library upgrade (network, hardware and software)

Seven network cables were re-routed in the false ceiling so that six network points could be relocated in the library (the 7th cabled network point was left in the ceiling for emergencies). The computing facilities in the library have been moved to a redesigned area and allocated new machines.

Seminar room upgrade

A new Dell projector has been installed via a ceiling mount in the seminar room. An electric socket was wired into the false ceiling to provide power and two VGA leads have been routed from the projector to the corner of the room where an iMac Apple Macintosh computer is situated. The second VGA cable is supplied for users wishing to use their own laptops.

Meeting room upgrade

The Meeting Room is now equipped with an Epson data projector connected to a new Dell PC (networked) and monitor.

Lecture theatre upgrade

The Lecture Theatre has had a significant upgrade. There is new AVA equipment that is controlled by a Crestron Touch Screen Control panel which controls the two projectors, two visualizers, PC, DVD/VHS player, sound system and lights. The screen has been replaced with a larger screen. For more details about how to use the equipment in the Lecture Theatre please see the TechNet AVA page.

Firewall & Management server:

Due to security breaches and increased vulnerability the department invested in a hardware solution firewall by firerack.

System Imaging (Ghost/Backup Exec):

We have extensively created images from departmental PCs so that machines can be restored if they encounter a serious hardware failure.

Active directory implementation

The department has moved from the classic SMB share used under Windows NT to Active Directory using Windows 2003 Server.

CamTools implementation

We have moved all the departments teaching resources from the Pharmacology website to CamTools. We have designed the front end of the three course and configured the CamTools sites to meet our needs.

Technical Services web site

The Technical Services web site outlines the services provided by the Technical staff of the Department. It also displays information regarding safety and security issues and the range of communal facilities available.

TechNet web site

The IT department has created these TechNet pages to assist members of the Pharmacology Department in their IT requirements.

Home Directory Backup

There is a weekly backup of users home directory (Z: drive) using syncback software.

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Other completed Projects

1- Voice over IP (VoIP) Network

Our existing Network works fine but not without some problems from time to time related to its speed and bandwidth bottleneck. We must bear in mind that none of our switches have any of the core requirement for VoIP e.g. Quality of Service (QoS) and Link Layer Discovery Protocol-Media Endpoint Discovery (LLDP-MED).

The issue here is that we are going to add another burden to our network: VoIP.

We have the following options to consider:

  1. Keep our Network as it is but we will experience problems (depending on the use of the phones in the department):
    Pros:
    • Save money!
    Cons:
    • No Support from BTiNet, PTS and Computing Services
    • Cannot Establish baselines for normal network performance
    • Not easy to troubleshoot network faults
    • Experiencing all sort of VoIP problems such as: Dropped packets , Delay , Jitter , Errors, Noise, dropped calls…etc.
    • It will take us more than 8 weeks if we choose this wait-and-see option and then decide to go for option B or C at a later stage
  2. Install a VoIP network to cover approx 73 phones.
    This will prevent us from daisy-chaining computers and phones into the same network port:
    Pros:
    • Run dedicated VoIP network
    • Get support from BTiNet, PTS and CS
    • Phone system without problems
    • Will be part of any future Data network upgrade
      (means we don’t have to install another VoIP network again)
    Cons:
    • Adding another segment to our existing multiple segments or hops network.
    • Cost: around 13k including cables, sockets, Switches, patch panels, rack, UPS.
  3. Upgrade the whole network to increase the speed, remove the backbone and to meet all core requirement of VoIP:
    Pros:
    • Network visibility ensuring optimal application deployment and sound Local area Network infrastructure.
    • Significantly increase network performance and reliability.
    • Run Data and VoIP in parallel without affecting each other: Structured network and VLANs to separate voice and data devices and traffic.
    • Adequately support higher traffic volumes that will be generated in the future.
    • Get rid of all network segments/backbones
    • Get support from BTiNet, PTS and CS
    Cons:
    • Cost: around 50k
  4. Keeping our analogue system
    Pros:
    • Not adding any burden to our network
    • Less work for our CO
    Cons:
    • Not benefiting from the new features of the new VoIP system
    • Will be charged for all calls
      (local rate even if we call another VoIP within the University)
    • There is an initial charge for the setup of keeping the analogue system

The question here is would the system still be supported should an Institute not have QoS infrastructure?

The Computing Service director issued this statement a while ago:

"(1) The supplier (BT) will warrant the quality of service out to the desk if the three basic requirements for the departmental network are met, including QoS.
(2) The UCS has tested IP handsets on networks without using QoS, and found them to be satisfactory, but this is no guarantee of acceptable service on another departmental LAN. As has rightfully been pointed out, "your mileage may vary".
(3) For a department that wishes to try and implement the handsets on their local network without meeting the BT contractual requirements, then BT will support the 'registration' of the handset but diagnosis of quality issues will be at the departments risk and the fallback is to implement QoS rather than expecting recourse with the supplier."

It is possible for institutes to survive (though not a pleasant experience for users) without QoS if that is what they decide for financial or other reasons. The point that the infrastructure should ideally be robust and free from Network spikes is something to consider and cannot be guaranteed.

We (COs) have been told by (BT iNet) and (PTS) that QoS is a core requirement. BT iNet and PTS won't guarantee the service without it. Of course we could go ahead without QoS but this would be on the understanding that this is our choice and responsibility.

LLDP-MED or Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP), although not a mandatory requirement, are said to be "desirable" as features of any network kit relating to the VoIP setup.

The Framework Tender Statement of Requirements states: "14.15 Support for LLDP to verify adjacency and configuration is desired. Any interoperability with alternative, proprietary protocols which perform the same function (e.g. CDP) can also be given."

In this context the requirement for QoS and LLDP is simply a risk/Quality vs cost discussion.

And finally:

Benefits:
There can be a great cost savings using VoIP from many features you pay extra for on normal BT telephone lines, such as Caller ID and call forwarding, are standard with digital phones. VoIP is great, but we might spend extra money and leave a fax machine and one or two standard lines for emergencies. On average we will be able to reduce our phone bills by as much as 30% or even more in the future.

Disadvantage:
Service may be interrupted during a power outage. Extra equipment, Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS), is required. In order to minimise the cost we only use UPSs for VoIP switches, one to three hours coverage would be sufficient for our need. VoIP cannot be used for lift phone, fire and security systems.

Recommendation:
I would strongly recommend to the department to consider option 3 in order to have a fast robust network that incorporates data and VoIP. This will provide the department with a well maintained and supported network.
But if it is purely because of financial consideration I would recommend option 2. This will give us a reliable VoIP system with support From BTiNet and UCS.

2- Network upgrade

The current Network is "operational" but the existing network equipment is old, slow and not trouble free. Existing network topology/structure is causing problems since we have the network equipment allocated into 4 locations: level 1, level 3, level 4 and the server room.

Introduction of the VoIP : UCS is working actively to move the University to next-generation telephones. This means replacing the current analogue telephone system with a Voice over IP (VoIP) data-network.

There are two parts regarding the Network upgrade:

    1. cabling

      Two options for the location of the proposed new centralised wiring centre’s and budget quotes for these options are below. Further options are also provided for the proposed installed systems industry compliance (ie Cat5e, Cat6 or Cat6a) and each solution offers a compromise on cost against performance. However the more spent initially on the performance, the greater the rewards reaped in the long term, by not having to upgrade again or install expensive electronics to deliver high bandwidth requirements, therefore a significantly lower cost of ownership could be enjoyed over the lifetime of the system deployed.

      • Cabling System to the Cat5e Standard, for the budget cost of £30,073.20 exc. VAT.
      • Cabling System to the Cat6 Standard, for the budget cost of £35,786.05 exc. VAT.
      • Cabling System to the Cat6a Standard, for the budget cost of £53,851.06 exc. VAT.

 

  1. Hardware

    To provide the Network Active Equipment and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) for the budget cost of £25,570.72 exc. VAT.

3- Data Storage

We need a Central Data Storage for All USERS in the Department. The general objective of the Data Storage Network is to promote the free exchange of data and the sharing of documents between members of a research group. It should be reliable, resilient and easy to manage as well as easy and secure access internally and remotely.

We have three options:

  • Two data storage: one active in the Department & one in a remote location for backups.
  • Three data storage: one active & one as a backup, both in the Department and a third is a remote archiving.
  • Four data storage: one active & failover, one as a backup, three in the Department and the fourth is a remote archiving.

The most efficient approach to data storage is the third option because data is always available to users even in the event of a disaster.

The cost of the second option is around £25,000 plus software.

4- Lapwing

The Lapwing service is intended to provide a quick, easy and consistent way to connect to the University network and Internet for users who are roaming around their own institution. It is not intended to replace fixed wired connections for users' main internet access in (e.g.) their office or college room. The main reasons for this are security, performance and reliability. Install it throughout the Department or in a small number of hotspot locations such as common rooms.

The cost of installing six wireless points by the University Computing Services (UCS) is £1620 plus yearly maintenance of £1080 (£180 per wireless point). Electrical work is also required to install data and power sockets for the wireless points £1665 +vat.

 

5- Virtual Private Network (VPN)

The Cost of a installing a VPN is around £4600, plus a yearly Maintenance of £860 a year + VAT.

6- Upgrade CUDN link from 100MB to 1GB

The Cost of installing a fiber optic and upgrade a CUDN link will cost around £2400.

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