Private school outsources data and comms network

Queensland's Sheldon College has outsourced its entire data and communications network to provide staff and students with around the clock access to resources and online learning tools.

The school has 180-plus staff and 1600 students using the network and work is underway for an IP telephony network delivered over a wireless mesh solution.

The network, which has been outsourced to privately-owned system integrator TTGroup Communications, is based on Nortel technology.

Sheldon College business and commercial services director Chris Harkin said the school realized technology advances were widely available that could provide a competitive edge in running the school as a business while giving students better access to resources.

"But with limited budgets we couldn't staff the level of expertise we needed to gain access to these technologies, so we did things a little differently." Harkin said.

TTGroup Communications CEO Bob Bishop, said until a few years ago Sheldon College had a typical school network made up of a haphazard mix of PCs, servers, laptops, limited connectivity and no single standardised operating platform.

He said it was a network that grew organically and was managed reactively, but still served its purpose on a day-to-day operational basis. "What was needed - and what we were mandated to provide - was a far more strategic assessment of the school's current and future needs, and an infrastructure that supported and enhanced its rapid growth," Bishop said.

The project is one of the first by an Australian school to be completely outsourced to a third-party supplier covering the network's tender, design, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.

Nortel Australia's enterprise networks general manager Nick Avakian said the initial phases of the project kicked off this year with the implementation of the 10 Gigabit core network based on Nortel's Ethernet Routing Switch 5530, extended with Ethernet Routing Switch 5520s at the edge.

Most of the school's buildings have been connected to each other with fibre optic cable, making it possible to transfer large music and video files at speed.

The wireless network, based on the Wireless LAN 2300 series, is currently being deployed, with three of 20 Nortel WLAN Access Point 2330s in place, centrally managed by a WLAN Security Switch 2380.

Future provision is being made for an IP telephony service that will run across the data network, complete with wireless handsets for staff to use on-campus.

Plans are in place to extend the network to two early learning centres currently under construction, and a $17 million sports hall due to open in October 2007.

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