Church gets VoIP solution

With 14 sites across Sydney and operations in London and Kiev, Hillsong Church is a growing organisation going through rapid changes, but was operating on a LAN environment that suffered security problems.

The Church needed to improve its network security on its LAN environment and expand its communications network to support voice calls and high volume multimedia traffic such as streaming video - all within a secure online environment.

"Our legacy LAN environment has no access control other than that provided by the operating systems. This has meant that we have had non-authorised machines arrive on the network and we have been none the wiser," said CIO, David Hooton. "Our organisation being made up of large public spaces, requires the flexibility and security of a centrally controlled LAN access system."

After looking at offerings from seven vendors, varying from an entirely PABX based system, a combination PABX and VoIP offering, right up to a pure IP based product, Hillsong chose, an IP based voice, data and video product from Cisco Systems.

"The cost of administration and maintenance of a legacy PABX based solution was not viable. It also made no sense to buy a combination solution as it still burdened us with the same inflexibility that the standard PABX solutions had," said Hooton. "We chose the pure IP solution because it could be run side by side with our existing systems while we phase them out, costing less overall, because we are not re-purchasing something we already owned."

Hooton said Hillsong Church needed technology was flexible to fit with the evolving organisation.

"A Cisco voice over IP (VoIP) solution has been selected because of its inherent flexibility and ability to scale rapidly in a way which our legacy PABX and LAN systems could not," he said.

According to Hooton, the Cisco solution was the only offering that answered every requirement of the church's tender, which included core switching equipment, edge switching equipment, VoIP telephony and handsets and management software.

The network, which will be implemented in a two-phase rollout beginning with a 50-seat pilot in February, will carry general workgroup and Internet data for the church's global operations, based on Cisco's Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID). Several hundred staff, volunteers and Bible College students from the 14 Sydney sites, along with the offices in London and Kiev, will use the network. The communications system will also link a teaching complex and 3,500 person auditorium at the church's Sydney headquarters.

Also, Cisco's URT (User Registration Tool), offered security to the church's LAN environment and allows Hillsong to offer every data port as active while maintaining a secure network in a public access building, according to Hooton.

"Cisco's URT will provide us with a means to control who and what can access our network at any one time, while providing the flexibility to allow authorised users to plug any authorised LAN device to any data port in the organisation. The new system will allow us to monitor all unauthorised access, and anyone accessing the system from a non authorised machine will have no access to our LAN," Hooton said. "This was in stark contrast to the security problems we had experienced with our old LAN environment."

Hillsong expects lower support costs and much faster changes from the roll-out. Hooton said he expects to see initial tangible benefits within the first 6 weeks of operation.

"Presently our LAN infrastructure is struggling to cope capacity wise, so semi-regular dropouts of latency sensitive applications seem to be increasing as our bandwidth demands increase," Hooton said. "The new infrastructure should remove the weekly average of 4 hours support for issues of this sort, plus add to user productivity through increased performance."

Other benefits will be the changes the network will bring to the culture of the Hillsong organisation.

"I am looking forward to technology being a far greater helper of staff and students in achieving their daily objectives. I believe technology will become the enabling factor not the limiting factor in peoples work, and that use of the facilities we will be

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