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BSF Thread, BSF & PCP: who's idea is this? in United Kingdom (UK) Specific Forums; The High schools within my local borough are going through BSF at the moment, work having started in the first ...
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    BSF & PCP: who's idea is this?

    The High schools within my local borough are going through BSF at the moment, work having started in the first of the schools last summer.

    As part of this, Some monies have been granted to the Primary schools so that their ICT infrastructure is up to the same sort of standards as the high schools are getting. A lot of primary schools have neglected ICT requirements over the years, and certainly the school I joined recently has had a bad run of luck with their equipment, budgets and providers over recent times.

    Well 1 month after starting my new job as Network manager here, and having a busy time keeping up with all the various happenings, I have had my new network installed (or thereabouts, more on this as this saga goes on!) and thought I'd share my experience, and see if it's just me who is utterly frustrated with the whole thing, and wondering how these companies are allowed to do this?

    When I was first interviewed for the job, I was asked as to my availability to work February half term, as I would normally be employed term time only. I was informed that the school had got a grant to have it's network infrastructure upgraded, and it's server's overhauled as part of the BSF projects.

    The project had largely been finalised before I'd even started at the school, with time plans drawn up, initial surveys completed, and proposed plans had been released but not yet reached final approval.
    2 weeks before half term, we meet up with the project managers, and I get my first glimpse of what's going in... Fully managed Layer-3 network, with a managed wireless that covers the whole school, seperate vLAN's for admin/curriculum etc, full Cat6 cabling, the works. We said that we hoped for the work to be carried out during the February half term as planned, and arranged for the cabling team to complete a final survey a couple of days later.

    So 2 days on, the cabling manager comes round, and decides that he cannot run the cables over the roof (we stated that there had been a history of vandalism from local yobs up there) and it would have to be properly trunked, and the building was a flat roof... Which apparently meant that they could do this.... When I asked why they could do it, they answered "Because we're not roofers?" (LOL to a company that throws 200 network cables loosely over the roof of a school, and cannot do something as simple as SEAL A FLAT TAR ROOF!).
    As a result, they decided the work could not be done during the half term week as had been stated/planned for 6 months, and it would take 2 weeks or more, and would need to be done at Easter. This wasn't possible, as the School is open for events, holiday classes etc during the Easter holidays, and the school was only available during the February half term, or the summer, which was far too long a time to wait, as a number of issues had stacked up in prep for the new network install.

    So they agreed to do it during the half term only a few days beforehand, as long as we noted "That there is a chance of overrunning". Work began on the saturday morning, and I made a point of popping in every couple of days to see how things were going. I was officially to work on the thursday/friday to begin the prep work for getting the network back up and running again ready for the return on monday, like config, putting back the PC's etc. I had already pre-warned my head/deputy head that the work was likely to run over to the weekend, and I would probably have to work overtime at that point.

    Well on the friday the work was not even close to completion, and the workmen, of which there was 4-6 of them at most, had been working 12-14 hour days up to this point. I rang the project manager to get his viewpoint on how things were going, and when work was expected to be completed.
    -At 10am, completion time was Saturday afternoon for all work
    -At 2pm, it had moved back to Saturday late evening
    -At 6pm, i was told that the workmen would be working THROUGH THE NIGHT, and that the work would be physically completed by Saturday evening, with testing to be done on Sunday, when I would be needed to complete the configuration.

    So I turned up 9am Sunday, to find the workmen STILL working, and that they had indeed worked through Friday night, and then did the same thing all the way through Saturday night as well... Not only were they still working, there was nearly 10% of the school still uncabled, and work had only just begun on terminating some of the cables.

    Myself and the config engineer began installing and setting up the switches regardless, The 2-3 hour install job taking a total of 6-8 hours. The workmen were still running cables and terminating at 3/4pm. I had started putting the suites back together, and tidying up. At 7/8pm, half of the workers have had enough, and decide they want to go home (60 hours working with barely 2 hours sleep tends to make you rather unwilling to work....), leaving just 2 of them to complete 20% of the terminating, along with all the testing, and then clearing up afterwards.

    The site agent comes in about 10.30/11pm, and the two of us start cleaning the school and tidying up, making good on as much as we could, finishing about 1.30am, when the 2 remaining engineers had packed up their stuff and headed home as well.

    The result from the last 2 days would be a slightly more thrilling tale, and would also make me sound like a whiny teenager, so I shall avoid going into detail.
    The TL;DR is that after working their workers beyond the point of exhaustion for 10 days, my network is a mess.
    -17/25 Wireless access points have not been installed
    -20-30% of the network ports are completely unlabelled and unconnected
    -50% of the network ports are untested
    -3-4% of the ports are faulty, damaged already, or weren't installed yet.
    -The phone lines to the nursery which is housed in a seperate building were cut, and not repaired.
    -Mains sockets have been damaged
    -Large chunks of plaster and brick missing from walls around the school
    -Mains cables that used to be in trunking are now loose and in hazardous places
    -Ceiling tiles not put back
    -Trunking not tidied/finished
    -No documentation
    -I've been told I am not allowed access to the Switches for port configuration in case I decide to maliciously mess around with it!
    -Equipment damaged in our storage areas
    -Cannot lock one of the cabinets as it is not deep enough and cables are pushing against the door
    -Wireless controller box does not fit in the cabinet, and is on desk in my 2nd ICT room!

    And probably more I've forgotten due to the excessively long list of things not working.
    I am looking to wait another 2-3 days before any of this will be fixed as well.

    A quick rundown of what we've got:
    Approximately 250m square area of building, with 25 wireless access points, 210 network points in about 35 rooms. 1 Main cabinet with core switching, with 2 sub cab's linked by optical cables, one of them in a building about 3 metres from the main building.

    If anyone has any comments/questions or just feels like adding to the love, feel free. I will not for the time being post details of companies involved, though an astute person with good search skills may be able to discover who it is anyway.

    Im setting myself for another 2 12-14 hour days later this week while they finish their work! I now have to go as my site agent is kicking me out (he wants to go watch the football! )

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    jamesreedersmith's Avatar
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    Fun Fun Fun!!!

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    button_ripple's Avatar
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    Ahhhh! We are having our school done over the summer holiday. It hasn't gone well so far, the person who came in to do the initial survey might as well of visited a different school as almost every fact was wrong.

    I have got to admit, getting the infrastructure updated in primary schools is a fantastic idea.

    The worst thing is the contractors know exactly how much the school has available to spend, so they are pushing the prices up and installing unnecessary equipment - does a small single form primary with only a suite of 15 computers really need layer 3 switches, CAT 6 cabling and industry standard servers?

    Can't wait to see what happens here, we are going to have major building work done to expand to 900 pupils. Most of the cabling is going to be installed and then ripped out a few weeks later!

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    How many sockets etc?? 4-6 people working for 9 very full days ought to be able to cable a primary school, surely?? Are you sure they didn't sneak out to the pub when you weren't watching???

    Too late now, but if ever someone wants to do something like this again you either need to get it done in phases or have the new cabling put in along side the old stuff; new stuff tested etc and only when it's working do you switch over and pull the old stuff!

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    I'm slightly concerned they were ever considering running the cables across the top of a roof. Were they planning on using external grade? It's quite a bit more expensive than regular cable.

    I certainly do feel your pain. In my last school we did all our cabling in-house and the NM had very exacting standards. As a result, I now find I can't look at any of the cabling in my new school without thinking 'I could have done a better job than that...'

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    glennda's Avatar
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    have you not seen the post about how the cabled the whole ice hockey stadium for the winter olympics in just 12 days? its immaculate. these guys should be able to wire a primary school! also why did they use cat 6. apart from it being more annoying to fit its not worth the extra time effort!

    ill find the link for the people that missed it

    Edit: heres the link Massive Network is Olympian Feat
    Last edited by glennda; 23rd February 2010 at 07:08 PM.

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    Robot's Avatar
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    That sounds horrid!
    I'm all for upgrading network infrastructures and what not but that sounds a bit overkill for a primary? Does the BSF have some baseline that all networks must meet equipment wise?? (I'm a bit out of touch with education networks now)

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Well yes BECTA have guidelines of what network infrastructure should look like and that is what people should use as the bases.

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robot View Post
    I'm all for upgrading network infrastructures and what not but that sounds a bit overkill for a primary?
    It may seem like overkill now, but if you're spending that sort of dosh you don't want to have to do it again in 5-10 years time. Or ever. My own school is a prime example of 'planning for now' rather than 'planning for the future'. Every classroom has a single UTP point at one end of the room, and very few rooms have anything more. A few years ago that would have been fine. Now it's a total PITA - especially when someone decides the computer needs to be on a different side of the room.

    Obviously neilfisher is best placed to comment, but just looking at the numbers:

    2x ICT rooms @ 32 ports for the workstations, say 40 so we have a few spares = 80 ports
    33x other rooms @ 4 ports each (two double sockets) = 132 ports

    ...and we're already up to 212, which is more than the 210 stated. Seems like a pretty reasonable number to me.

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    sounds like a nightmare to me! i have been a network cabler and av engineer for approx 12 yrs now and have worked on very large projects in the past and currently,, sounds like there was not enough time allocated to the hjob, either that or the company you have used are cowboys,,?? i would never dreamt of leaving a site in this state,, what have the company said about the revisits etc? would have made more sense for them to phase your new network in,, as for chuckin 200 cables over the roof,!! definate no no!! even if external grade there should be surge protection,,, or at least installed into metal trunking,, did they use a fiber link instead?

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    OK now that I don't have a rush I'll add a little more detail to some of this stuff....

    210 points includes the points for the Wireless AP's, we have 2 PC suites of 16 PC's, with 22 points in each of those rooms, the rest went into classrooms and admin rooms.

    The project was first started back last May as I've been told (as stated, I only started here mid January, so what went on before then is a little hard to guage). But in my interview in December it was specifically mentioned that February half term would be the install date. I since found out that this was the expected time for the works from about September time.

    in my 2nd week here, about end Jan/early Feb I had a meeting with the SLT of the school and the managers for the Network install team; one project manager, one cabling manager, and one switch/config manager. At that point, they showed some reluctance to install at Half term, but did not directly state a problem with it.
    A week or so later, about 12 days before the install was due to start, a final assessment was done to work out exact routes for cables etc, and the cabling manager decided it was not feasable to run over the roof; they had planned to run in metal trunking with external grade cable, but apparently they are not able to do it as it would cause the roof to leak! Show me a building anywhere in the world that you don't have to reseal the roof after bolting stuff to it please..... And a company that actively spec's to loosely throw cables over the roof!
    It was at this time it was decided they could not complete the work in the 9-10 days of Half term stating "because we cannot run over the roof now" as the reason it would take longer. They wanted to do it during the Easter break instead, the problem there for us being the school is OPEN during easter for school clubs of various sorts. This would have meant they could not have unrestricted access, and some facilities would have had to be required.
    We argued this point, and they agreed to install during half term anyway, saying that there was a possibility of runover into the Term Time.

    The fact that they had to put their engineers through around 150 hours of work each in 9 days tells me they did not spec enough people for the job; They were SUPPOSED to only work 8am to 6pm. As an approximation, that would have been in the region of 6-700 man hours of work.

    Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but in my mind if work is due to be done and completed by a set time, I would make sure there is enough manpower to complete the project in that time, and if I missed my deadline, I would be pulling out every stop to rectify the problem immediately. Though a few of the problems are due to the engineer's negligence, I find it hard to complain about the workmanship of a group of people who have worked for over 60 hours without a break, and worked 3 times the man hours most human beings endure in the space of a week. The actual quality of the work was great; I have never seen cabling run so neatly, and the cabinets look immaculate. Compared to my attempts at running the patch cables at least!

    Instead I find myself pointing the finger of blame in the direction of the Management; how someone can specify 7 x 9 hour days to complete a job with a 2 day runover/grace period, only to take 9 days of 12+ hour days and still not complete the work is beyond my comprehension, and then allow the project to be left in an unfinished and barely working state for 3 days before evening beginning to rectify the faults....

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    As to the cost of running cat6; half the cost in these works is the actual installation of it all, rather than the equipment itself. Cat5 is largely defunct now, and Cat5e is like a minimum standard; for the sake of saving a few pennies and pounds at this time, when in the next 5-10 years cat5e will no longer be used, and may not even be usable at the data rates required, it makes sense to put in something that will not need to be replaced any time soon.

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    Completing the work in phases.... Well they were due to leave the old network in place until the very last couple of days of the work, was the plan as far as we were all informed.
    In reality, the network was all but a memory within the first 2-3 days at most.

    And normally I would agree, but the school has waited over a year for some of this work to be done, and a phased rollout of that level would take weeks to do, so could only have been done during the summer holidays, and the work could not really have waited until then for completion.

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