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Wireless Networks Thread, Upgrading WAN links from 2Mbit / Advice in Technical; Our College has 4 sites in South Leeds; there is one central site and the other sites each connect to ...
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    Upgrading WAN links from 2Mbit / Advice

    Our College has 4 sites in South Leeds; there is one central site and the other sites each connect to it using 3x 2Mbit BT MegaStream links (I'm guessing he underlying technology is framerelay).

    With expansion over the past 10 years the slow performance of these links are beginning to have a detremental impact on the network and the users/applications. Each site has over 100 PCs/and around 100 staff/students at one time (sometimes more / sometimes less), the LANs operate at 100Mbit, I don't believe these is a serious problem with the speed of the LANs.

    We base staff files/roaming profiles on a server at the site they spend most of heir time, but inevitably quite a lot of staff need to logon at different sites various times of the week (e.g. lecturers and student support), and access to files/logging on can be very slow if they don't logon at their main site. Students tend to stick to just one site, so we base their files/profiles at the local server, and there isn't too much of a problem with their logon times/access to their files.

    Can anyone recommend any technologies / companies / prices we'd expect to pay? I am going to write a "invitation to quote" document, and send it to 3-4 telecoms companies. I am looking at around 10Mbit for a substantial improvement in performance, without breaking the bank, with a possible completion date of before September.

    Couple of issues:

    • We also run telephone calls (VoIP) over these links (perhaps not very relevant).
    • Internet access is via one 10Mbit connection at the main site, so any Internet access at the other sites have to go over these links to go out over the 10Mbit Internet connecttion at the main site.
    • I'm not sure if the routers at each site support more than 2Mbit on their WAN serial interfaces, so any upgrade may require new routers.


    I wonder if it feasible to upgrade the existing 2Mbit (I think at least two of them are fibre) at little cost?

    Any help / advice much appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Bruce.

    Leeds / UK.
    Last edited by Bruce123; 24th May 2009 at 11:58 PM.

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    Hi Bruce,

    I would suggest contacting NTL/Virgin Media and see what they can provide for you, we have just swapped from using BT to Virgin to provide fibre links from our main HQ to some of our branch sites and Virgin seem very switched on and get the job sorted for us with less hassle.

    Hope this helps.

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    Oops_my_bad's Avatar
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    Sorry to throw a spanner in here, but it might be more cost effective/efficient to look at replicating your infrastructure eg. sites/services for AD, DFS/FRS for file servers etc.. then you could leave your 2meg lines free for VoIP/internet access, which could probably cut it tbh
    Last edited by Oops_my_bad; 25th May 2009 at 01:07 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oops_my_bad View Post
    Sorry to throw a spanner in here, but it might be more cost effective/efficient to look at replicating your infrastructure eg. sites/services for AD, DFS/FRS for file servers etc.. then you could leave your 2meg lines free for VoIP/internet access, which could probably cut it tbh
    I've put quite a lot of work into reducing any unnecessary load on the WAN links, in order to improve bandwidth for when it's needed;

    1. Setup a system which looks at where students logged on the most during the past week, and automatically moves their H drive contents / roaming profile to the site where they are most logged on.
    2. There are two DCs at each site; so accounts/GPOs/scripts are replicated already.
    3. Setup folder redirection: My Documents/Desktop for all learners and My Documents/Desktop/Cookies for all College staff.
    4. For some staff setup what I call a distributed roaming profile (using DFS/FRS) so that a copy of their profile is stored on a server at each site, which for the most part works fine for these users.

    Using DFS/FRS is good in theiry, but it is not feasible/suitable for much of the College data for following reasons:-

    1. In some/many circumstances it can actually result in additional load on the WAN, rather than less (e.g. when data is replicated across to sites where it may not be used, or when a recync of large ammounts of data takes place)
    2. The increase in storage capacity that would be required (for each item of data that is replicated the space used would multiply by a factor of four).
    3. It cannot be used on shared drives (as in group drives) due to consistency issues; a lot of our data is is stored in drives which are accessed by multiple users.
    4. Although it is supposed to improve fault tolerance, I have found it to be quite unreliable at times; and it can be a right pain to fix if it stops working.
    5. Adds an extra layer of complexity to the network, which requires technical knowledge to maintain and to fix.


    I had similar thoughts about making extensive use of DFS/FRS to help resolve the bandwidth issue, but I just don't think it work in practice, sometimes there is no substitute for having physical bandwidth.

    I still considering setting up a TS Server so that staff could RDP to that rather than logging in with their own account locally. However, good bandwidth would still be required in cases where a USB memory stick is used to transfer files to/from the PC and for printing (which are both common ocurrences on our network).

    Many Thanks,

    Bruce.
    Last edited by Bruce123; 25th May 2009 at 01:39 AM.

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    The fact that fibre is already there is probably not relevant - the telecomm company will almost certainly put in new fibre.

    The college I used to work at was in a similar position and we upgraded. It's very easy to do because BT/Thus/Virgin do all the work for you (as long as you've physically got space to put the new end gear!) but it's not cheap.

    Do you know how much rental you're paying for the 2Mbit links? The ones we had were a bargain install from what was then Videotron; we paid about £1500 a year and the price never increased. When we went to 100Mbit (it was pretty much the same price as 10Mbit if I remember correctly) we had to pay about £7,000 for the install and then about the same again in annual rental.

    Talk to your existing telecomms company to find out what they can do. Once you've got an idea of what's technically possible you can then get your purchasing people to haggle over price (talk to all the providers) and get a good deal.

    To some extent, cost will depend on what infrastructure is in the street outside. If the company can just blow new fibre through existing duct then it's easy (ie cheap!); if they have to dig the street and get wayleave from all sorts of people then it's more expensive.

    It's also worth talking to your RSC (I'd guess it's JISC Regional Support Centre for Yorkshire & Humber) to see what they now about the local comms companies and what other colleges are doing - you won't be alone in this need!

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    nicholab's Avatar
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    MPLS time!

    What you properly want are fibre links into a MPLS cloud.

    Do you have QOS on the WAN links/network?

    Talking of fibre installs BT had to put in 1 on street pole and 3 on site poles that took about a whole year to get installed. I have the people who installed the securtiy gate to thank for that!!!
    Last edited by nicholab; 25th May 2009 at 10:28 AM.

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    What connection do the sites have to the internet ?
    If they have a decent link, you could set up a VPN connection over this.

    I am currently negotiating with our school broadband supplier, as we can get a 10mb link from Virgin Media for about £8k pa, free connection, as long as we agree to a 5 year contract (and whilst I may not be here in 5 years, the school will be).

    Does the local RBC not subsidise a link into their network ?

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    Last I'd heard, Leeds opted out of YHGfL - so this may not be an option.

    Do you have line of site between any of the facilities? Laser links may help if you do.

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    sounds like you want to upgrade to some sort of ethernet access service for your WAN.

    There are obviously a fair few offerings in this area, and i myself find it all a bit confusing. I'd definitely advocate getting providers in to give you a lowdown on what they offer.

    It's a shame there's no buyers guide for NG access products comparing the products from the various telco's/ISPs.

    Aside from the usual suspects ie BT/Virgin/Thus/Colt, in doing some research i've stumbled across a company called exponential-e which offer VPLS services for WAN and internet access. They appear to have got a jump start on the bigger providers in providing VPLS as arguably the attention of the bigger players was focused elsewhere on IP VPN products and such like. Don't know if VPLS is necessarily better for what your trying to accomplish but here's the link...

    Exponential-e Next Generation Networks Provider - Virtual Private LAN Service

    i've never used them but they appear to be growing quite rapidly and also seem to be quite aggressive in terms of pricing. Don't know if they can provide services in your area, but then you can always ask.

    BTW, if anyone stumbles across a shoppers guide to ethernet or NG WAN products and solutions, drop the link in this thread please.



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