In July 2013, financial services company Lifetime Wealth Management , one of the UK’s leading wealth advisory firms, approached us to design them a network for their new headquarters in St. Albans city centre. Just a short walk from their existing office, the  premises on Upper Marlborough Road is a newly refurbished Victorian property with an impressive double bay-fronted, period exterior extended to the rear with modern office floor space.

Brief

The company required a completely new data and voice network at the site that was about to undergo a plush office fit-out. New glass partitioning was being installed to create light and airy consultation rooms as well as modern, open-plan break out areas and a large board/training room. The 30-plus staff, many of whom are financial advisors, required reliable and fast internet access for their cloud-basedLifetime financial services software and hosted e-mail platform. They also required a telephone system to provide a desk handset with a headset for each advisor who spends most of the working day on the line to clients. The telephone system was also required to be able to link up with other company sites over the UK and in particular one in Leicester where the business has a software development centre, for their own 360 Lifecycle cloud financial services system, also with some 30 or more staff.

A rock-solid wireless network was specified as a key requirement since most advisors use laptops and need to roam between break-out areas and consultation rooms as well as working untethered at their desks. The Wi-Fi at their existing office had been very problematic and had caused issues with user productivity in the past.

Although recently completely refurbished, the new building had no provision for data cabling, so the premises required a full rewire before any kind of data or voice network could be installed.

At the point of engagement with ITbuilder, the project was at an advanced stage of preparation with the lease due to be signed and contractors instructed for the fit-out imminently. A completion date for the project was given as between 4-6 weeks.

Solution

ITbuilder recommended a converged data and voice network based on IP – the language of the Internet. Taking into account the short lead time, the client’s use of cloud-based business applications and need of a feature-rich, scalable telephone system, we recommended a hosted IP telephony service called Horizon running over a converged internal data network (wired and wireless) from Cisco providing access to a fibre Ethernet Internet service, also converged, handling both data and voice.

The fast, reliable 10Mbit/sec Ethernet circuit over fibre would provide adequate bandwidth for web browsing and access to the 360 Lifecycle/Email platforms for all staff. The same circuit would have a reserved amount of bandwidth for the voice service as well. We also specified an ADSL broadband circuit for redundancy and failover to the fibre Ethernet.

Access to the Ethernet circuit would be distributed to the four main office sections of the building over dual 1Gbit/s Cat5 uplinks from a collapsed core switch in the basement. Edge switches in each office would provide switched 100Mbit/s links to each desk with power-over-Ethernet and dedicated VLAN segment for the phones handsets. A clustered wireless LAN using four Cisco WAP321 devices would provide a single wireless network throughout the building enabling smooth roaming between office sections.

The hosted telephone system would enable quick deployment, adding handsets into the voice VLAN segment on the 100Mbit/s desk ports, then registering with the ‘cloud’ service at network provider Gamma over the fibre Ethernet circuit.

Result

Once instructed by Lifetime, the race was on for ITbuilder to activate Internet services within the timeframe provided. The fibre Ethernet circuit was never going to be live from the get-go as these have a standard, minimum 60-day lead time. We opted to provide dual-ADSL (one for data, one for voice) as a temporary measure to keep the customer’s project schedule on track and enable them to move in around the end of August.

As the line orders for the two ADSL circuits were in progress, a team of three engineers from ITbuilder set about flood cabling the entire premises. From a cabinet in the basement, 40-plus desk ports were provided to the ground floor as well as uplinks to the first floor of the property. From a secondary cabinet on the first floor, a further 20-plus points were provided to a large office at the rear upper level of the building. Due to the building being recently refurbished, very little drilling or invasive work could be carried out to the building fabric so routes had to carefully selected and mess kept to a minimum. This made for a very difficult and time-consuming cabling job.

With the cabling completely tested and the ADSL broadband circuits live, around 2 weeks into starting the project, the data and voice network installation then commenced. The network switches and wireless access points were installed and configured with VLAN segments for data and voice with access to their respective ADSL circuit. Finally, the phone handsets were deployed at the desk location having previously been setup together with dial plans and call routing on the Horizon online management platform.

The network was delivered bang on time for the company move into the new premises and ITbuilder was even on hand to deal with a few additional tasks that were outside of the original project spec, such as running analogue phone sockets for the alarm system as well as running in coaxial cable to connect up for three LED screens in the meeting areas. Something that was appreciated by the company’s Financial Controller and project manager for the move, Enza Acquisto, who said

“Our office move in the summer of 2013 was frantic but made that it easier because we chose ITbuilder. They fully cabled the office from top to bottom, provided the Internet services and data network over which they installed a hosted, IP telephone system that didn’t cost a king’s ransom.”

Six weeks after the move, ITbuilder handled a smooth transition from the temporary ADSL circuit to the Fibre Ethernet circuit. Lifetime are now preparing to roll out the Horizon hosted telephone service to other sites in the company to connect their various parts of the organization to a single, unified communication system.