Network support & monitoring vital to service delivery

Issue

The network linking all the fire stations is essential for the safety and security of fire fighters and public alike. The network links the 16 outlying fire stations with the command and control centre in Leamington Spa.

The network is responsible for transmitting details of emergency calls to the appropriate fire station and enables those personnel dealing with the incident to do so safely and efficiently.

One key aspect of the network is the transmission of crucial information that needs to be regularly updated on the mobile data terminals used in the fire appliances. These hold vital information, including fire hydrant information, chemical data, premise risk information, maps and guides for cutting almost every make and model of vehicle likely to be encountered by the emergency services.

All of the necessary information is received and held on the main servers at the command and control centre in Leamington. The resilience and stability of these servers and the network as a whole is not just important, but a genuine matter of life and death. Any interruption to the network could delay a response and cost valuable time in a situation where seconds count.

Another major consideration for the in-house IT team at Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service (WFRS) was the impact of any infrastructure upgrade on all the third-party vendor applications necessary for the service to undertake fire and rescue operations safely and effectively.

Solution

To ensure complete integrity of the system, Quiss network engineers first designed, built and installed new servers, to the command and control centre.

We specified new infrastructure with low performance overheads, finding HP Proliant Gen8 servers delivered the perfect balance between efficiency and performance.

The installed Gen8 servers also offered the scalability required for future expansion, with a Gen7 server proving more than adequate to undertake the role of management server.

We deployed our favoured desktop virtualization product, VMware, to help reduce licencing costs and simplify the management of the hardware connected across the network.

Because the WFRS network would be connected to the wider Warwickshire County Council network, we had to undertake a detailed process of ‘server hardening’ to ensure server security matched the Council’s standards of compliance.

The new server infrastructure not only delivered faster rates of data transfer, but offered increased functionality and the opportunity to upgrade many of the applications vital to the fast, efficient operation of the service.

The next stage was to design and build the secure network that would carry the vital information from the new servers to the 16 fire stations across Warwickshire.

The long term objective of the project was to ensure the network attains Airwave Code of Connection (CoCo) compliance certification from the Cabinet Office. This will enable WFRS to work in partnership with four other UK Fire Services, along with other Government agencies to deliver a more efficient and effective emergency service.

Matt Rhodes Commercial Services Manager here at Quiss explains the route to solving the issue: “From the outset, the network was designed with the ultimate objective of CoCo compliance. The small IT team at WFRS are skilled in dealing with the day-to-day management of the system, but felt that outsourcing this large scale project to a specialist company like Quiss was the best solution.

“A great deal of investigation work and assessment had to be performed before we could design the new network. There are historic links between WFRS and the Warwickshire County Council network, who retain overall responsibility for governance of the fire service.”

Managing third-party vendor relationships

WFRS relies on a range of third-party vendor applications, all of which had to be successfully integrated into the new system, at the same time, to ensure no interruption to essential services.

Our deep understanding of the third-party vendor applications and of their requirements to operate successfully, ensured the responsibility to manage the migration rested with us, in close liaison with the project manager at WFRS.

To integrate so many applications, all requiring unique changes to the system environment, would prove almost unmanageable without the instigation of a ‘change request protocol’. By moderating all the requested configuration changes, our senior system specialists were able to make any necessary changes, without affecting the integrity of other applications or the system as a whole.

In fact on migration day, the third-party vendors were so confident in our abilities, we were the only company with engineers on site. The third-party vendors accessed the system remotely, safe in the knowledge our engineers were on hand to solve any problems that might arise.

Again the entire procedure on migration day was managed by Quiss, working closely with the WFRS project manager and everything worked smoothly, as expected.

Benefits

The network is proactively monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along with the systems and infrastructure. This enables us to detect any issues, before they can cause a potentially catastrophic disruption to the transmission of information over the network.

WFRS, IT and Communications Manager, Abdul Rashid summed up our work with his team: “Quiss Technology has the skills and resources available to provide 24/7 support. The switch from ‘pay as you go’ to an unlimited support contract, including proactive monitoring offers significant savings over the lifetime of the agreement.”

We continue to work closely with Abdul and his team to help WFRS gain the important Airwave Code of Connection (CoCo) compliance certification.

Our ability to tailor solutions to meet the specific and extremely exacting requirements of clients like Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service ensure we are becoming the leading choice for other emergency service providers looking for a similar level of confidence in their IT networks and systems.

Click to view the PDF:

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