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Aberdeenshire Council: Accelerating network performance

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Overview

Wide area network optimisation from BT helps Aberdeenshire Council get greater value from existing assets

Aberdeenshire Council wanted better services for its 240,000 citizens. But online delivery proved so popular, it gave Alistair Reid a new problem: traffic jams.

He needed a way to clear the bottlenecks and speed up the flow of information without spending lots of extra money. BT Connect Acceleration raced to the rescue.

Now it's turbo-charged the existing network to give Alistair and his colleagues a Formula One performance without a Formula One price tag. And to give the people of Aberdeenshire the high level of service they've grown to expect.

BT Connect Applications and the subsequent Juniper deployment represent great value for money. The one-off cost was much less than building a new WAN, which would have driven up recurring network costs too.”
- Alistair Reid, IT Infrastructure Manager, Aberdeenshire Council

Challenge

Aberdeenshire Council is Scotland’s fourth-largest local government authority in terms of geographical coverage, and sixth in terms of population. It employs 14,500 people delivering a wide range of services to nearly 240,000 residents. Located close to Scotland’s oil and gas industry, it covers a mainly rural area with low unemployment. The council is committed to making Aberdeenshire a better place to live. Its ambition is to be the best council in Scotland.

A key objective for Aberdeenshire Council is to deliver services when and where citizens want them, in a manner that best suits them – but doing that over an area of some 6,500 square kilometres is a real challenge. Council initiatives to improve accessibility include the introduction of web-based access, and local service points in larger towns. It has also adopted a flexible working policy to help bring service delivery closer to citizens.

The council has more than 500 sites including principal offices, local offices, schools, depots, and home workers. To work effectively, people at the remote sites need a fast and reliable wide area network (WAN) to access the council’s intranet, send and receive email, and work with specific line of business software applications such as geographical information systems and financial and care systems.

The majority of the WAN is delivered using BT Managed Broadband, which enables secure connectivity over the internet between remote sites and the Aberdeenshire Council central office network. Although this architecture was working well, the implementation of new applications was driving up traffic while user expectations were increasing in step. But, like most in the public sector, the council is under constant pressure to do more with less.

Alistair Reid, IT Infrastructure Manager at Aberdeenshire Council, says: “If we did nothing our network would have become increasingly congested, slowing application response times and impacting customer service. However, buying more bandwidth was not an easy option, so we needed to make the most of what we’d got.”

The council experimented with different WAN optimisation techniques using technology sourced from a range of vendors. It had mixed success with those technology pilots so, prior to making a final commitment, the council undertook more detailed analysis of its network platform and commissioned BT to help.

Solution

BT began with an audit of the Aberdeenshire Council network. Carried out by BT Advise consultants, this is part of the BT Connect Applications portfolio. The output was a comprehensive report, with recommendations on optimising the performance of the existing WAN.

Alistair Reid recalls: “That independent network audit provided the evidence we needed to move forward with confidence. A lot of its findings confirmed things we suspected already, but it also suggested new ideas such as looking more closely at application performance and design rather than just the network itself.”

BT offers best-of-breed solutions because it is vendor independent, and the use of a Juniper Networks WXC Application Acceleration Platform was recommended. “The BT proposal offered the right balance of functionality and cost,” adds Alistair. The Juniper solution would make better use of the available bandwidth, while speeding up mission critical applications. Sub-optimal performance from such systems – which included financial, care, and revenue and benefits – would impact on the key performance indicators and customer service by which the council is judged.

BT arranged for the co-ordination of the activity of specialist Juniper engineers who installed Juniper network equipment at primary and back-up data centres, and worked with council staff to design the delivery to some 70 remote sites.

Value

BT Connect Acceleration services have helped Aberdeenshire Council identify where unnecessary and duplicated data from its WAN could be found, while the Juniper solution has made significant impact in reducing throughput requirements. “The performance of our WAN is undoubtedly improving through this technology, because we’ve removed bottlenecks,” confirms Alistair Reid, “and we won’t need to increase spend on network bandwidth on these sites for the foreseeable future.”

Management reports from the Juniper network devices are showing that the network’s capacity has been increased by around 250 per cent. Remote users, who are seeing faster application response times, confirm this improvement. Helping them to improve personal productivity, this is feeding through into better customer service, for example they are able to react faster to telephone and web-based queries.

Having a faster, more reliable WAN has enabled Aberdeenshire Council to find a new way to deliver Microsoft Windows and anti-virus updates. Now sent overnight, this ensures the council has the best IT security protection at all times and makes more use of the network around the clock. The IT team is now receiving fewer network performance complaints, allowing valuable resources to be redirected towards more strategic projects such as further improving online access to council services.

Alistair Reid sums up: “As well as helping us get greater value from the existing infrastructure, we now have a much better understanding of our network. WAN optimisation is a continuous process and, in consultation with BT, the council is considering further steps to fine tune its network.”

Core Services

  • BT Connect Acceleration, featuring Juniper Networks WXC Application Acceleration Platform including WXC1800 and WXC3400 devices
  • BT Advise Connect, WAN optimisation and acceleration audit and in-life services – part of the BT Connect Applications portfolio
  • BT Managed Broadband, business grade broadband connectivity at up to 8Mbps downstream and 460kbps upstream

Resources

Case study