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For immediate release - 25 September 2003

University of Sussex upgrades its IT

When choosing which university to attend, students are now looking for more than a wide variety and high standard of education. Another important factor is the level of facilities available and this will often influence students when they are making their decision. IT services is a good example as many students have become accustomed to having internet access, email and excellent computing facilities available to them at school and college and they demand the same type of facilities when they progress to university.

In response to this, the IT department at the University of Sussex is half way through a three-year project to upgrade the University’s computer and communication network at its Brighton campus. The £1.5 million project is designed to create a faster, more reliable network for the students and provide the type of services that they demand.

Richard Morris is the project manager for the voice and data network upgrade. He says that many universities are upgrading computer systems.

“When students leave sixth form colleges, where they have been using sophisticated computer technology, they will take it for granted that the same facilities are available at university. Many students use the internet and email at home and arrive at university with laptop computers. They will expect to be able to use these in university buildings, perhaps to surf the internet in the canteen, because today’s student eats, talks and thinks PC. That is why a student’s first impression of the University will count and why they are interested in the standard of IT facilities when they visit on open days.”

The process of upgrading the network has taken careful planning, as it requires replacing and installing new cabling, which is the core element to any communications network. The University’s old network was installed more than 10 years ago and had around 25,000 outlet points for computers and telecommunications. The new Siemon System 5e cabling network has more than doubled in size and will provide closer to 60,000 outlet points, which is comparable to a large company.

“We want a faster, more reliable network that provides the level of performance that we require both now and in the future,” says Richard. “Technology advances so quickly that replacing the network is like painting the Forth Bridge. You have to try and guess what technology you are going to need in the future and ensure that you have the facilities in place to be able to provide for it.

“We began by speaking to other universities in order to benefit from their experience of installing a similar network. We wanted to choose a structured cabling solution that was the best of its breed.”

Richard also wanted the network to be versatile and allow for expansion, which is why he chose to use Siemon’s System 5e cabling.

For most company computer upgrades, it is a straightforward plan of carrying out the work during downtime, such as at the weekend. Unfortunately, because the University of Sussex is a 24-hour working campus, with at least two computer rooms open throughout the night, the work has not been as easy. The University also has students living on campus throughout the summer, so often it will mean carrying out the work around them.

“In a university building, space is at a premium and often rooms are changed and the furniture is moved to suit different teaching styles and lectures. We had to think about this when installing the cabling, as a computer or phone point is more difficult to move after it has been put in place and trailing cables across the room is not practical or safe. As a solution we used flood-wiring, which means that more points are installed than we actually need. This allows for rooms to be changed and for any future IT needs.

“One of the most difficult problems we have experienced is trying to find space for the data cabinets, which house the cabling. I think that architecture and data cabinets don’t go together, so we had to find unobtrusive but accessible places to put them. If they are in the wrong place, there is always a danger that people will pile books or equipment in front of them, or the cleaners will think it is a storage cupboard and put mops and buckets in them. Locating them in lecture theatres is also not a good idea, because if there are network problems, we may have to wait until a lecture finishes before being able to access the cabinet to fix the fault.”

The University offers students a diverse range of educational subjects, which demand different IT facilities. The media centre has a range of up-to-date communications equipment and the new conference centre will soon offer the latest data technology to businesses that use the centre for professional conferences.

“The network upgrade is now complete in the new conference centre. It has gone from having a total of 10 outlet points to having 2,600 on one floor,” says Richard.

The work to upgrade the University’s network is due for completion in early 2004 and is a huge project. It will mean improved IT and communication facilities for its 12,000 students.

As Richard says, the standard of IT facilities at universities is growing in importance, “It is a factor in helping students decide which university to attend and that is the reason why we need to keep up-to-date with technology.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The Siemon Company - www.siemon.co.uk

Siemon, founded in the USA in 1903, is a proven global technology leader in the design and manufacture of standards-based structured cabling systems and components.

Headquartered in Watertown, Connecticut, Siemon today has 20 offices in 12 countries. Its EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) regional headquarters are located in Woking in Surrey, UK.

Siemon's structured cabling systems include the full range of Cat 5e to proposed Cat 7 copper connectivity solutions as well as fibre optics alongside a full offering of supporting passive technology. It provides individually tailored turn-key installations for multi-site and multinational customers in retail, commercial, industrial, government and residential markets.

The company is also a world leader in research and development of cabling technology and is an active participant in current and future international cabling standard setting bodies.

Siemon holds ISO9001, 9002 and 14001 accreditation and its Certified Installer Training Course attracts points towards BICSI RCDD accreditation.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Susannah Hines
Hallmark Public Relations
+44 (0)1962 863850
susannah.hines@hallmarkpr.co.uk


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