Increase in WAN costs prompts East Lothian council networking rethink

Local authority’s need to reduce site overheads and transition to public services network leads to new deal with Updata

East Lothian council’s need to reduce the impact of ever-increasing networking costs has led to the replacement of its five-year deal with BT with a new contract with network firm Updata.

The new deal is expected to deliver significant savings on network running costs of more than 40% in the first 12 months over a new wide area network (WAN) infrastructure, built and managed by Updata, which will support the council’s plans for an eventual transition to an accredited public services network (PSN).

The network will also allow the council to accelerate the roll out of home working initiatives for employees, which form part of its wider commitment to reduce operational costs and on-site overheads.

Following a tender in November 2011, Updata will provide core network connectivity to both school and council corporate sites, starting with a single network to connect the region’s 45 schools, due to go-live by August 2012.

Later this year, a second dedicated network will be introduced into the infrastructure for 75 corporate council sites, including library buildings and council offices, which will meet the GSX Government Code of Connection (CoCo) compliance and security requirements.

East Lothian had a long-standing relationship with BT for its WAN services but decided to test the market for an alternative provider after finding itself on the receiving end of significant cost increases of 30% over the previous five years as well as concerns over a perceived lack of flexibility and resilience going forward. The Updata deal also gives East Lothian the fixed price contract it desired and was unable to secure with BT.

East Lothian favoured Updata’s connectivity solution because it offers the council reliability and security in supporting separate networks for schools and council corporate sites. It also provides the council with a more cost effective platform to enable its ‘Work Smart’ rationalisation project, a cost saving initiative aimed at supporting home working and reducing on-site overheads. About 10% of East Lothian’s 5,000 council staff have the ability to work from home for some of the week.

Previously, East Lothian incurred high charges when network links needed to be re-routed or shut down because of changes in the council’s operational structure. The PSN-ready network will feature a high capacity core fibre ring connecting six BT exchanges and connection speeds will range between a minimum of 10Mbps up to 100Mbps.

Alan Cruikshank, IT services manager at East Lothian council, said: “Updata has opened up the scope for future transition to a PSN network as well as collaboration with East Lothian health authorities and other public sector bodies. The project is already running ahead of schedule, with the schools planned to join the network by the end of August 2012 and the council corporate sites will follow on later this year.

“When both our schools and corporate sites are fully operational on the new network, we anticipate like for like savings of £175,000 per year in addition to the greater flexibility offered by the new infrastructure.”

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.

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