Case study

Keeping connected

Being connected doesn’t just mean being online for work meetings; we worked with St Cuthbert’s to deliver a solid wireless network to allow patients and family to stay connected via FaceTime, WhatsApp and other data intensive platforms

St Cuthbert’s Hospice are currently celebrating their 30 year anniversary and we’re proud to be associated with them as their longstanding trusted IT partner, providing them with support and consultancy since 1994. A registered charity, St Cuthberts provide respite care and a range of services for those with life-limiting illnesses.

With no in-house IT team, St Cuthberts rely on our service desk and monthly site visit to solve any IT issues and to manage and direct their IT strategy. It was during one of the site visits that access to free Wi-Fi was raised as an issue as their current set up was no longer supported by the vendor and the signal provided did not extend to a newly extended section of the building. Our technical experts set about coming up with a cost effective and highly resilient solution that would build on and improve the current Wi-Fi availability, without breaking the bank.

While patients and their friends and family are at St Cuthbert’s it’s great to be able to offer them access to Wi-Fi. This allows patients and their families the ability to face-time other family and friends, the ability to access the outside world from the Hospice, whether for online shopping or for entertainment such as movies and music; having access to Wi-Fi wherever you are in the hospice helps create a home from home experience.

St Cuthberts’ colleagues also benefit from the wireless network, which allows them to work from wherever and whenever in the Hospice such as the coffee shop or use their tablets in and around the premises.

As part of their partnership with us St Cuthbert’s Hospice and Waterstons discussed the following points:

  • St Cuthbert’s wanted to extend the wireless range as the coverage had gaps due to a recent building extension.
  • The existing hardware was also approaching the end of its supported lifespan, so it was perfect timing to refresh the hardware
  • Manageability was also a concern, as the existing five access points were each managed separately, making any configuration changes time consuming

Implementation

First we performed a wireless survey to determine rough locations and quantity of access points needed, eliminating any guesswork from sizing and planning the wireless solution. The wireless survey allowed us to test signal strengths and test different placement scenarios to ensure optimum coverage was secured.

Once the survey was carried out, we calculated the amount of wireless access points and mounting locations required. One option explored during this process was using around 8 traditional ceiling mounted access points in the required areas which, when plotted against the survey would have been a valid solution. However, this would have required new structured cabling and associated disruption and cost, complicated further by the original 1839 brick building structure.

We then explored an alternative solution and, as a vendor agnostic company, leveraged Ubiquiti’s “in wall” access points. This made use of existing wall ports and required no new cable runs, drilling or trunking to disrupt the patients or the building structure. Due to these significant cost savings, we were able to deploy a higher density of wireless access points to ensure a complete wireless signal in agreed areas. The selected access points used existing structured cabling to add wireless signal into required locations, neatly fitting to wall ports. These were fitted in about 10 minutes per wall port, meaning only the briefest of downtime for each user.

Benefits

Patients and staff are now able to enjoy wireless connectivity in more areas of the hospice including the coffee shop, where visitors and staff are able meet informally, enjoy some refreshments and take time out of their day.

Money is a precious resource for any charity, so at the forefront of our minds was wanting to get the best possible solution for the least amount of expenditure. We were able to bring costs down by

  • Providing as much wireless signal as possible rather than adding structured cabling that would reduce the amount of access points that could be purchased for the same budget
  • Reducing deployment time by using controller and centrally managed settings
  • Using Ubiquiti hardware reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) significantly, allowing access to regular software updates for free and extremely low cost devices when compared to the rest of the market for similar specifications

However it was vital the solution we found didn’t compromise on quality. Coverage and performance has also been improved by

  • Extending the network further and providing better performance over the original hardware
  • Better handling of roaming users between access points by “Unifi Fast Roaming” with smarter decision making from devices when to release a connection from a weaker access point and join a stronger signal from a stronger access point
  • The ability to use higher speeds allowing better upload/download time for clients
  • Lower data rates can now be disabled to force clients to associate with a stronger signal access point rather than disrupting all other connected clients
  • Automatic channel selection via the controller can reduce unwanted interference from outside sources or neighbouring access points, increasing the usable signal
  • User load on access points can be managed better by enabling load balancing, forcing client devices to use a lesser used access point once a threshold is reached and ensuring performance is not compromised for other connected users

In addition, the new system also improves manageability, scalability and security by

  • Using the Unifi controller for centralised management of a total of 15 access points, allowing straight forward firmware updates and configuration changes
  • Allowing visibility to any issues with access points and the ability to view the whole wireless network in a single pane of glass for a complete picture
  • Scalability Is improved as new access points can be plugged in anywhere on the network, adopted by the controller and able to inherit default configuration settings
  • Security updates for the existing hardware was due to halt by the end of the year. The new hardware will be supported for the foreseeable future, protecting against vulnerabilities and evolving security threats.

Waterstons understanding of our commitment to value for money, has resulted in the hospice being able to provide improved WiFi connectivity to more guests, visitors and staff throughout the hospice at an affordable price.

Waterstons worked with us to find a solution that would best suit our business needs, with minimal impact to both our staff, patients and visitors.
Leanne Bousefield Central Support Services Manager

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