Health and Safety Authority invests in Wide Area Network

22 Jun 2010

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has invested in a new Wide Area Network which it claimed will reduce its annual recurring network costs by 30pc.

The state body is responsible for promoting safety, health and welfare for people in the workplace and its remit is to provide information and advice to company employers and staff. It has seven regional offices around the country and its headquarters are in Dublin.

The WAN links allow staff in headquarters or the regional offices to answer calls to the HSA’s Workplace Contact Unit (WCU), which is a helpdesk resource for employers, employees and the public. WCU is the primary contact for serious injuries/fatalities, complaints and obtaining health and safety information in the workplace.

The authority’s WAN is the backbone of the organisation’s distributed ICT infrastructure, and a key part of the WCU. There are about 200 users on the network and, as the organisation and its ICT requirements evolve, a scalable solution is essential.

The HSA initially had a WAN based on the legacy Eircom Frame relay network and was subsequently upgraded to the Eircom BIP (Business IP) network. Last year, as part of a cost-cutting exercise for all of its ICT services, the authority reviewed its WAN infrastructure. It found bandwidth demand had increased significantly to support the growing organisation, resulting in higher levels of traffic on the distributed network.

The authority hosts its applications centrally, including voice over IP, video conferencing, web browsing and file access. This approach allows the HSA to save money on deployment and maintenance but although management is easier this way, the WAN needed more bandwidth to cope with traffic loads.

The HSA needed a reliable series of links with affordable dependable failover that could be properly managed, monitored and supported at all times. Barry Young, systems security and telecoms manager of the HSA, said: “I was conscious that along with the driving factor of increased bandwidth at reduced cost, the HSA would require a number of additional elements before this transition could take place. Reliable resilience, seamless changeover, quality of service capability and a solid service level agreement were key elements to the project.” 

The telecoms services provider Interfusion Networks won a competitive tender to provide the new WAN. “The challenge was to upgrade the bandwidth while reducing the cost,” said Interfusion managing director Steve Mac Nicholas.

MPLS platform

Interfusion proposed its Nethop Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) platform, in conjunction with the Riverbed WAN optimisation solution as an alternative to the BIP network. The authority’s MPLS network is built in multiple tiers with 100Mb Metro Ethernet over fibre servicing the Dublin head office and its disaster recovery site in Kilkenny.

Nethop uses a hybrid of access technologies, including private ADSL, SDSL, licensed Microwave and fibre. Interfusion claims this allows it to build a secure WAN with increased bandwidth and a fully managed service for substantially less cost.  

Annual recurring costs for the network are said to be 30pc less than in previous years, while bandwidth speeds into each site have been increased. Other benefits of the project include scalability and ease of migration. The HSA said it would also be able to use the WAN for outsourcing and distributed collaboration.


Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic