Scottish Criminal Records Office
Company: NTLCustomer: Scottish Criminal Records OfficeSubmitted by: Nelson BostockDate: August 2002The Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) provides criminal history information to the eight Scottish Police Forces and other judicial departments in Scotland. Recent legislation extended the right of public access to these records, which had a major impact on SCRO.Stevie Doogan, SCRO Communications and Operations Manager explains: “We used to rent offices in the Strathclyde Police Headquarters, where we had our own, rather basic, network but we used their telephone facilities. However, our expanding workload and the resultant increase in staff, forced a move to bigger premises. It also highlighted the need to update our communications systems, and an IP network supporting both voice and data seemed the ideal solution.”SCRO went out to tender on an initial network design that excluded cabling.
NTL Business questioned both the design and approach, and responded with alternative suggestions. Stevie Doogan continues: “I was impressed by the obvious expertise of the local NTL Business team. They convinced me they could deliver a much more resilient network at a very competitive price, and that including the cabling would make it easier to track problems.”The fact that NTL Business is a Cisco Gold Partner also contributed to our final decision. We selected a two-switch solution to ensure continuity of service.
The installation went very smoothly, the network is fast and sophisticated, new applications can be added very easily, and moving the telephones around is simplicity itself.”
- To cope with rapid expansion, SCRO was moving to a prestigious new development
- SCRO wanted a state-of-the-art communications system to handle both voice and data, and to enhance opportunities for application development
- One of the first Cisco IP telephony and data networks in Scotland, designed and installed by NTL Business within very tight timescales
- NTL Business project-managed the entire installation, including cabling, network hardware, circuitry and training
- NTL Business will also maintain this network infrastructure for the next three years
The dual-switch Ethernet network has in-built resilience to ensure round-the-clock availabilityRunning to Gigabit speeds, this network is improving user response times and allows new applications to be added quickly and easilyThe Web-browser interface on the Cisco server enables telephones to be moved and allocated any number anywhere in the building in minute
The SCRO provides the eight police forces and the wider criminal justice community in Scotland with access to the Criminal History System (CHS), Automatic Fingerprint Recognition System (AFR), and the interface to the Police National Computer (PNC) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It currently employs 160 people (increasing to over 200 in 2002) and holds over 800,000 criminal records.In October 2000, the SCRO relocated to a prime site at No. 1 Pacific Quay, Glasgow.
The move was prompted by the implementation of Part V of the Police Act 1997, which extends public access to criminal records and significantly increased the SCRO’s workload and staffing levels. The move presented the ideal opportunity to install the most up-to-date technology for both voice and data – a state-of-the-art IP network.Stevie Doogan says: “We asked several companies, including NTL Business, to tender on a Cisco one-switch network. Although NTL Business responded fully to our initial request, it also suggested alternative approaches, including a recommendation that the cabling should be an integral part of the installation. The expertise of the local NTL Business team was really impressive and the solution we eventually selected is extremely robust, flexible and cost-effective.
As crime goes on around the clock, the network has to be available at all times so reliability and resilience are obviously key requirements. The SCRO network has a 2Gb backbone, two Catalyst 4006 core switches and two call managers. Each desk only has one socket to service both voice and data because the PC plugs into the telephone.But it has two network points so if one half of the network were to fail (which it hasn’t yet, although it has been tested) it can be switched to the other point. According to Stevie Doogan, “Apart from the obvious benefit of ensuring continuous service, it’s so simple the users can do it themselves without any technical assistance.
And because NTL Business also supplied the cabling, if there is a problem on the network it can be resolved much more quickly because NTL Business is the only supplier involved.”
SCRO started talking to NTL Business in May 2000 and the move was scheduled for October – a time span of less than six months – and this was immovable. However, the rest of the project was subject to constant change.NTL Business was responsible for cabling the new building, which had just a very basic structure with nothing but a few power sockets, and SCRO was the first organisation to move in, so the builders were still active on the premises. This presented NTL Business with its first project management challenge – installing the cabling with other work going on all around – but that wasn’t all.Stevie Doogan recalls: “We had a plan for the office layout, so the NTL Business team installed the connections, then we’d move all the desks about and they had to start again.
But they never complained. We wanted to be flexible to keep our staff happy, and NTL Business was happy to oblige.”
The final circuit
With the move less than a month away, SCRO encountered a major problem. The company contracted to supply the telephone circuitry could not complete on time because its underground cabling infrastructure did not extend to the new development. This obviously had potentially disastrous implications, but Stevie Doogan then had even more cause to be grateful to NTL Business. “NTL Business had had the foresight to install the necessary fibre optic services right up to the edge of the site, because it realised this would be an essential requirement for all future occupants.
“NTL Business came to the rescue and fitted all the necessary circuits incredibly quickly so the move stayed on schedule. In fact, all the hardware and circuits were installed on budget and in less than four weeks.”
SCRO’s original network was very basic and slow. It was seriously constraining the application development necessary to handle increased enquiries on the CHS, and the introduction of new technology, such as automated fingerprint records, needed to keep abreast with developments in crime detection.But with the increased speed and power of the new network, Stevie Doogan can now concentrate on developing the applications he needs rather than worrying whether the system can actually handle them.
He adds: “It is also much easier to resolve any issues because we now have our own administration console. This means we can make any necessary changes and install software updates much more efficiently.”
Ringing the changes
Stevie Doogan is particularly delighted with how easy it is to manage the telephones. “Although I had no in-depth technical knowledge of telephony systems, I did know that moving a telephone or changing an extension number could mean days waiting for an engineer to come and do it. Now we can move a telephone anywhere in the building and give it any number in minutes.”This is because the Web browser interface on the Cisco server stores all relevant data for each telephone, so if one is moved all its details are automatically changed and updated on the network.
Stevie Doogan admits that the relocation was a bit of a culture shock for his staff, but the improvements in surroundings and technology have actually increased employee morale.
NTL Business support does not end with a sale, or even an installation – it is ongoing. The staff at SCRO obviously needed some training on the new systems, which NTL Business organised. This included formal courses for staff generally, plus informal on-site training on the administration system for Stevie Doogan and his team.Additionally, NTL Business has a three-year maintenance contract to provide a four-hour fix service for all the hardware and any necessary software updates.
However, Stevie Doogan has only had to test this service a few times. He recalls: “To date we’ve only had one hardware call-out, and a few on the telephones. These have all been fixed in a couple of hours so I’ve no complaints about NTL Business support.”
When asked to sum up his views on working with NTL Business, Stevie Doogan concludes: “I had never had any dealings with NTL Business until we started the tender process. The first thing that impressed me was the knowledge of the local design and cabling experts involved.
The solution they recommended provided extra features while remaining very cost-effective.”I was then amazed at the flexibility and good humour of the installation team when we kept asking them to change things around. Being able to deliver the circuits at the last minute was the final proof that I had made the right decision to go with NTL Business. However, none of this would count for much if the network wasn’t delivering – but it is everything NTL Business promised it would be, so I am delighted.”