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Network / IP - Case Studies

Improving security across an expanding site

Treviglas Community College - in brief

Treviglas Community College is a purpose-built 11-18 compre­hensive college situated on the outskirts of Newquay in Cornwall, England, and serving more than 1,200 pupils from local villages and towns within a 15-mile radius.  The college employs a total of 128 people including teachers, administrative and auxiliary staff.

Treviglas – The growth story

Opened in the early 1960s, Treviglas Community College has enjoyed continual expansion over the last forty years.  Recent developments include the fitting out of a new sports hall, the building of a new entrance hall and reception office, a new sixth form learning centre, a professional-standard catering room, two new science laboratories, and a new music technology department and recording studio.

Treviglas College has been a Cisco Networking Academy since 2001 and is also unique in offering the UK’s first Surf Academy to sixth formers.  This practical course is specifically designed to encourage pupils that would otherwise have left school at 16, to stay on and study something they enjoy.

This expansion has triggered a large building programme which is set to significantly increase the size of the college premises by the end of 2007.

Treviglas Collegeso has many computer resources and s strong network infrastructure.  The college uses the School Information Management application called SIMS (School Information Management System).  SIMS is a custom-built application for schools, helping them to develop and maintain timetables, hold school registration and attendance lists, manage finances and store examination and grading data.

The college network includes a total of 350 devices, mainly RM PCs and Dell laptops, distributed throughout the college.  The college has also installed an access control system for securing admission to sixth form areas in order to restrict one part of the college to sixth formers only.  This is a network-based system which allows those with swipe cards that can be linked to a SQL database record access to these restricted areas.  The college’s IT department has worked alongside local IT integrator and consultancy Perkins Communications during an extensive upgrade of its network infrastructure over the last two years.  Perkins supported the in-house team in building a new 3Com Gigabit Switched Local Area Network (LAN) and incorporating 3Com Power over Ethernet-enabled switches managing the college’s data and video traffic.  Wireless access was provided in the staff room to handle peak demand for network access.  It is also being used to provide connections to 5 temporary classroom buildings

Specifying new surveillance system requirements

It was clear as far back as 2003 that the traditional analogue-based CCTV system the college used had not been meeting the needs of the college for some time.

Gary Durbin, Assistant Headteacher, explained: “The old system had often left staff compromised because we could not be sure who had been involved in a recorded incident and we found ourselves backing away on several occasions from accusing individuals of misdemeanours because of poor quality CCTV images.

Any new system, it was ruled, had to generate and efficiently store images of sufficient quality to positively identify individuals for use as evidence when needing to take action against anyone perpetrating an action against the site or against another person.  The system was also seen as a way in which an effective deterrent to any poor behaviour amongst pupils could be established, particularly when pupils viewed each others’ behaviour on screen.

Treviglas College’s Headteacher, Helen Mathieson, also felt that it was important to cover high density traffic areas such as corridors and stair-wells.  Significant numbers and ensuing pushing and shoving could actually be dangerous from a health and safety perspective as well as potentially allowing bullying.

Helen Mathieson concluded that improvement to the CCTV system was pivotal.  She also recognised that the work Perkins Communications had already done in helping to upgrade the college’s network placed the firm in a unique position to review the deficiencies of the existing security system and provide recommendation for the best route to improvement of these systems.  Mrs Mathieson accordingly commissioned Perkins Communications to produce a report on the shortcomings of the existing system and make recommendations for improving and updating it. This report was completed in March 2004.

The IP Way

The cost of bringing the existing system up to scratch was estimated to be close to £7,000.  The report also detailed the equivalent cost of creating a new IP-surveillance system using the latest software provided by Milestone and network cameras and video servers provided by Axis Communications.  The total cost for the IP-Surveillance system, it was estimated, would be about £20,000 once a new server was purchased to help store video data, and new cameras were purchased, configured and integrated.  This estimate also included redeployment of eight existing CCTV cameras via two video servers into the new networked IP-Surveillance system.  Perkins also identified a possible area of savings by deploying Power over Ethernet-enabled Axis network cameras to eliminate costs that would otherwise be associated with running electrical wiring to new cameras.

Perkins report reveals CCTV system had been poorly maintained

The Perkins report revealed the college had a poorly maintained black-and-white CCTV system which was installed in 1995, and outages and requirement for repairs had become frequent from 1998 onwards.

Of the total of 16 CCTV cameras deployed across the site in 1995, only three were producing reasonable pictures nine years later.  Four were completely unusable and required replacement whilst others were out of focus, corroded, incorrectly sited and/or required refocusing and the fitting of auto iris control to reduce picture flare.

Cable glands on some of the external camera housings were undone due to locking nuts on the glands being incorrectly fitted originally.  The lack of a preventative maintenance schedule over the years had allowed insects, moisture and salt to enter the housings with inevitable results.  Coaxial cabling had been laid loose across the roofs of college buildings, which had created a tripping hazard for those maintaining roofs.  Some of the coaxial cable was of poor quality and was clearly contributing to poor image quality.  The old main multiplexer unit was also found to be causing interference and fading and was in urgent need of replacement.

Keith Perkins, Proprietor and Consultant, Perkins Communications, explained: “The cables for several of the CCTV cameras ran to junction boxes on the flat roofs of the college. Mechanical joints had been made without any adequate waterproofing.  The boxes were sited in areas prone to the build-up of rainwater.  So, within about three years the sealing around the lids of the boxes and cable glands had perished. Water had seeped into the cabling, creating outages.  In one case two cables had been inserted through the same compression gland!"

The report also detailed that image quality degradation was further accentuated through the use of poor quality VHS tapes which had been over-used and not rotated effectively.

The benefits of Power over Ethernet

The use of AXIS 211 Power over Ethernet (PoE) Network Cameras made sense for several reasons.  In particular, corridors there had very few power outlets and those that were there were not situated at ceiling height, creating the need for a great deal of wiring if the college was going to provide power to devices in the traditional way.  The presence of asbestos ceiling tiles in one building meant that any new wires would have to have been carried in unsightly plastic retainers which tended to fall or be ripped off walls and ceilings over time.

PoE was also favoured because in June 2003 there had been an incident in which someone had disabled a camera simply by opening up the fused supply box connected to a specific camera associated with the device.  That illustrated another benefit of going down the PoE route.

The cost per camera of providing a wired electricity supply to a camera is close to £100 based on £70 cost of the electrician’s time for a half day and a further £30 in cabling, fuse box and other materials.  Cost savings would have amounted to £1,800 for the 18 new cameras being deployed across the college.  These savings were enough to immediately pay for any costs associated with buying and deploying PoE-enabled switches that in total could power 120 devices.  PoE usage also enables much more cost-effective extending of the system as requirements and college premises expand in the future.

Video evidence at the click of a mouse

Video evidence is only one click away. One notable benefit of installing the new PTZ camera overlooking the playing fields was to eliminate the smoking that used to go on behind a large tree in the corner of the playing fields.  Gary Durbin explains: “It was a nightmare job for teachers to walk out some 300 yards from the college buildings to the far corner of the playing fields knowing full well that by the time you get there the smokers would have moved elsewhere.  By illustrating to known culprits that we could now zoom in on the tree to a degree that we could positively identify them, we were able to stamp out smoking in this area almost entirely."

Securing access to cameras

To avoid any possible abuse or misuse of access to surveillance images, access to the cameras direct from web browsers was barred by ensuring that username and password access is strictly enforced.  A setting on the cameras also prevents anyone accessing the cameras from a device located on Treviglas network.

Peter Botterill, Network Manager for the college explains: “The fact that students sitting on the college LAN cannot even find the cameras on the network, let alone access them without authorisation, adds an extra layer of security which we were keen to have in place from the outset.”

New IP-based system ensures quality of output and reliability

Gary Durbin explains a clear benefit of the quality of output of the new cameras: “We have used video evidence to explore alleged vandalism of a car on college grounds.  In one particular case we found that a teacher, who had claimed to have had his car damaged in the car park of the college had, in fact, arrived in the morning with the dent already in his car door but he had not spotted it before arriving.  These sorts of incidents have been easily sorted out without wasting senior management time and avoiding unnecessary creation of ill-feeling.  It’s only possible to deal effectively with these sorts of incidents because of the quality of images we are getting from the new cameras.”

Into the future: extending the IP-Surveillance system

The college is planning to deploy additional Axis network cameras to monitor remaining boundaries of the college.  It is also considering installing cameras in the reception area to monitor traffic in and out of the main door and to ensure all visitors report to reception before going any further into the building.

A fibre optic cable links the primary school next door and there have been discussions about extending Treviglas’ IP-Surveillance system to cover the primary school as well.  The Milestone XProtect system also offers the capability of integrating the access control system with the college’s IP-Surveillance system over time; pupils using swipe cards to go into restricted areas will thus trigger video recording so that visual identification of card holders can be verified.

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