Network Upgrade

January 14, 2017


The Networks of Arbutus Park Manor

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the infrastructure of a facility like Arbutus Park Manor, but believe me when I say that it takes a lot of nuts, bolts, and wires to support all the residents and staff at the facility. One of those items is the ethernet network that carries all the digital traffic created by those residents and staff.

Staff members need to be able to share files and data. This is accomplished by way of the ethernet network. Approximately 70 computers are all connected and can share data between the computers. Additionally, Arbutus has two wireless networks. One is used by the nurses who push their laptops around the corridors and use laptops (about 20 of them) to stay connected. The other wireless network is for residents and visitors with their smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. These days people want to stay connected wherever they are.

And, as you can imagine, it takes a fair amount of effort to make sure the network stays up and running. Equipment wears out, wires become frail, and monitoring is done constantly to make sure that everyone is working at optimum speed – at least as far as the network is concerned.

Sometimes problems are encountered and must be corrected, and upgrades must be performed periodically. We recently upgraded our network at Arbutus.

Network Upgrade

Some of our equipment has been around for quite a while and was in need of an upgrade. We decided that while we were upgrading some of our switches (which handle the routing of our network traffic), we would also increase our speed between the second floor wiring closet and the main server on the first floor. Additionally we decided to rewire the HR/IT departments since it has grown considerably and the wiring was simply cobbled together rather than being professionally installed.
For our backbone connecting the first floor to the second floor we chose Single Mode fiber optic cable. This gives us total throughput of 10gbps which is extremely fast. This should alleviate any bottleneck issues for several years to come.

We also replaced our firewall from an aging Cisco ASA 5500 to a new Meraki MX84. This new firewall gives us state-of-the-art protection from all the threats of the internet. While the Cisco unit has done a wonderful job over the years, it was getting rather old. The new Meraki firewall also gives us a much better view of our traffic both inbound and outbound. Additionally, we are able to set boundaries and limit the use of our bandwidth if necessary.

One other advantage of using the new switches: PoE. This acronym stands for Power Over Ethernet. What it means is simply that any PoE device such as a wireless access point does not need its own power adapter. It pulls the power it needs right through the ethernet cable. This is a huge advantage in our case since some of the access points we use are not conveniently located near a power source.

Prior to upgrading, our West wing nursing staff was experiencing slowness and occasional outages. While it is too early to tell, we expect these problems to go away entirely as a result of this upgrade.

Also, we made some improvements to our wireless networks. There were a couple of areas where we had very weak coverage – if any at all. We installed 3 new access points: one in the West wing hall, one in the hall next to Maintenance, and one in the HR/IT departments. This gives us total coverage anywhere in the building. – kw

Contributor: Ken Watkins is the IT Director at Arbutus