New council IT network up and running

The SIC’s political leader Gary Robinson has hailed the installation of a new IT system which has saved the council up to £1.6 million.

A new system which provides network connections to SIC properties outside Lerwick is up and running.

It replaces the old system, known as Pathfinder North, and work was completed at a cost of £400,000 paid for from existing ICT budgets.

That is seen as a significant saving because the cost of extending the Pathfinder contract with the former supplier would have been £1.3 million, with the potential for this to increase to almost £2 million due to delays with procurement.

Mr Robinson said: “Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, we now have a viable, cost effective network in place, flexible enough to take advantage of any new opportunities that might come in the future.

“Given the enormous costs we were being faced with to pay for a replacement from our own funds, this is a tremendous outcome for the council and I’d pay tribute to the officers who have worked so hard to find this solution.”

Stuart Moncrieff, executive manager, ICT, said: “This has been a fantastic achievement and I would like to thank all the staff involved for doing a tremendous job.”

The Pathfinder North contract with Vodafone (Cable & Wireless Worldwide) ended on 20th March. For six years, it supplied ICT network connections to offices, schools, care homes, ferry terminals and other council properties outside Lerwick.

Without government funding for an extension to, or replacement of, Pathfinder the council decided to look for alternatives.

A team of officers came up with a plan to provide a replacement network, using commercial masts to provide network connections, and satellite technology combined with ADSL for some remote sites.

The fibre installed by Shetland Telecom has provided connections for a number of the larger sites, and local community broadband schemes are also being used.

Lancaster-based firm The Networking People Ltd. worked with council staff to design, configure and install the replacement network.

It has been described by the SIC as an “extremely challenging project to deliver”, involving new connections to 60 sites from Unst to Fair Isle, and Foula to Skerries.

Poor weather at the start of the year, when critical climbing work had to be carried out, further complicated matters.

Legal issues have meant that Dunrossness Primary School will be on a temporary connection until the end of the Easter Holiday.

Some teething troubles are “almost inevitable”, but staff are continuing to work with users to make sure their service is as good as possible.


Add Your Comment
  • Matthew Simpson

    • March 26th, 2014 17:54

    This is really good to hear that the council is willing to spend money to save money (rather than sweeping budget cuts), especially when it come to IT infrastructure. Hopefully the next step is to replace Windows XP before the 14th of Apri when Microsoft officially stops supporting it. Perhaps moving to a free and open source alternative such as one of the many Linux distributions could become an option, saving the SIC even more money in the long term.

  • Gary Robinson

    • March 26th, 2014 22:37

    Windows XP is being phased out before Microsoft stops supporting it.

    I’ve personally advocated the potential of open source software in the past and would welcome a full objective evaluation of this option.

  • Robert Duncan

    • March 26th, 2014 23:58

    I’m fairly sure they’ve already begun and perhaps even completed the process of switching to Windows 7, Matthew. I doubt you’ll see any large-scale organisation – outside techy industries – move en masse to the likes of Linux any time soon though.

  • Dave Cooper

    • March 27th, 2014 9:57

    It may be worth rechecking the Windows XP support expiry date. Microsoft appear to have pushed into extending the monthly security updates for XP. In some cases up to Jan 2016.
    Apart from people/organisations who have been a bit cash strapped because of the economic downturn 100s of thousands of ATMs worldwide still run XP.
    How many computers still run XP. It must be many millions. 45% of computers in China reportedly still run XP for a start.


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