Advertising Agency – New office fit out, move and new network.

This project was pretty involved. The agency was to move into a new office that was first to be fitted out.

The Fit Out
The new office already had some existing infrastructure: Cat5e cabling and a server room. There were problems though (wouldn’t be fun otherwise), that Cat5e installation was awful, I have never seen anything like it before, behind the patch panels was a complete mess of Cat5e cabling, all different lengths and coiled up into a spaghetti. Many of the floor box and wall box ports did not work, I tested some with a couple of Mac laptops and quickly found that the termination of the cables was rife with faults and simply re-terminating them would get the connections backup to gigabit.

I arranged for a fluke test on the cabling and after some negotiation with the Agency and fit out firm decided we should arrange for the cabling to be all re-termintated with new modules and patch panels.

The fit out company was expensive so I sought out quotes and put our own contractor in there to work with the fit out firm. This of course required me to co-ordinate with the cabling contractors and the fit out firm and de-conflicting as we went.

The cabling company was also briefed to install some new cabling:
- Cat6 for the video editing suites networking.
- Cat6a for Adderlink KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) to enable video editing suites to leave the actual MacPro computers in the server room.
- BNC/SDI cables for Blackmagic cards to the grading Monitors.
- HDMI/VGA/Audio/USB into the walls for the two meeting room displays and computers.

During this part of the project I was in constant contact with the fit out firm’s Site Manager and with our own contractor doing the cabling. Attended site to ensure everything was going to plan.

We also had a special requirement for the cabling of two of the Video Editing Suites, the cables were all to be buried into the walls.  I worked with the Site Manager to make sure the internal trunking (inside the wall) was in exactly the right place to support multiple displays and speakers and later briefed the contractors where to position all the brackets.

We also had to position a number of large LCD displays in meeting rooms and in reception area for digital signage.

New data Network and Wireless
The previous network in the existing office started out small and then over the years got expanded and expanded on until there were several ethernet switches positioned in different locations to support the growing number of Macs. This of course meant switches were bottlenecking at points and as many were positioned underneath desks were frequently getting kicked offline or damaged. The new network was to be installed in one central location.

Using two Netgear GS748TS and one Netgear GS748TPS (with Power over Ethernet for phones) connected via HDMI data cables I created one stacked network to support 144 network devices. The stacked switches support 10 Gbps between stacks and 1 Gbps to network devices.

I also got in some Cisco WAP4410N wireless base stations but they were awful and quickly replaced with some Netgear WNDAP660. The base stations were chosen for their ability to be powered over ethernet and SSID VLAN support to secure a guest network.

The old office was on the popular 192.168.1.x range which often is a problem when people want to use VPN, it was also on the regular small subnet. I setup the new network on a new wider range and used an Ubuntu Linux VM to provide the DHCP. DNS being supplied by Snow Leopard Server running on a MacMini.

Internet Connection
We already had ordered (many months before) a fibre based leased line for internet connectivity but this was not to have been installed for a couple of weeks after we moved in. For the interim I arranged with the previous tenant’s supplier that we take over their 16Mbps EFM circuit on a one month rolling contract.

During the fit out I managed the installation of the fibre based leased line capable of running at 1Gbps (we were to be getting 50Mbps). I had to help the contractor  get the permission of the landlord to install through the building (we were on 4th floor).

We were to bring with us from the old office the recently purchased Draytek Vigor 3200 with dual wan ports. This was ideal because it enabled me to make ready the new internet connection while the EFM was still in use.

This was my first installation of the Asterisk based Kerio Operator telephone system. I upgraded an older MacMini with more RAM, 128GB SSD and installed VMWare Fusion on it to support the Linux based Kerio Operator.

Used a combination of Snom 870, Snom 821, Snom Vision, Snom M9 deskphones and iPhone/iPad/Mac Bria Softphones and Cisco SPA112 (Analogue converter for Polycom conference phone) with a SIP trunk supplied by OrbTalk.

I arranged for the existing office phone number to be ported into the SIP trunk provider away from BT ISDN and also ordered a range of numbers (DDI) so people could have direct lines.

Now we were hosting our own system we could give access to this to staff based in Toronto, Johannesburg and Perth.

The phone system provided voicemail for all extensions and with the ability to also use their iPhone via the CounterPath Bria softphone app.

The Snom desk phones also were configured to take a directory of internal numbers from the Apple Open Directory Server running Mountain Lion.

The solution was way cheaper than the quotes we had in from Telephone system companies and actually worked out better for us. The cost of the VoIP SIP Trunk is way cheaper than the BT supplied ISDN.

The Office Move
The office move as expected was to happen over a weekend with minimum downtime. It was planned that I would be able to shut down the network on the Friday at around 4pm to have it all packed away and ready to be transported on the Saturday morning. Unfortunately for me I could not get people off the network until after 7pm, business needed to go on so I went and got a pizza. I came back just after 7pm shut it all down (had closely checked the previous few days and that morning that backups were up-to-date) after running one more server backup update. That evening I worked until about midnight, unracking servers and dismantling some workstations. I changed the IP addresses of A records on the domains to make sure the VPN and Lotus Notes based Ad-In-One server continued to work when at the new location on the Monday. I put the phones on divert to a temporary number as the transfer was not to complete for a few more days (had the new supplier set CLI to existing number so nobody noticed).

I got back early on the Saturday morning before the removal guys showed up and personally transported the server storage via taxi in carefully packed boxes.

I asked the removal guys to make sure they brought the server equipment over as early as possible so I could get started.

I then spent the next two days:
- Racking the servers (Five of them.)
- Patching the network.
- Plugging in workstations and making ready desks for laptops.
- Changing the IP configuration (old network was on smaller range).
- Testing.

Unfortunately something happened to one of the RAIDs that I had carefully transported myself, it had oddly degraded and would not present any data (would take about 10 minutes to mount). It was a Promise Thunderbolt Pegasus RAID connected to a MacMini Server. I then had to make ready our backup server for the staff to use on the Monday morning.

When Monday came I was settled and everything appeared to be working. Rather annoyingly as people started to fill up the office and put some load on the new wireless network it began to crumble, the wireless network would just stop sending data when under pressure. With the help of some of the guys I quickly ran around patching laptops into the network, by about 11am everything was pretty much stable and those wireless people were working properly. We quickly replaced the wireless network with different hardware and sent the old kit back.

All in all this was a good project that went well. I was let down by the wireless network, if it weren’t for that the business would have had zero downtime but even a downtime of 2 hours was pretty good. I was also lucky that we did have a complete replicated copy of the file server that broke, something I had only setup a few months before after starting work for the company. A tape restore would have not completed in time.