To take on its expansion into a larger office and to improve broadcasting to vision and hearing-impaired Canadians, Toronto-based Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) undertook a complete overhaul of its network infrastructure, enlisting IT service and solution provider Dimension Data Canada to complete the project.
AMI is a not-for-profit multimedia organization which serves Canadians who are blind, low vision, deaf or hearing impaired, through two broadcast services called VoicePrint and The Accessible Channel, along with its companion Web site.
“We’re very unique in the way that we make media accessible to people who can’t or don’t have access to media,” said Georgina Blanas, director of government, public and affiliate affairs with AMI. “We all live in a very media saturated world and it’s quite difficult to comprehend what it’s like to be shut out.”
The companies announced the completion of the project this fall, but it actually began in early 2010, with Dimension Data completing a fully functional framework by July of that year. The company then provided ongoing consultation training for the AMI team and this year added to the original project by adding redundant network connections. “It’s been working flawlessly actually,” said Fil Magnoli, director of IT with AMI.
“Most organizations might take one or two of these projects on at a time,” Magnoli said. “We did all of these things simultaneously.” Dimension Data’s consultants worked with AMI’s internal team to create an infrastructure that would be conducive to its requirements.
AMI required a network that could handle transfers of high volumes of data, including high-definition video. “I had an idea of where we wanted to go,” Magnoli said. With traditional broadcasting companies, the broadcast department has its own infrastructure and the IT department has its own, he said. “Sometimes they talk and sometimes they don’t.”
In AMI’s case, they needed to work together. “The opportunity for missteps if you didn’t plan accordingly was definitely there,” Magnoli said. Building essentially one platform for everybody also allowed the company to keep costs down by reducing hardware duplication.
Dimension Data implemented a network as a platform service based on a Cisco Systems Inc. core network. The company implemented Cisco 3750 series switches and fiber adapters, 802.11n wireless access points, with a centralized Cisco controller and Cisco ASA 5500 series firewalls.
“There was a lot of planning and a lot of hours spent with Dimension Data going over possible scenarios, various different ways of doing things and ensuring that we both understood what the end goal was and how we were going to get there.”
“We had to work as an integrated team,” added Darryl Wilson, area practice director with Dimension Data Canada. So, its consultants met with AMI to determine its needs, and what the solution provider eventually put in met current demand and would accommodate for future growth.
AMI also had a unique challenge in that it has a large number of remote volunteers, who contribute content from all over Canada. For Magnoli, it was important to make those volunteers feel part of the organization. So, the remote offices around Canada were linked to the Toronto-Hamilton hub and Dimension Data implemented a new system of virtual LANs to optimize the network.
The company also created a new VPN system to allow remote workers to access the network securely with any device. “Now AMI can layer in additional technology,” Wilson added, with stackable switches and by expanding the VPN, to accommodate growth.
The remote communication and mobility strategy was critical for a company such as AMI, with reporters who often have restricted mobility, Blanas said. It has also been helpful for live reports and has allowed AMI to get content out more quickly.