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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 01/04/2003
Internet Connections, Virtual Private Networks and Web Hosting



The capital programme for 2002/03 contains a sum of 30,000 for the improvement of the Council’s web hosting and internet connectivity. Following a request for quotations from various suppliers, this report makes recommendations for the replacement of the Council’s internet connection, the improvement of member and locality office connections to the central network and new arrangements for web hosting.
APPENDIX N

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE – 1ST APRIL 2003

Title:
Internet Connections, Virtual Private Networks and Web Hosting

[Wards Affected: All]

Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

The annexe to this report contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded during the item to which the report relates, as specified in Paragraphs 8 and 9 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, viz:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the authority). (Paragraph 7)

The amount of any expenditure proposed to be incurred by the authority under any particular contract for the acquisition of property or the supply of goods or services. (Paragraph 8)

Any terms proposed or to be proposed by or to the authority in the course of negotiations for a contract for the acquisition or disposal of property or the supply of goods or services. (Paragraph 9)

Summary and Purpose

The capital programme for 2002/03 contains a sum of 30,000 for the improvement of the Council’s web hosting and internet connectivity. Following a request for quotations from various suppliers, this report makes recommendations for the replacement of the Council’s internet connection, the improvement of member and locality office connections to the central network and new arrangements for web hosting.

Introduction

1. The current situation is as follows. The Council’s only connection to the Internet is through an ISDN line which does not run much faster than the average modem attached to a home PC. This supports all incoming and outgoing e-mail as well as providing access to the world wide web for about 150 officers and members. It is inadequate for current requirements and expensive to run. The Council’s web site server is hosted by a local company and it is difficult to maintain day to day control over it. Any expansion to web hosting requirements would incur large increases in cost. Access to the Waverley network for members and officers working remotely is provided through a maximum of four dial-up connections. Growth in use has meant that members have recently experienced delays in making a connection to retrieve their e-mail.

2. In short, the current facilities are slow, inflexible and unable to accommodate increasing demand. Due to their nature, the costs of providing a service fluctuate and are hard to predict.

Request for Quotations

3. Quotations were sought from five companies, all of whom responded. Of the five, two were large scale Internet Service Providers (ISP) and three were smaller system integrators. Details of the bids received are contained in the (Exempt) Annexe to this report.

4. The two ISP’s quotations were significantly higher than the others received, largely because the cost of the hardware and services offered to provide security and remote access for members and officers was very high and it was felt that they could both be excluded from consideration on these grounds.

5. Of the three smaller companies, it was felt that one did not have a sufficiently good track record in providing networking and internet services and, therefore, they were excluded on those grounds. The two remaining companies (to be referred to as companies A and B) both specialise in IT networking. The main elements of the solutions offered were quite similar and are as follows:

Connection to the Internet from the Godalming Offices is via a 2 Mbps leased line. This is about 32 times faster than the current connection.

The Council’s web server would be moved from the current local ISP to be hosted in-house

A firewall would be provided to protect the Council’s internal network from unauthorised access via the internet link. The firewall would also provide a secure area where web servers available to the public would be connected.

Hardware, services and wide area connections would be provided to create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect members, remote workers and locality offices to the central network at Godalming. A VPN is a secure, encrypted link which allows a remote worker or outlying office to connect cheaply and effectively to a central network and use the facilities available there.

Members would be supplied with an Internet connection through a commercial provider. Using VPN services they would connect securely over this link to the Council Offices. This solution offers a fixed cost, faster and more reliable connection which is not subject to the limitations of only having four dial-up lines into the building as at present.

Training would be provided to Waverley’s IT staff to help manage the hardware and systems associated with the firewall and VPN.

Ongoing helpdesk and hardware support would be provided by the supplier.

For users who make heavy use of their connection to the Council’s network, it might be possible to provide a fast, broadband connection at a fixed cost.

6. A comparison of costs shows the solution offered by Company B to be cheaper. However, there are differences in the hardware and services offered which make a simple comparison slightly misleading. Company A’s submission inspires greater confidence because it includes larger elements of preparation, training and project management. It also proposes a better and more secure way of controlling and managing the VPN. In addition, Company A also propose an option for providing wide area links to remote offices and remote workers which officers feel may be worth considering.

7. Both proposals, however, contain a feature which is of some concern to officers. Full details of this and a proposed solution are contained in the (Exempt) Annexe.

Savings

8. The annual costs of the proposal can be offset with certain savings that will be made as a result of the change in the way that services are provided. The three major areas of saving are:-

Fees for hosting the Council’s web and mail server at local ISP

Cost of call charges on ISDN internet connection

Cost of leased lines to Haslemere and Cranleigh.

9. The annual values of the savings are shown in the (Exempt) Annexe. There may also be some savings to be realised from replacing the variable costs of calls by members to the Waverley network with a fixed price internet connection from a commercial ISP, but these are not easily quantifiable.

Conclusion

10. The current arrangements for internet connectivity, web hosting and remote access to Waverley’s IT systems are inadequate, costly and inflexible. By adopting the solution outlined in the (Exempt) Annexe to this report, the Council can provide itself with a greatly improved service for a similar cost. The system will be administered by Council IT staff who will be supported through comprehensive training and on-going help desk support through the recommended supplier.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:-

Background Papers (DoF)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICERS:

Name: Ron Pescod Telephone: 01483 523156
E-Mail: rpescod@waverley.gov.uk

Name: Phil Tucker Telephone: 01483 23157
E-mail: ptucker@waverley.gov.uk

comms/executive/2002-03/603