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Case Study: The Guildhall School of Music & Drama

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama used CNS to design and implement their resilient and secure network.

Client Overview

The Guildhall School of Music & Drama is one of the world's leading conservatoires and drama schools, offering musicians, actors, stage managers and theatre technicians an outstanding environment in which to develop as artists and professionals.  The School is a global leader of creative and professional practice and promotes innovation, experiment and research. Rated No.1 specialist institution in the UK by the Guardian University Guide 2013 and 2014, it has over 800 students in higher education, drawn from nearly 60 countries around the world. The School is also the UK’s leading provider of specialist music training at the under-18 level with nearly 2,500 students in Junior Guildhall and the Centre for Young Musicians.






The Guildhall School now boasts Europe's newest world class performance facilities. Milton Court opened in September 2013 and provides the School with state-of-the-art performance and teaching spaces including: a 608-seat Concert Hall, a 223-seat Theatre, a Studio Theatre, three major rehearsal rooms and a TV studio suite as well as specialist teaching and rehearsal facilities.  

“I have worked with CNS’ Mosaic Solutions Team, specifically  Ash Kavia and Andrew Maher for several years now and so selecting them as our preferred network solution provider for our new site at Milton Court was an obvious  decision. I had complete confidence they could deliver, despite the fact that they were faced with a complex and time bound project. I am delighted to say that my confidence in CNS was completely justified as the result was seamless project delivery from start to finish.

CNS in partnership with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s in house IT Team delivered a world class network solution for a world class Performing Arts Centre in London. The facts are these: CNS met the budgets set; built a network fabric with best of breed technology, resilience, performance and met the timescales given. CNS understood the needs and culture of our organisation and exceeded expectations in all respects.

I am regularly asked by my peers in IT on whom I would recommend as network and security specialist consultants. The answer is simple: I only recommend one company CNS”.


Richard Antonel,
IT Manager,
Guildhall School of Music & Drama

The Challenge

The challenge was to produce and prove a network design and implementation which also merged two medium sized local area networks together with zero downtime. Not only was the proposed network solution to be 100% available and completely resilient but also able to deal with differing demands for high performance created by varied and different stakeholders at the School; administrative staff who favour security and reliability over speed, students who favour performance and commercial clients who demand both. As well as data to the desktop, the network had to support such infrastructure functions as IP Telephony, wireless provision, IPTV and streaming video content, web cameras for security, media players for signage and a large amount of building management services, most of which were power over ethernet. Providing safe “bring your own access” to online information and the internet also had to be delivered by achieving a balance between ease-of-use and best practice security whilst ensuring that network performance on a 24x7 basis delivers an exceptional experience to all its users. Finally, as with many projects of this magnitude, the brief for creating a best of breed network infrastructure was in part to ensure that budgets were met and not overrun. Moreover the Guildhall School’s IT Team had to demonstrate throughout the design, implementation and handover of the new network that value for money had been proven whilst ensuring that the network performance, reliability and security was not being compromised.

The Guildhall School’s Head of IT, Richard Antonel, was tasked with delivering the following goals;

  • Maintaining the availability of various customer focussed services.
  • Ensuring that the different demands on the network can safely co-exist.
  • Planning for the inevitable increase in network traffic five years hence.
  • Ensuring that network downtime is minimised by ensuring infrastructure resilience and reducing vulnerabilities.
  • Increasing network responsiveness and efficiency.
  • Provide a reliable “bring your own” experience across the campus.
  • Ensure consistent, campus wide wireless experience for users across six buildings. 

The Solution

The solution deployed by the CNS Mosaic Consultants was to take on board the particular issues and challenges and requirements of the School and integrate that into the network infrastructure requirements, reviewing and proving the optimum design for the network with the selected marque of network manufacturer but within tight budgetary parameters. CNS consultants also recommended and specified the hardware required and designed and deployed the solution.

CNS Mosaic’s consultants were tasked with the following:

  • Design and build of perimeter firewall to control authorised access in and out of the network.
  • Design and deploy a resilient network core and edge infrastructure to support the following;
    • Services to reside at the core of network to be accessed by both staff members and students.
    • Power over ethernet enabled systems (VoIP and CCTV).
  • Design and installation of a Cisco wireless system to support both staff members and a wireless and wired system to support students and outside visitors.
  • Full user and system testing of network capability and stress testing.
  • Documentation of key network design.
  • Security testing and hardening of all critical network and security devices.

CNS Mosaic met and exceeded the above requirements as follows:

  • Juniper firewalls were deployed at the perimeter to control the security in and out of the network.
  • Best of breed Cisco 3750X switches were deployed at the core, as per GSMD’s requirements. A resilient core was deployed utilising Cisco stack wise plus technology, which via the stackwise technology gave Guildhall School of Music & Drama a throughput between the switches of 64Gbps throughput. This also achieved the requirement of providing end user access to services residing on the core network infrastructure without delays or issues.
  • Cisco 2960S switches were chosen to be deployed at the edge, with a handful of 3750X switches deployed in high usage areas. As per the above, the switches were resiliently deployed and offered up to 2Gbps uplink access to Core Services.

In the UK’s very competitive education market, where students pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees, students demand a better teaching and learning experience which encompasses all aspects of IT even though still peripheral to core teaching activity. Campus-based students and staff will want to stream, record and access online media and resources and they want to do this from the device of their choice and from anywhere. Hence a key part of the project was to design and install a world class “bring your own” solution for the school, which would support a significantly increased user base from the current system which would boast faster transmission speeds. CNS’ Mosaic Team delivered a Cisco based wireless system that delivers more than double the capacity and speed of the original wireless network. This huge increase in capacity and performance has also allowed the Guildhall School to position itself as a leader within the City of London as a corporate venue, which it is hoped will add an additional revenue stream to the Guildhall School’s finances.

Key Business Benefits

CNS’s ability to integrate professional services consultancy with the solution demanded by the client has delivered a cost effective solution with improved network stability. “It is a requirement that we continually exceed the expectations of the service that is currently demanded by our users and implement solutions that have inbuilt longevity as an infrastructure redesign three years down the line is not an option” commented Richard Antonel, Head of IT for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. “The solution has delivered excellent benefits to us and not having to worry about whether our infrastructure can cope with increased demand over the years before its end of life gives absolute peace of mind.” 


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