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VDAB extends Wi-Fi Network in 150 Offices

31/10/2016 00:00:00

VDAB Opts for Flexibility through Extended Wi-Fi Network in 150 Offices and Training Centers From 60 to 1,500 access points

Anticipating business needs is vital for a rapidly changing labor market. For Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (VDAB) (the public employment service in Flanders) this means, among other things, being able to provide the necessary flexibility for trainees taking courses. This, in turn, requires adjusting the infrastructure. In response, VDAB is moving forward with a Wi-Fi solution from Huawei.

Background

VDAB is an independent agency of the Flemish government. Its tasks include work placement for unemployed workers and career counseling for employees, while helping companies find the most suitable candidates to fill their vacancies. Organizing training courses plays a key role to that end. VDAB has some 5,000 staff in 80 offices and 70 training centers, which host vocational training courses. The IT infrastructure consists of 500 computers for the staff (80% using laptops) and another 4,000 computers in the training centers. The ICT department thus manages an extensive network of 9,000 devices in 150 locations. VDAB pursues a digital-first strategy geared to ensuring that every possible digital or mobile contact with the client takes place online. Consequently, digital channels are important for this highly personalized service, and Wi-Fi plays a crucial role.

Challenges

This biggest challenge is the continuous change in training centers: New locations are added, locations are expanded, and course offerings change.

“Not long ago, we had a computer room for ICT training and another room for training in accounting,” explains Paul Danneels, CIO of VDAB.
“Now, because of consolidation and the need to save space, more flexibility is needed. Training courses given in the morning may be completely different from those given in the afternoon, but they must be able to run on the same systems. Another challenge is that systems are used by VDAB staff in the morning and by external services in the afternoon.”

The number of trainees per course, location, and period varies enormously, and instructors are turning to cloud applications for training where internet connectivity is required. Therefore, the second challenge for the ICT department is bandwidth: Staff must constantly estimate where more bandwidth will be needed and proceed as efficiently as possible with the available resources. In addition, training courses are increasingly using video and Web conferencing.An additional challenge is BYOD: More clients (trainees and partners) are bringing their own devices, and all of this contemporary technology forces VDAB to adapt the network. Some devices, for example, no longer have network cable connections.

According to Paul Danneels, “We cannot predict the economy, but we must be able to respond quickly when demand for specific training courses suddenly rises. So, you must have the infrastructure ready because, by the time you set up the infrastructure, the boom is over. That is why this investment in the new Wi-Fi network is necessary.”

Solution

Until recently, only a third of VDAB locations had an access point. It was also often limited to conference rooms and served as access to external users who needed connectivity. VDAB has now opted for a total Wi-Fi strategy, which will initially entail going from 60 to 250 access points, with plans to attain 1,000 to 1,500 Wi-Fi access points by the beginning of the first quarter of 2017.

Danneels said, “In our strategy, the Wi-Fi structure is the primary network, whereas in the past, it was a cabled network. Planning is crucial, because a site survey is conducted first with our external IT partner, Data Unit. On this basis, we look into what is necessary: How many access points are needed, where we have to hang them up for optimal coverage, etc. Only then does our facility and IT department go into action for the installation.”

The selected solution must meet four requirements:

  • Flexibility
  • Good quality
  • Access for everyone
  • Monitoring and managing possibilities for the IT department

“Access for everyone means that we must also scrutinize the security aspect,” says Danneels. “We provide four separate networks via Wi-Fi for various target groups (staff, partners, trainees, and visitors). Switching to the Huawei Agile server for user authentication and identification means that these networks are protected, while we can also provide redundancy for our security.”

An important aspect of the solution is the quality of the Wi-Fi. Since Wi-Fi is the primary network, and because many examinations are taken in the center, VDAB must ensure that the signal is stable.

Because training center buildings are not modern, often featuring industrial architectures and concrete materials, they present additional obstacles. This is especially true, for example, when conducting training courses for construction workers or forklift operators. To monitor and adjust such training, VDAB opted for the Huawei eSight management tool.

“If a trainer formerly said, ‘The Wi-Fi reception is not optimal,’ it was a personal perception. By using eSight, we can now verify this assertion and make improvements where necessary,” according to Danneels.

Benefits

VDAB initiated site surveys in the first offices this summer. The IT department is now working to quickly roll out Wi-Fi networks at these locations.

VDAB already sees business advantages, says Paul Danneels: “Proactive installation of Wi-Fi in all locations means significant support for our digital-first strategy, enabling us to launch far more digital solutions and Web applications as of next year.”

Furthermore, VDAB expects that by offering Wi-Fi, more external clients will bring their own devices, so the number of VDAB devices will drop.

Paul Danneels summarizes VDAB’s strategy and the Huawei solution’s business advantages, as follows:

“In addition, we will also be able to provide another, diverse mix of training courses, which we cannot offer at this time. The location is no longer a hindrance. Thanks to the Wi-Fi network, we are far more flexible and can better anticipate the needs of the market, launching new training courses earlier and planning courses or organizing the requested courses closer to the customer. Our partners are aware of this and are attuning their offerings accordingly. We cannot, however, predict this very dynamic aspect. We, as the IT department, cannot say, ‘We are going to provide Wi-Fi and extensive bandwidth in 20 offices,’ because a month later those offices may offer something different; hence, our philosophy is to expand our basic infrastructure (Wi-Fi) in a comprehensive and qualitative manner so that we can provide optimal basic offerings for both internal and external clients.”

About Huawei Enterprise Business Group

Huawei Enterprise Business Group (“Huawei Enterprise,” or EBG) is one of Huawei’s three business groups. Huawei is a leading global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions provider. By using Huawei’s strong R&D capabilities and comprehensive technical expertise, Huawei Enterprise provides a wide range of highly efficient, customer-centric ICT solutions and services to global vertical industry and business customers for governments and the public sector, finance, transportation, electric power, energy, commercial businesses, and ISPs. Huawei Enterprise’s innovative, leading solutions cover network infrastructure, Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C), cloud computing and data centers, enterprise information security, and industry application solutions.

For more information, please visit e.huawei.com/uk.

About VDAB

The VDAB is the public employment service of Flanders. Their mission is to ensure, organize, and promote recruitment, supervision, and training, in the interests of employers, employees, and job seekers. The official language is Dutch.

For more information, please visit vdab.be.

Copyright © Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. 2016. All rights reserved.
THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ANY KIND OF WARRANTY

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