Trafford College Group

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by Kevin Bowyer

Following the merging of The Cheadle and Marple College Network with The Trafford College Group in May 2021, The Trafford College Group now caters for over 12,000 students making it the largest education provider in the Stockport region. The Group incorporates Cheadle College, Marple Sixth Form College, Stockport College and Trafford College.

A new £23 million investment programme at Stockport College ensures all courses are now supported by the very highest standards of accommodation, equipment and facilities. This follows earlier investment in the College’s state of the art facilities and resources for Construction & Building Services, Digital & ICT, Engineering and Motor Vehicle courses.

Project Overview

As part of this programme, NW Security Group provided a new centralised video management hub based on Milestone XProtect Corporate at Stockport College, together with more than 60 new Axis network cameras which have been installed across Stockport College and Cheadle College. More than 150 legacy and new cameras are now viewed and managed from the new central control room at Stockport College. NW Security has provided the new cameras, all camera and VMS configuration and now provides ongoing support and advice.

Requirements

Creating a robust, centralised video management hub at Stockport College

Stockport College decided to consider the potential upgrade and expansion of its existing CCTV system, associated with the £23m building renovation and campus enlargement programme which had begun two years before.

NW Security Group advocated an upgrade of the existing Milestone Systems’ video management software (VMS) to place it right at the heart of a new centralised video management hub for Stockport College, potentially serving the CCTV systems of other campuses and colleges group-wide in the future.

Solution

Building a central video management hub capable of supporting Group-wide security

After discussions and agreement with Steve Mayson, Group Services and Contracts Manager for Trafford College Group, NW Security recommended a significant upgrade of both the existing Milestone Video Management Software (VMS) and the underlying security management and recording server hardware installed at Stockport College.

VMS upgrade

NW Security implemented an upgrade of the ageing Milestone XProtect Corporate Version 5 to the latest version of Milestone XProtect Corporate, supported by the renewal of Milestone’s Care Plus support package which ensured that the College could gain access to all Milestone’s software patches and version upgrades looking forward.

NW Security agreed provision of its Silver Administrator Support Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Group to cover installation of all these updates and provide ongoing advice on cybersecurity hardening and penetration testing. This SLA covers ongoing support and help for people monitoring and using the VMS day-to-day.

Robust and resilient hardware foundations

A new Management Server with 1x E-2144G processor, 16GB RAM and 240GB storage RAID-1 was purchased from NW Security and configured by a video surveillance systems specialist.

A second new Recording Server with 2x Xeon Silver 4210 processor, 32GB DDR4 RAM, with Windows Server 2019 Essentials operating system and 64TB RAW storage from a 50TB RAID-5 was purchased and configured by NW Security to collect all video recordings.

This server was designed to provide storage capacity for 30 days of video recordings on a rolling retention basis, serving up to 160 legacy and new cameras installed across all Stockport College and Cheadle College buildings. The original legacy video recording server was retained as the dedicated fail-over device to prevent loss of video recordings in case of any hardware failure.

New security operations facility supported by Smart Wall

In addition, NW Security installed and provided training for Milestone XProtect Smart Wall control room display software in the new dedicated security operations room in Stockport College. Milestone XProtect Smart Wall enabled display of live and recorded video images from more than 150 cameras now live across both Stockport and Cheadle colleges. This provided security operators in the new control room with the ability to view all cameras on three large screens – quickly locating, displaying, and if necessary exporting key video evidence following an incident.

Pre-sets were set up in the Smart Wall interface to allow security operators to focus on key points of vulnerability and risk across Stockport College facilities and buildings. It also helped source video images rapidly in case of incidents, enabling operators to brief security and facilities management staff ahead of their arrival at the location of any incident. NW Security also provided training on the use of XProtect Smart Wall just after the new video management system went live. NW Security is an Axis Gold Partner and a Milestone Platinum Partner.

Expanding Stockport College camera estate

Axis PTZ camera on a swan neck bracket in front of treesOnce the new security operations room was up and running, Stockport College decided to replace six ageing indoor CCTV cameras with new, high specification indoor mini dome network cameras manufactured by Axis Communications. The College also ordered a further 20 new Axis mini domes to provide more comprehensive coverage within the newly renovated college buildings.

NW Security supplied a total of 26x AXIS M4206-V Indoor Vandal-resistant mini domes with 3 Megapixel, Varifocal lens, Power over Ethernet Day/Night cameras in February 2021. Once these were installed they were made live on the new Milestone XProtect Corporate video management hub.

Following further renovation work across Stockport College in the second half of 2021, 12 more AXIS M4206-V mini domes were supplied by NW Security, fitted inside the college’s buildings and linked back to the new control room’s VMS. By the end of 2021, more than 85 legacy cameras and some 35 new Axis cameras were viewable as well as being recorded in Stockport College’s central control room.

Camera configuration

NW Security recommended setting up all security cameras across the college campus on 1 frame per second (fps), 24 hours per day, configuring them to increase to 8 fps on event detection. Cameras configuration work by NW Security also allowed for at least 10 hours per day of video analytics-triggered video recording. This set-up was designed not to exceed the new Recording Server’s 64TB data storage capacity even after the Cheadle College camera estate was connected to the new central video management hub.

Cheadle College camera estate expansion & integration into the hub

Steve Mayson, Group Services and Contracts Manager for Trafford College Group, led a review of the legacy CCTV system at Cheadle College during the pandemic and found that it needed to be expanded to increase coverage of more of this open site. In addition, CCTV monitoring needed to be more comprehensive to ensure a faster and more effective response to threats.

Steve Mayson explained:

Cheadle College is a fairly open site, so it’s important to have good coverage and to be able to monitor cameras effectively around the clock. We decided to employ a security guard to monitor the cameras and patrol the site during the working day, five days a week.

 

And then, by linking the cameras at Cheadle to the improved Stockport College central control room, it became possible to extend monitoring through the night and through all weekends 24/7. A review of security procedures ensured a rapid and effective response to any incidents detected by the cameras.

NW Security working in partnership with the Group’s IT, FM and Security teams

NW Security Group worked closely with both Steve Mayson’s facilities management team and with the Group’s IT team to explore the options for updating the legacy CCTV camera estate and standalone video recording system at Cheadle College just over three miles away from Stockport College. By then both colleges had been networked using MPLS (multiprotocol Label Switching) providing a rapid and secure Virtual Private Network (VPNs) connection between the two colleges. Each college has up to 20x VLANs which segment the network by physical location – by campus, building, and even floor within some of the larger buildings.

This network configuration was agreed to support cyber security resilience goals. It also provides sufficient bandwidth and robustness to enable all CCTV data to be passed back from Cheadle College to the security operations hub at Stockport College without compromising data quality or latency.

NW Security was able to recommend replacement of a number of legacy cameras which were either not working or were inefficient in terms of the surveillance coverage and image quality they provided.

Cheadle College camera estate upgraded & expanded

NW Security received a third camera order for 24 new Axis cameras to support Cheadle College. These new cameras included four AXIS Q6135-LE outdoor PTZs with built-in infrared and five indoor AXIS P3715 dual lens cameras for 180 degree views down long corridors and hallways for example as well as new Axis mini domes and bullet cameras. Just seven of the 24 new cameras replaced old cameras which were failing. The majority were installed to provide additional coverage to increase safeguarding protections at this college.

The AXIS Q6135-LE is equipped with Optimized IR with automatically adaptable IR LED illumination enabling surveillance in total darkness up to 250m (820 ft) or more depending on the scene. Its SharpDome design allows users to see 20 degrees above the horizon with the same sharp image quality as below.

This PTZ camera offers 32x optical zoom, superior video and excellent details in HDTV 1080p resolution. Featuring Lightfinder 2.0 this camera captures low-light images with more saturated colours and sharper images of moving objects. Furthermore, ‘speed dry’ functionality ensures clarity in rainy weather and supports efficient cleaning. These PTZs were, wherever possible, fitted on 4m CCTV poles located on top of buildings and fitted using swan neck brackets which enable near 360 degree views across a large area.

The AXIS P3715-PLVE is designed for monitoring in two different directions with a single device, around the clock and even in challenging lighting. This dual lens camera offers two channels each with 2 MP per channel, offering at a frame rate of up to 30 fps, letting the college capture both wide angle and zoomed-in, detailed views. Additionally, it includes 360 degree IR illumination with individually controllable LEDs and an automatic IR cut filter.

NW Security also supplied all the CCTV-ready poles, mounting columns, swan neck brackets and Ethernet cabling to enable optimal coverage from all cameras. Hundreds of metres of CAT6 Ethernet cabling was run across Cheadle College to serve all these new and some legacy cameras. All installation was completed, additional licenses added to Milestone XProtect and cameras made live and linked back to the central video management hub in Stockport College.

Steve Mayson again:

The NW Security team were very flexible and professional in their approach to this installation work. They did an extensive site survey before any works were carried out at Cheadle College. This served to eliminate any surprises when the installation team came onto site. As a result, they were able to complete the extensive works on time, on budget, and to a very tight timescale during the February half-term break, avoiding any disruption to the activities of the college.

Results

Milestone XProtect VMS and Smart Wall, based in the control room in Stockport College, now provides a cost effective, fully-scalable and future-proofed video management centre for two colleges within the Trafford College Group; with the potential to add cameras covering the other two colleges in the group if operational requirements demand it.

From this base, hundreds of cameras can be viewed and recordings reviewed centrally, ahead of dispatching maintenance teams or addressing any potential wrongdoing efficiently, all armed with high quality, irrefutable video evidence. Local viewing of all Cheadle College cameras via PC has also been enabled for the security guard whilst on site and on duty.

Steve Mayson, Group Services and Contracts Manager for Trafford College Group summarised:

NW Security has proved to be a great partner for the group as a whole, as we undergo a period of rolling building renovations, facilities expansions and networking integrations across what is now a very large college group estate.

 

NW Security’s experienced team works closely and collaboratively with my facilities management team, as well as with the college’s security operators based at Stockport College, and the group’s IT and networking specialists. They have built and now maintain a highly reliable, robust, fully up to date and cyber secure video management hub.

 

Over time, this hub can provide centralised management of our entire CCTV estate, bringing  with it some terrific advantages in terms of increased efficiencies, flexibility to upgrade cameras when budgets allow, while supporting remote CCTV management group-wide.

 

The upshot is that they have helped us create the CCTV and VMS infrastructure to take security and safeguarding of students, staff and visitors to the next level across both colleges that they have upgraded to date. They’ve also created the beating heart of both camera estates, all built using the very latest video management and recording equipment using best practice configurations. It’s all supported by NW Security’s  clear  focus on high quality service and support to keep it all running optimally.

Frank Crouwel, Managing Director of NW Security, added:

Building the centralised video management hub at Stockport College has given the whole Trafford College Group the ability to increase robustness, tap into operational efficiencies, increase cyber security hardening of the CCTV estate, while enabling remote monitoring and management supporting multiples colleges over time.

 

It also gives the group the ability to upgrade the camera estate as and when they want to, in line with networking infrastructure upgrades and/or building refurbishment project timelines. It even gives them choices in whether they go for top quality cameras with advanced analytics for critical areas or low cost network cameras for more basic monitoring use.

 

Milestone XProtect is of course camera vendor agnostic, taking feeds from all major CCTV brands. We ensure there is enough bandwidth and storage capacity in the system before any cameras are connected into the hub.

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