"The previous installed solution took up IT resource to allow our clients to access the Internet. We wanted a system that was easier to use but also offered the reliability and security we needed. The ZyXEL solution allowed us to open the network connection and manage security far more effectively."
Director of IT, Lewis Silkin
Lewis Silkin is a full service commercial law firm with three areas of special focus: people, media and property. The law firm has about 230 employees, the majority of which are based in central London with the rest in its Oxford office. Its clients range from large organisations to start-ups and come from a wide range of sectors: social housing and property, to advertising and media; government agencies and utilities to corporate financiers, restaurants and retailers
The first wireless solution the law firm installed was based on Linksys technology and gave clients access to the Internet via a separate ADSL line. Lewis Silkin ensured a secure connection by assigning individual security keys to clients on arrival at its offices.
While the principle behind the wireless solution was sound, the technology behind it was unsuitable for Lewis Silkin's needs. For a start, it was a significant drain on the IT resource's time, as every time a client visited, it was IT 's responsibility to set the connection up on the client's laptop, ensure it was secure and then remove the connection when the client was ready to depart. There were also issues with the wireless coverage and signal strength in certain areas of its offices was weak.
In September 2007, Lewis Silkin asked its IT supplier, Datashare Solutions, to provide a wireless solution that overcame the shortcomings with its existing set-up. Its brief was to deliver a platform that could be accessed throughout its three-floor London office: in meeting rooms, the library and various ad hoc break-out areas.
Solutions and Benefits
Datashare investigated the range of solutions available comprising of products from Cisco, before deciding that ZyXEL's wireless hotspot solution – including firewall, access authentication and account management features – offered the right fit for Lewis Silkin. "The amount of IT resource the previous solution required was a big issue for us," recalls Jan Durant, director of IT at Lewis Silkin. "But the ZyXEL solution allowed us to open the network connection and manage security far more effectively. We were able to retain our corporate network running independently from the hot desking environment for our clients."
Datashare's proposed wireless solution was based on 15 ZyXEL G4100 v2 access points, two thermal printers (one to provide back-up support if necessary) and a ZyXEL ES2024 PWR Fast Ethernet switch. The ES2024 switch was chosen as it offers Power over Ethernet support. This was important, explains Durant, "As we were deploying the access points in our meeting rooms, so we wanted to keep the number of cables on display to an absolute minimum."
The ZyXEL solution was chosen as it gives Lewis Silkin the flexibility to determine how it provides Internet access to clients and supports up to 100 concurrent users. It also offered better value for money and worked more effectively than the previous Linksys solution.
As the wireless hotspot gateway is integrated with IP Plug 'n' Play (PnP) technology, there's no configuration required by clients to start surfing the Web from Lewis Silkin's offices, making it incredibly easy to use. Clients can also rest assured that their Web session is secure, as ZyXEL's G-4100 v2 access points come integrated with Virtual LAN (VLAN) security and IP address filtering technology.
Before deploying the solution, Datashare ran a proof of concept at its offices to demonstrate the ZyXEL solution in action. It also tested the signal strength to ensure that there was sufficient coverage of access points for when clients logged on to the system. Satisfied with the results, Datashare rolled out the solution to Lewis Silkin's offices less than a month later. As the solution was simple to deploy, this minimised disruption to the organisation and its users.
Delivering an Effective Flexible Working Solution
The ZyXEL wireless solution can support up to 100 concurrent users at any one time – although the number will vary depending on how many people are using the wireless network across its meeting rooms, library and break-out areas. Now, when clients arrive at Lewis Silkin's offices, the receptionist that greets them asks if they want Internet access during their visit. If they do, the receptionist prints out a ticket with one-button press from the ZyXEL thermal printer, which contains the client's unique account, password and pre-configured time information that they need to enjoy free Internet access for the duration of their visit. Once they go to their Internet browser, and select the wireless network all they need to do is type in the required information to be ready to get online.
"It allows us to control access to the wireless network, without requiring any intervention from our IT team to ensure the security and configuration of the network manually," explains Durant. "There's minimal maintenance cost and effort required to deliver the hotspot service." Before, the entire process could take up to 30 minutes; now it's almost instantaneous, providing a considerable time saving for Lewis Silkin's IT team, given the number of clients visiting the law firm every day.
Security of the network is also now more robust, as Internet access is timelocked. Previously if an IT manager was unavailable to disable the network connection, it would remain open, which could have made the network vulnerable to attack. It also provides a form of disaster recovery for Lewis Silkin's employees, so should any problems occur with the company's core network used by its employees – which is separate to the wireless network – its lawyers could use the wireless network to access files and documents on their corporate network remotely over the Web instead.
These benefits haven't been at the expense of network coverage or signal strength, as Internet access is readily available across its three storeys and is far stronger than before. Most importantly, the new ZyXEL wireless hotspot solution gives Lewis Silkin the opportunity to offer its clients value-added services. In the competitive world of commercial law, this opportunity to deliver a higher standard of customer service is a significant benefit for Lewis Silkin in distinguishing its portfolio from its competitors.