Wireless makes the cut at De Beers

De Beers’ problem seemed simple enough: find a way to connect its Snap Lake and Victor Project diamond mining operations in Northern Ontario with De Beers’ head office in Toronto and the feasibility project team at AMEC Americas in Oakville, Ont. AMEC is a world-wide professional engineering company that works on large infrastructure projcts like mining operations.

The goal was to create a shared workgroup area where the mining projects and the De Beers and AMEC teams could collaborate and share information.

But the problem wasn’t simple after all. Realizing the limitations of conventional connective technology, AMEC and DeBeers had to devise a novel way to link their sites.

Kevin Drolet, division manager of IS operations for eastern Canada with AMEC Americas in Oakville, said AMEC had at first looked to see if DSL or cable was an option for connecting the offices, but found a dedicated T-1 line was too expensive and DSL and cable service were not available then near AMEC’s office.To make matters worse, AMEC and De Beers had a tight timeframe to work within, needing to put in a network and get the work group up and running in only a few weeks. It was mid-December and the companies wanted to start collaborating in the first few weeks of the New Year.

It was then that De Beers called TeraGo Networks Inc. Bryan Boyd, CEO of TeraGo in Richmond Hill, Ont. said De Beers and AMEC decided to use a wireless VPN to connect the offices and remote locations together. The solution chosen was TeraGo’s TeraGo E10 service suite. The suite allows De Beers and AMEC to connect the offices using an industry standard 10Base-T Ethernet connection and comes with burst options scalable from 1Mbps to 10Mbps. E10 includes bundled transfers from 10GB to 100GB.

“On the De Beers site we provided an industry-standard Ethernet RJ45 jack that supports standard IP or Layer 2 transparent LAN protocols and an interface that is relatively straightforward and simple for the customer’s IT team to configure,” added Boyd.

On the AMEC side, the work was a little different. AMEC needed to install a radio-frequency antenna on its roof so the Northern Ontario mines can connect to AMEC and to De Beers through AMEC’s VPN.

The VPN allows all the locations to communicate among themselves and to share resourses and information. AMEC was concerned about the amount of elbow grease required to get an antenna on the roof and whether TeraGo had the necessary experience to make all the connections work, said Drolet.

But he needn’t have worried. TeraGo’s Boyd said his company has done so many similar installations it has become second nature to his team.

Drolet was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the TeraGo team. In fact, it only took TeraGo and AMEC’s building management team about eight hours to install the antenna and run cable from the antenna to the server room.

Then it was a simple matter of De Beers and AMEC creating a VPN between their respective networks, and connecting the VPN to the remote sites through a fixed radio link. Drolet said it took about a month to get things up and running. In the end, “it ran better than expected,” he said.

Since a radio link connects the remote locations to the VPN, there were concerns about security — worries that an outside party would tap into the link and compromise sensitive data.

According to Oleg Khaev, De Beers’ senior network administrator, the service provider mitigated that risk. “TeraGo has its own proprietary encryption on the radio communications, and on top of that we implemented triple DES.”

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