IP network provides a lift

High atop, and down below, the mountains at Banff National Park would seem an unlikely site for a voice-over-IP installationBut for Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort, a comprehensive Internet protocol network that facilitates voice, data and video is giving its ski business a real lift.

Using voice-over-IP, the resort is able to support its diverse operations including retail sales, hotel reservations, telecommunications and video surveillance applications.

“We started at zero,” says Tim Hodgkinson, Sunshine Village’s supervisor of information systems. “Now we have an IT infrastructure that contributes to our company’s strategic business goals.”

The statement sounds lofty, but being a smaller installation, if anything, Hodgkinson’s approach is quite simple.

It’s not unusual to see him dressed in work boots and work pants, and he says he helped to lay down the fibre and cable.

“We are a do-it-yourself shop,” he says matter-of-factly.

Starting at zero, he says, was an advantage for Sunshine Village. With no legacy system to deal with, he could jump straight to what he describes as a network that is a state-of-the-art “Ferrari.”

Furthermore, by going direct, he does not have to rely on any support from a solution provider. No-cost software updates are provided, along with a lifetime warranty.

Sunshine Village deployed an HP ProCurve Adaptive EDGE architecture using routing switches at the network core and approximately 20 ProCurve switches at the edge.

The system also includes a Mitel 3300 IP communications platform that supports traditional phone systems and devices as the organization moves to a fully IP-based environment.

The network powers and facilitates 15 virtual local-area networks based on particular applications such as credit cards, lifts, phones, ATMs, staff time clocks, food and beverage, wireless hot spots and the corporate network.

According to Hodgkinson, voice traffic is given highest priority, followed by the debit card and point of sale applications.

Downtime is not an issue, and the network offers “five-nines” (99.999 per cent) reliability regardless of the type of communications.

“We overbuilt our fibre to allow for the increase in traffic,” he says. That’s crucial, given the growth of video communications at the resort. The network supports 35 cameras and video has become a huge requirement, both for surveillance and for monitoring and broadcasting the various locations.

In fact, the company’s Web site has become a great marketing tool. From all over the world and the rest of Canada, skiers can look in and check out snow conditions and find out what the resort is all about before making a reservation. The Web site averages about one million hits per month, he says. Given that the ski business is becoming more global, there is intense competition for the skiing dollar.

“If you can show people a good time and lots of snow, it can be very good for business,” says Hodgkinson.

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