Â We’ve written a ‘ResNet review of the year’ for ResNet subscribers – a summary of what’s happened on ResNet over the last twelve months. Before finalising the report, here is a draft version. If you have any comments please let us know on the blog below, or email the ResNet help desk.
Network capacity & performance
We’ve greatly increased the speeds available to ResNet subscribers this year. The total ResNet offsite link now runs at 300Mbit/sec in, 100Mbit/sec out.
Traffic levels on ResNet have shot up hugely. Traffic increases each year, but the increase this time was more than we’ve ever seen before. We think this is due in particular to the growing popularity of video on the Internet – egYouTube & downloads.
Peer to peer technologies are increasingly common – e.g. Channel 4’s 4oD video download service uses peer to peer. This means that while you are downloading a file, other Internet users are also uploading it from your computer. It saves the provider bandwidth (network capacity) but puts the strain on our network instead.
At the same time that traffic levels are going up we’ve been trying to improve the performance of the network. If you use Skype (45% of Bristol students do), webcams, gaming, or anything else which works in real time then performance is important. Your network traffic must get there quickly and smoothly, or your conversations and video will break up.
To help improve this we introduced a new fair usage policy for ResNet, which set limits on the amount of traffic each subscriber could use during peak times. Getting this right was tricky, as we had to balance the demands of one group of subscribers against another – we were never going to be able to make everybody happy. However we’ve made some changes in response to the feedback we got and we think the end result has worked out pretty well.
Previously the network was congested during the evening, when we hit our traffic limit. Now we don’t hit the limit and applications run more smoothly. Heavy downloaders can still use 5 GB of traffic a week in the evenings, and far more during the day.
The ResNet network has generally been very reliable (so far!) this year.
Reliability is more than just the network – the worst problem we had this year was the weekend after Freshers week, when database problems over the weekend delayed or prevented many people from registering. We’ve taken some steps to make our database queries more efficient and reduce load on the database. Thanks to the database team for help with this.
Behind the scenes over many years we’ve been improving the resilience of the network – removing the oldest and least reliable equipment and introducing redundant routes to many locations. This will continue over the summer with another round of upgrades, particularly to residences in the Stoke Bishop and the Frogmore Street areas.
We remain most vulnerable to problems at weekends – in common with most IT facilities at the University we have no formal out of hours staff cover for ResNet. If problems occur out of hours sometimes they are dealt with by staff if they can, but this isn’t guaranteed. Introducing formal out of hours cover would involve employing additional staff – this would be expensive and so the ResNet subscription fee would have to be raised. Instead our strategy is to implement backup systems with automatic failover in case of problems. We think that offers better value for money.
Cost and take-up of ResNet
This year 4500 people subscribed to ResNet (97% of people living in University accommodation). The ResNet fee this year remained at 55 pounds for three terms. There was an increase in the fee for people here over the summer vacation – from Â£15 to Â£20.
The ResNet subscription fee funds all the direct costs of the service – the network infrastructure and equipment, and the salaries of the full-time permanent and part-time student staff who run it. We try to keep the fee as low as possible.
We have been able to keep the fee at Â£55 for many years. We were able to do this as the number of people choosing to subscribe to ResNet increased, so we sold more subscriptions. Now that almost 100% of students in residence have ResNet our income won’t grow, but the costs will keep on rising. We will have to increase the subscription fee gradually over the next few years. However we still believe ResNet offers excellent value for money compared with commercial broadband providers, and will continue to do so.
TV over ResNet and other entertainment services
At Bristol we have always recognised that ResNet provides an Internet connection to your home, and that it is valid to use ResNet for both educational and personal use. We have always tried to provide access not block it.
We’d like ResNet to offer a package of
- Access to educational resources on the University network,
- Fast access to the whole Internet,
- Entertainment and communications services such as TV and voice-over-Internet (either providing these ourselves or simply letting students access services already available on the Internet).
We want to offer an attractive service that will help students choose Bristol as their university.
As fast broadband has become popular, social and entertainment usage of the Internet has taken off. Most Bristol students organise their social lives with Facebook and MSN. Many people in halls don’t watch TV, but they might watch video clips on Youtube or download movies instead.
One major development this year has been the trial of Freewire TV over ResNet. This provides 15 digital TV channels viewable on your computer. There is no charge to use it, but you must have your own TV licence. Initially the service appears very welcome – but how many people want live TV now if they can get downloads on demand instead?
Other developments this year
- The ResNet blog www.bristolresnet.net, to keep subscribers in touch with what we are doing, and get opinions on proposals and changes we make.
- Support for Windows Vista on ResNet
- View your ResNet usage on the Manage My ResNet system
- ResNet chat instant messaging and chatroom system – not a big success as nobody used it! We’ve learnt something from it however
- Removed the requirement to use the University webcaches -this means many services previously blocked such as iTunes Music Store now work.
- Relaunched the Notebooks for Students scheme – advice and discounted laptops for students to purchase.
- Ring the ResNet help desk and find it engaged? You can send us a text instead, and we’ll ring you back when we are free.
Update 2007-06-19: Comments are now closed as there have been no genuine comments submitted recently, only spam. If you want to comment on this article, please contact the ResNet Helpdesk.