Hampshire Constabulary and Viglen: IT’s a Force to be Reckoned with.
Hampshire Constabulary on the English south coast seeks to build safe places to live through what it calls intelligence-led policing. Twelve divisions across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can call on the resources of fifty police stations, 3700 officers and a dedicated marine unit divided into 3 water-based beats.
In early 2002 it sought the practical means to significantly upgrade the processing power behind its battle against computer-related crime, and selected Viglen to custom design and install a high specification network storage solution to improve the efficiency of its in-house High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU).
Growing Threat Forges Partnerships
Across the UK, both police and military are responding with ever-greater muscle to the growing threat of high-tech crime — in which computers are either the targets or tools of criminal activity — which has now spread its reach into many traditional aspects of investigative police work. With over fifty High-Tech Crime Units now operational in Constabularies and the armed services country-wide, the need to forge proactive partnerships with leading IT suppliers has become critically important in ensuring that forces have a constantly upgradeable stream of leading edge tools to stay a step ahead of the criminal.
In March 2002 with this need in mind, Hampshire Constabulary’s HTCU approached Viglen, a leading GCAT-certified supplier of IT solutions to the public sector, with a specific storage and networking issue. The resulting agreement to upgrade the HTCU’s network has since been supplemented by further orders for storage, workstations and switching hardware, cementing the constabulary’s longer-term relationship with Viglen.
Towards a Centre of Excellence
Hampshire Constabulary’s HTCU was officially established as a centre of excellence in 1998, and now employs an experienced team of seven full-time staff, five of whom are detectives. Its role, explains Forensic Computer Analyst Ian Sansome is to work with investigative teams across the force, treating data as evidence to provide what he calls a truly forensic examination of computer and digital evidence... presenting that data in a readable format to a court of law.
Sansome, a former police officer with over thirty years experience, took on the Forensic role following five years as a Detective Constable in the HTCU and now dedicates himself to the search for evidence deep in the heart of criminals’ systems. His Unit’s volume of work has increased over time and it now touches hundreds of cases every year. Its workload is also becoming more complex as storage becomes cheaper and media storage options more diverse, in turn requiring powerful analytical tools and storage on the part of police investigators.
Rigorous Specification, Robust Solution
The solution initially put in place by Viglen in spring 2002 has since been enhanced, and is now a wholly bespoke, pro-specification network boasting the kind of specialist, custom-built technology that is not readily accessible in the wider market.
Viglen spent a good deal of time getting the Hampshire Constabulary specification absolutely right, obtaining details of its exact requirements and feeding back the optimal solution detailing how they could best deploy their expertise.
Viglen’s expertise has since been deployed in real depth. The constabulary’s new hardware configuration has enabled the HTCU’s old forensic system of multiple processes to be replaced by a single examination process using independent workstations connected to a secure server.
The rigorous, bespoke specification demanded by the Constabulary required the installation of a suite of Viglen CX110 Genie dual-processor workstations. As storage was a clearly-defined priority, the workstations were fitted with multiple hard disks and removable cradles, in addition to leading-edge media technologies like DVD-RAM drives.
To further optimise desk space, boxy traditional monitors were replaced with Viglen’s flat-panel Envy 15 and 17-inch TFT models.
Potent Server and Storage Capacity
As well as the Genie dual-processor workstations which offer high-end professional spec processing power, Viglen’s complete solution for Hampshire Constabulary has also embraced powerful server technology. Providing server capacity to the network in its initial configuration was the Viglen XX210, one of Viglen’s potent mid-range servers powered by dual-Xeon processors and including 1 terabyte of external RAID storage, designed for departmental or enterprise use.
A year later, the network was further enhanced with the installation of a 48-port 3Com switch and VigStor SAN (Storage Area Network) storage solution, which added a further 4 terabytes of capacity to handle sensitive, evidential data. Within six months of deploying Viglen’s SAN the data storage requirement had grown to an additional 4 terabytes, which increases to a total of 9 terabytes of capacity.
Viglen’s SAN is a powerful, modular storage system which employs fibre-channel hard drives for optimal performance and reliability. It is also expandable; up to 16 terabytes can be achieved from a single stack, with multiple stacks possible.
To further ensure the integrity of the HTCU’s vital evidential data, a comprehensive backup system was also installed by Viglen, featuring a Sony AIT Tape Drive complete with Veritas backup software. The whole technology stack is now housed in a custom-built 42U racking cabinet for operational simplicity and easy maintenance access.
Complete Service Package
Although it is able to draw on the skills of its own in-house IT Services team, the HTCU unit at Hampshire Constabulary is also backed by an ongoing Viglen maintenance agreement, which provides Viglen engineer support on-site on a next working day basis and provides valuable peace-of-mind.
Viglen have been tremendously supportive, always approachable and friendly, adds Ian Sansome. They have recognised our needs and that we required an immediate response in the area of fault-finding and engineers are now available for us to call — Viglen were listening to us and what we wanted.
Optimal Performance in a Demanding Environment
Commenting on its evolving relationship with Hampshire Constabulary, Viglen Chief Executive Bordan Tkachuk adds0 Our work with the police force in Hampshire is truly leading edge and perfectly highlights the total solution-based service that Viglen is able to offer public services seeking best value.
It also actively demonstrates that our robust and reliable VigStor range is able to achieve optimal performance in a hugely diverse number of demanding environments. At Viglen, we’re looking forward to continuing to support Hampshire Constabulary in their fight against all manner of high-tech crime.
A Modular Future
Viglen’s bespoke solution for the HTCU is modular in its approach to afford significant scalability over time — it offers technological evolution and hand-in-hand support to expand in tandem with the growth of the unit, obviating the need to go back to the drawing board on a regular basis.
Hampshire’s HTCU is set to expand its IT resource base still further later in the year, enabling the unit to continue its practice of separating-out normal office-based computing functions from those tasks requiring detailed forensic data analysis.
Viglen’s new technology has improved our efficiency and effectiveness no end and increased turnaround times, adds Ian Sansome, the reliability of the kit we’re now using has meant an end to delays.