IT Case Study : Volunteering IT Services at Castledown Radio


Castledown Radio Logo

Castledown Radio, based in Wiltshire, provides a community radio service on both FM 104.7 and the Internet to the Tidworth Community Area.

Hightrees have been involved with the Castledown Station since its inception back in 2005 and have donated IT support, IT equipment and IT advice as an “in kind” benefit.

Being a volunteer based organisation means that the funds available have to be strictly controlled, so wherever possible Hightrees has tried to implement cost effective IT solutions and services which keep the running costs of the IT side of the community station to a minimum.  This means more funds are available for essential broadcast licences, audio equipment etc.

Here are some examples of the IT solutions we have installed at Castledown Radio :

IT Infrastructure :

Each Studio has multiple network points and is CAT5 wired back to a centralised IT/Engineering Area where the core IT equipment (donated and re-purposed) was being installed.
Centralising the IT and some of the core Audio equipment in racks in one location, means that it is easier to protect with UPS equipment & there is less chance of any essential equipment being turned off by mistake as well as helping keep the IT “clutter” in each Studio area to a minimum.

When the Station moved location, the entire IT and Audio infrastructure was rebuilt, from scratch and switched over with no loss of broadcast service to the listeners.

Repurposed IT Equipment

Two rackmount servers (end of life) were kindly donated to the Station and Hightrees setup these up using Fedora Linux as the operating system.  One server acts as a Samba server, offering Windows style facilities to the client machines i.e centralised login control, login scripts based on user roles, as well as Windows Profile storage and Home areas, i.e storage facilities specific to each user.
The additional server was fitted out with additional hard drives and controller cards to provide extra storage space for the audio library, again running Fedora Linux as the Operating system.

As the core purpose of the servers is to provide a centralised storage and network facility, the overhead of running a Microsoft based operating system, both in terms of equipment costs and licensing costs would add additional running costs to the Station which could be used elsewhere.

VoIP Telephony

Castledown Radio has been using a VoIP service since it was granted its FM licence by Ofcom back in 2006.  The VoIP system Asterisk is being used, which is again, open source based software meanign no licensing costs.
As well as being used as a normal telephone system, Hightrees have donated an ATA adapter which allows the use of normal BT type equipment so that telephone interviews can be conducted from the Station and either recorded, or played straight to air.
Hightrees donates VoIP Credit to meet the cost of telephone calls, which using VoIP work out cheaper than a dedicated BT style telephone line and the associated line rental costs on top of call costs.

Website & Email Hosting

Hightrees currently donates the domain name, web and email hosting facilities to the Station.  The website is built using Joomla, a popular Content Management System, along with some additional components and modules which give some of the radio specific elements of the website.  As well as providing web users with a chance to listen to previously broadcast interviews and events, it also acts as a backup mechanism for important audio and photo images, currently around the 5Gb mark but constantly growing.

Remote Working

Remote access to the Studio is available via the community edition of OpenVPN.  Keys are generated on a per user basis, and allows the volunteers to upload audio/images from their home computers to the servers at the Station.  Using TightVNC over the VPN means that the PC’s in the Studio’s can be controlled remotely, allowing changes to the audio software to be performed without a trip to the Station.  This has proved particularly useful where access to the Station has not been possible due to bad winter weather, but where essential local news information, like School Closures, needed to be broadcast at short notice.
Volunteers can download, free of charge, the necessary software to their machine and can quite quickly be up and running and working remotely.

IT Support and Services

As well as the specific projects listed above, Hightrees currently donates as a minimum, 1 day per month for IT support and 1 day per month for web site updates.

Social Media

We initially setup social media accounts for Castledown Radio on both Twitter and Facebook which are used by the volunteer presenter during live shows and “off air” to help promote local news, upcoming shows and guests from the local community.  It has proved to be a popular engagement mechanism with listeners of all ages.

Summary

By utilising an open source Linux based approach to a large majority of the “backend” IT, extra life can be gained from otherwise redundant equipment, but with no loss of performance or functionality.  Identifying the IT needs of Station and taking an alternative approach has helped keep IT running costs down, as well as, hopefully, making life simpler.

Whilst the immediate thought of giving away in excess of £54,000 may seem strange (the figure to date that Hightrees has donated in time & goods over the last 8 years), we hope that we have helped in a small way, to keep a valuable local community volunteer based organisation up and running.

If you are interested in volunteering for Castledown Radio, either on air as a presenter or for any of the many off-air behind the scenes roles that are available, please contact them on 01264 841047 or visit the website http://www.castledownradio.info