Our award-winning team of technicians works in partnership with schools to ensure that your IT systems are fit for purpose. Unlike many IT technical advisors, we’re completely independent. That means we offer impartial advice and the best value-for-money solution to your IT needs rather than the one that earns the most commission.
You’ll build up a personal relationship with our advisors, confident in the knowledge that they really understand IT in your school context.
As well as regular scheduled visits, great ongoing advice and emergency call outs, the team can also manage your school’s one-off IT tasks, such as wifi installations, mobile device deployment, cloud migration, network audits and bespoke projects.
Servers should have a minimum of an eight core processor with at least of 32GBs of RAM. Schools should aim to invest in at least 2-4TBs of network storage, with anything above this highly recommended in order to future proof the system. Windows Server 2012 R2 is the minimum level of server operating system that a school should use. However, schools should consider upgrading to 2016 as soon as possible, to take advantage of the latest security and feature developments, along with ensuring adequate support for the lifetime of the servers. Schools should aim to operate with at least two servers, so that if one server goes down, the other can be configured to take over its responsibilities, allowing continued access to essential services at all times. Ideally, migrate your third party software to the cloud instead of keeping it on your servers. If this is not possible, a third server (either virtual or physical) should also be considered to host your third party software such as door entry management systems/finance/MIS packages. If work needs to be carried out on any of these third party services, this can be managed without impacting on any other school services.
All switches used within your school’s network should be rated at a speed of at
least a Gigabit. This includes fibre links and conversion boxes between buildings on a school site. Some schools still use slower Fast Ethernet systems (which run at 10% of the Gigabit speeds) but this will not be good enough for the explosion of rich digital content (eg high definition videos), and running cloud software smoothly and with no delay. If multiple switches/cabinets are used in a school, the connections between them should be linked using fibre (SFP modules and fibre optic cables), as they are faster and more reliable than the widespread Ethernet to fibre converters, used in many schools.
Cabling, at the very least, should be at a Cat5e standard (new-build primaries should use Cat6) with full documentation, a complete visual diagram and comprehensive testing and labelling of wall sockets, patch panels and links. This enables a school to identify and troubleshoot network outages as a result of poor or broken cabling, faulty switches, loops or other faulty devices. If work is done on your network by your technician or other suppliers make sure you securely store any plans, diagrams and other documents relating to cabling and the network. You are well within your rights to demand such documentation if you are not provided with them after the completion of any work. This should save time and money if any work needs to be done on your network in the future
All schools are advised to make the most of the advances in mobile wifi technology. Using tablets, laptops and other devices can help schools to get the most benefit from technology wherever they are within the school premises and move learning with technology from the IT suite into the classroom while also enabling teachers to take learning experiences outdoors. Previously, schools may have installed a handful of SOHO (small office and home) wireless access points. These access points are designed to be used with a handful of devices in a home environment. They are unable to cope with educational or large enterprise
environments where potentially 50+ devices need to connect to a single access point. Managed systems such as Cisco, Ubiquiti or Meraki centralise the management of the wireless access points, ensuring there are no frequency/channel overlaps, or transmission conflicts that interfere with efficient network communication, while also balancing the load and demand that school usage would place on wireless infrastructure. Ensure that the wifi system you have is capable of creating a separate guest wifi network in your school environment (this sometimes requires managed switches to create virtual local networks – VLANs). The ability to offer a guest wifi access to visitors/parents is becoming more common and we anticipate this will be an expected norm soon. We recommend that schools invest in a support package for their chosen wireless
system. Firmware upgrades, security patches and feature additions are often provided as part of a support package and will enable your system to serve the school’s needs for years to come. Systems such as those mentioned above are an absolute must for any school considering deploying tablet devices. Without prior investment in infrastructure, purchasing iPads, for example, could be a wasted expense.
Internet bandwidth is an increasingly important part of the day to day experience
of IT within a school. With many services and software now dependant upon webhosted technologies, schools should ensure that their available bandwidth increases to match the number of simultaneous devices sitting on their network that require internet access. Many London schools have contracts with LGfL, where their negotiated bandwidth is based on the size of the school. We recommend that all schools look to boost their bandwidth to as close to 100mb+ that they can afford, in order to future proof the school. With most programs moving online and being web based, as well as the increasing use of streaming videos, this speed will allow them to run with no delays in loading pages or buffering issues. Upgrade costs are less than you might think. To put this all into perspective, many schools are only on a 25mb50mb contract in an environment where 100+ devices are used. In your own home, you are likely to be on the same speed (25mb-50mb) but shared between a handful of devices. To upgrade, get the ball rolling by contacting your ISP for a quotation
If your provider also takes on your web design and maintenance, ensure that the domain name is registered to the school and not to your support provider. If the domain is registered to the school’s provider then you do not own your website name and, should you decide to change technical provider, they are at liberty to take down your site. One local school we work with had to buy their domain from their previous technical provider at two hundred times the actual cost in order to keep their domain and website. To check who owns your domain, use a site such as https://who.is/.
As a rough idea of what to expect from a technical support provider, your setup and domain configuration should provide:
Ask for proof of a successful and regular backup strategy. Support providers should all be encouraging schools to have a multi-pronged strategy, using offsite/remote/online backups along with traditional local methods. Ask questions and never assume. Always check that your provider is providing the most cost-effective online backup solutions. A two form entry school should be paying in the region of £30-£40 per month for such a service (Nov 19)
iPads still dominate the mobile tablet market within education. This is primarily due to the dominance of Apple’s App store leading to a strong edtech community centred around iOS applications. However, without knowledge and expertise, iPads can be tricky to administer and integrate in an education environment
built upon Microsoft technologies. Schools should plan how they are going to use and manage their devices before buying them. A mobile device management system should be purchased, preferably one that is then linked up to the schools Apple School Manager. Chromebooks are also now increasingly popular within the education sector. Chromebooks are devices built to run Google’s Chromium operating system, which is a lightweight operating system designed to run
on affordable devices, with many of Google’s apps and services pre installed and integrated. If a school already uses the Google cloud office suite (G Suite), Chromebooks can be centrally managed and administered from your familiar
G Suite admin panel