Solving a schools network for better learning

At The Kings CE School

By Nick Walton

It was immediately obvious that thier knowledge and understanding of the system was immense

Tuesday, June 18 2019

When Kings CE School reopened, after a two-year rebuild, a ‘state-of-the-art’ network was installed but as network manager Nick Walton explains the new managed service quickly proved to be an inadequate school solution and support was needed from Concero UK.

“Following the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) rebuild with the installation of a brand new network, The Kings CE School was looking forward to maximising its new resources to boost learning and teaching. However because we were not able to dictate the set-up of the network, which was designed solely as a managed service, it quickly proved to be an inadequate school solution.

“Due to the design and set-up, our two ICT staff were unable to manage and maintain this considerably enlarged school network and it was decided by both myself as the network manager and the school leadership team that external support was required as soon as possible.

“In day-to-day terms the log-on times were slow, software did not function adequately and we were unable to make changes locally as our access rights were insufficient. Staff and students were extremely frustrated with the untenable situation which should have been a joy to work with.

“We approached various companies for a support package but due to the size and nature of the city-wide network, very few companies were keen to take on board a project that they could not totally control. Legally, the school was tied to the city programme and not able to make radical changes.

“Having known of Concero UK for some time and having received verbal assurances from several colleagues across the city, I decided to contact them and sound them out. They are local, they ran another similar-sized school network in the vicinity and they understood virtualisation.

“The first meeting was swiftly setup and it was immediately obvious that their knowledge and understanding of the system was immense, the staff were capable and approachable and they were able to tailor our support to a bespoke contract, which was negotiable and acceptable.

“The lead engineer attached to the school was Bradly Clegg, who was fully experienced with our type of network and explained how it worked to my technician and myself. He organised in-house training for us both and frequently reported his findings to our business manager, which meant everyone was kept in the loop.

“The school subsequently employed a third technician and Concero UK quickly organised training for him. We were now starting to cope in an increasingly difficult situation despite having system failures which were beyond our control and mainly due to inefficient third party support at the hub of the citywide network through the Local Authority. However, with the support of Concero, the day-to-day running was better, but, still not at an acceptable level.

“It was at this stage that we asked Concero UK to prepare an exit strategy. The Kings CE School had made the decision that the time was ripe to move away from the constraints of the BSF network and totally rebuild our own school network in a way that would work for us as a school.

“To exacerbate the problem, the BSF system was set up across the Campus, which meant that there was a special school we had to consider, which wanted to break away from Kings CE School and campus set-up, which Concero UK had to factor into the exit strategy.

“The plan was put into operation. Timing is critical for this type of project and in reality, it can only be carried out safely during a summer shutdown, with six weeks of implementation and testing but also still ensure vital functionality for exam results. We were able to perform some valuable preparation during the lead up period but the actual switch over had to be in the summer holidays.

“We had to undertake considerable planning and testing in conjunction with Concero UK and compile a timescale and hardware/software analysis. Hardware upgrades were deemed necessary, only simple things like ram and hard drives, but none the less, essential.

“Licensing was a key problem but not unsolvable. Bradley Clegg organised meetings with all external suppliers and some alternatives for evaluation. Very quickly, servers were upgraded, email systems were migrated to other solutions and costs and tentative dates were negotiated for external suppliers to commence work.

“Suffice to say by 2014, two years since having an inadequate, user unfriendly BSF network, Concero UK started the changes; drafting in their own field technicians to provide valuable extra man power.

“They got to work on our Windows servers and upgraded laptops and desktops to the latest operating systems. This also involved our Apple Macs, iPads and meant all our devices were talking to each other and to the new network.

“And very quickly they safely migrated essential data and made sure we had all the backups that were necessary which included testing and tweaking where it was needed.

“Our exisisting wireless system was upgraded and they made sure it reached all the places it needed and they tested all the log-on times for fixed PCs and laptops to make sure they worked well over wireless.

“After all this at the beginning of September 2014 our new network was presented to staff and students. As with all projects of this type, there were always teething troubles and this project was no exception. However, the performance upgrade was immediately apparent to all. Laptops booted up quickly, log-on times were substantially reduced, we could now make changes to solve problems as and when they arose and within a very short time the network was working as we had always expected.

“Just two months after the work was carried out technicians now feel confident they can manage the system, staff are experiencing less problems than ever before and we are now a proactive department and not reactive.”

  • Did Concero UK help us to achieve our goals? Definitely!
  • Would I recommend them? Definitely!
  • Would I use them again? Definitely!

So what does the future hold?

The school’s relationship with Concero UK will continue, albeit at a different level, as the solution they have put in place is more reliable, easier to manage and fit for the purpose intended. We are fully aware that the nature of ICT is ever changing with new software, new hardware and technologies that constantly evolve and as an ICT department we see some of this, but as a company Concero UK is better placed to advise us.

Contact bclegg@concerouk.com for more information.

Our ICT support service can help bring your school into the future

Just as Nick found out, our expertise of school networks is immense, we have worked in the education for over 10 years. Our ICT support can work with you and your existing ICT support service providers. It isn't just ICT support eitehr, we are a wrap around service supporting all aspects of technology in education.

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Bradley Clegg

Director