Tuesday 3 July 2012

CCS offers an education on investing in broadband solutions

School budgets have hit hard times. With government funding through the Harnessing Technology Grant being cut and BECTA no longer around to help schools make their technology procurement decisions, many schools are struggling when it comes to investing in IT.

BECTA, the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning, was wound up last year. BECTA’s function was replaced by the Department for Education (DfE) and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to continue key areas of work.

However, with the demise of BECTA, many schools have been left out on a limb as non-technical staff struggle to understand existing and new IT challenges, varying from something as simple as the deployment of iPads and other tablet computing in the classroom to a schools’ broadband connectivity.

Indeed, broadband access and the advent of so-called “Cloud Computing” is now becoming part of the essential debate on how schools and higher education establishments can save costs.

Up until the recent introduction of the austerity measures and the abolition of BECTA, many schools were benefiting from Government grants subsidising local authority supplied broadband but that is now drying up and from April of this year the cost of renewing a broadband contract is likely to rise significantly.

CCS is urging schools to review their broadband requirements now and compare suppliers carefully as the potential savings could run into thousands of pounds a year. More importantly, schools could also secure a more robust and secure performance from their leased lines and broadband.

One educational establishment to benefit from such as service is the Thorpe Underwood Estate which runs Queen Ethelburga’s College and the Chapter House Preparatory School in York. CCS runs the schools’ connectivity throughout all their buildings.

David Millington, IT Manager, said: “Our old broadband solution was becoming too slow, yet we had to work to a budget that was quite tight which meant that we couldn’t go to some of the big name broadband suppliers.

“In that respect CCS offered us the most sensible option and their track record in education meant that they understood all our requirements. As a result, the connectivity that CCS has put in place at Queen Ethelburga’s and Chapter House means that we enjoy excellent download speeds.”

He added: “Under Government guidelines we need to block 100 per cent of illegal materials identified by the Internet Watch Foundation as well as having adequate protection against external malicious attacks, viruses and Trojans, denial of service, email bombs and spam. Our CCS leased line ticks all those boxes.”

Schools should ask five key questions when considering their broadband options. The most obvious one is how much should you be paying? Well for a typical primary you should expect to pay up to £3,000 a year for a business grade ADSL service although if a school is looking for a 10Mb synchronous service they should be putting aside a larger budget. At CCS we provide a two pair EFM line with up to 8Mb for £225 a month and a four EFM line with 20Mb for £335 a month – both with free installation - which is very competitive.

Other key questions schools should ask their ISP are:

  • Do they offer one-stop help? Make sure you can get straight through to the support desk whenever you need them – and at times to suit you and not them.
  • Is the service tailored? Make sure the service is tailored to your particular needs – for instance do you need full bandwidth in the evening or at the weekends? If you don’t, your chosen supplier should be able to re-use this spare capacity and pass on the savings back to you.
  • Is the price all inclusive? Look out for those hidden extras that you will end up paying for and ensure that any price includes all the essential services you need. These will include connectivity, a support helpdesk, a firewall solution and filtering.
  • How secure is the service? Find out what security measures are included in your connection. This is very important to protect students and staff from accessing any inappropriate material as well as protect the school servers from spam and malicious attacks.
Schools should understand that switching supplier often takes an amount of time regardless of who they switch to, so they need to make sure they’re prepared well in advance of their contract renewal date.

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