Press coverage highlights from story:
- ComputerWorldUK, Business college updates IT to cope with new computing curriculum
- Education Technology, New Mills School prepares for Computing curriculum
New Mills School, the Business and Enterprise College, with the help of Stone Group, a leading UK-based ICT solutions provider to the public sector, has refreshed its entire IT infrastructure to provide students with an outstanding ICT experience and meet demands of the new computing curriculum.
A key element to the new computing framework will focus on the creation of technology, rather than the use, so this will mean teaching children to code. Whereas previously, installing new programming applications was difficult due to the slow network and, complications with Windows XP, the school is now able to deploy and run any application easily. This enables students to use the latest programmes and keep up with the changes in this digital world.
Historically, the school’s PC network was run on RM Community Connect 3 (CC3), a proprietary management layer built on top of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. With the imminent de-support of Windows XP by Microsoft in April 2014, the school needed to upgrade away from XP, but deployment of newer operating systems with CC3 was problematic.
The school had two options. Attempt to solve this by upgrading to Community Connect 4 (CC4), which would continue to be supported under contract by RM, or replace the server infrastructure with a ‘vanilla’ install. To avoid vendor lock in, New Mills decided to opt for a vanilla route, deploying a standard Windows set up where they could regain control.
The school turned to Stone Infrastructure Services, a division of Stone Group, to support the design and implementation of the project. The first phase was the install of Windows Server 2008 and 2012 to host the entire network between them. VMware vSphere virtualisation also sits directly on top of these physical servers, meaning that multiple virtual servers can run on each physical server simultaneously, making the system extremely powerful and future proofing investment.
The cost of virtualisation is a fraction of the price compared to buying more physical boxes. For example, in addition to the two physical servers, the school has already added 10 virtual servers to the network. By contrast, to purchase one additional physical server would cost in the region of £7k, compared to £1440 for a virtual one. Saving the school approximately £55,000 altogether.
With the introduction of two new Dot Hill Storage Area Networks (SANs), the network is now capable of holding up to 32TB of information compared to the 500GB capacity of the previous solution. Also, the network performance is much quicker. Cat6 Cable has been installed increasing transfer speeds from 100Mbps to 1Gbps. A faster, larger and more reliable network means that the school is set for the impending new computing curriculum in 2014.
Due to the value of the data such as students course work, disaster recovery was an important factor to the school. So to ensure the entire PC network is constantly backed up, the school deployed Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM). The SANs can each accommodate 20 backup cartridges, with each cartridge having the capacity to hold up to 3TB and uses a fully automated backup to reduce admin time. The school’s old cartridges could only hold up to 300GB each, meaning that they had to be constantly, manually swapped out.
With the new network set up, New Mills decided to also refresh its PC estate. With 500 devices in total, the school had budget to lease 150 new desktop and notebook devices from Stone Group, and plans to refresh the rest of the estate in the near future to ensure all 500 devices are renewed. The leasing scheme allows more flexibility to meet the needs of students by getting access to the latest technology while spreading the costs over a period of time to suit budgets. The cost of leasing is also less than the equivalent costs of buying the devices outright and all equipment is under warranty for three years.
As part of the service, Stone Group has also re-imaged each device with Windows 7 and installed all the newest editions of Microsoft Office software. The introduction of Windows 7 has meant boot up times are much quicker. It now takes seconds compared to 15 minutes with the old system so they are more productive, and the students are using the most up to date software – preparing them better for the world of work.
Finally, BYOD is now fully supported at New Mills. Prior to this virtualised environment, the RM system was very closed and they could not run just ‘any device’. Now students and teachers, can bring any device and connect automatically – allowing flexibility, home working and diversity.
Keith Lutener, Network Manager at New Mills School:
“The benefits have been remarkable. Behind the scenes, we have a new and improved network that is extremely powerful and also delivers fantastic end user results. The students are offered the latest applications and can access these quickly which improves productivity.”
“We’ve had a great experience with Stone Group and they are a true partner. They have offered a consultative approach and implemented the entire system seamlessly, dealing with any issue in a quick and professional way.”