The internet has fast become an essential element to teaching and learning within education. So much so, it’s embedded deep at the core of this new age digital environment.

 

Let’s face it, if you want to search for an answer nowadays you go on to the internet and ‘Google’ it rather than using old fashioned techniques like looking in books or asking someone!

 

This pretty much rings true for teaching and learning too – we depend so much on being able to connect to the internet to find out things to deepen our students’ (as well as our own) knowledge and understanding that having the right broadband provision in place is key.

 

So, when it comes to providing your students, teachers and staff with the ability to get the most out of online resources, it’s important you use a broadband provider who offers a fast, reliable and safe service. Because after all, being connected is great – but not if it comes at a cost to the protection of your school and students.

 

With that in mind, we’ve done a little research of our own (and yep you guessed it, we used the internet to help us in places!) to put together a guide to choosing the right broadband providers and models for education.

 

What we found when putting this all together is that there’s several different broadband providers out there (not exactly a shock is it?!). So, we narrowed it down a bit and filtered them into different models:

  • Grid model
  • Carrier model
  • ISP/MSP model

 

It’s these models we’ll concentrate on, giving you an idea of which you should be adopting for your school and give you our top 3 or 4 providers for each.

 

Here goes:

 

Grid model

Essentially this is a centrally managed service where a number of schools in the local area (or a local authority) come together and buy into the network to get a better deal. The provision is run centrally so you need very little technical skills in-house and there’s far less people involved in running the network.

 

This is an ideal model for those looking to cut down on costs, primary schools with little resource or local authorities with a number of schools under their umbrella.

 

Although the grid model is beneficial in terms of cost-saving, there’s some downfalls to it too. By buying into a network with a number of other schools in the area – all changes are done centrally. This means you have no control on what’s done and when. So, if you want to change your policy on firewalls, filtering or security for example, you’re going to have to wait a pretty long time for this to happen. This is all down to the sheer number of requests going to the provider and as a result the service and support offered is often limited.

 

Pros:

  • Centrally managed
  • Less people involved in running/managing the network
  • Cost effective when buying into with other schools

 

Cons:

  • Slow service when it comes to implementing changes
  • Limited service or support offered
  • No control on what’s done and when

 

Top grid model broadband providers for education:

  • Capita
  • South West Grid for Learning
  • Janet

 

Carrier model

This type of service is purchased directly from broadband wholesalers such as BT, Virgin and TalkTalk. It’s a very simple, ‘vanilla’ offering whereby you’re on your own in terms of service. And you’ll need your own support team/resources to internally manage the provision if you opt for this model. You’ll receive a basic SLA and very little else unless you ask for it (i.e. hardware).

 

But on a positive note – the ability to manage the provision in-house means that you’re in full control of your security services and you can change policies to suit the schools changing requirements as and when you need to.

 

This model is better suited to those educational institutions who have the resource in place to be able to effectively manage the network with little need for external support.

 

Pros:

  • Ability to manage the network in-house
  • In control of your own security changes
  • No need for external support – saving time and costs

 

Cons:

  • You’re on your own as soon as you’ve made the purchase
  • Need to have resource available to manage the network internally (often difficult if you’re a small primary school for example)
  • Additions such as hardware, service, support and monitoring etc. aren’t included

 

Top carrier model broadband providers for education:

  • BT
  • Virgin
  • City of London Telecom (COLT)
  • SSE

 

ISP/MSP model

This model provides schools with a fully managed service and tends to be where many educational institutions lean towards after using the grid model. There comes a time when a school puts more significant demand on their network provision and have grown and changed in the services they want/need to consume – for example, firewalling, bandwidth, virtualisation etc. and need a provider who can cater to their needs.

 

It’s these changing needs that bring many educational institutions to the ISP/MSP model, as it’s a more responsive solution to these demands.

 

As a broadband solution this model is far better to suited to education. An ISP/MSP model provider gives better support and a more consultancy-based approach to broadband as opposed to “off the shelf” delivery from other models and providers. It includes everything from the kit and hardware to service and support, resources, monitoring and management of your network.

 

With an ISP provider you have the ability to make changes as and when you need to, without impacting on your resources, giving you more time to focus on what matters most – the delivery of teaching and learning.

 

Pros:

  • Fully managed service
  • More time to allow you to concentrate on what matters most
  • Flexible and customisable to your needs and requirements

 

Cons:

  • You need to make sure these companies are reputable
  • Need to ensure your provider is able to maintain the availability and security of your network
  • Understanding where your data is stored and if it’s compliant with legislation

 

Top ISP/MSP model broadband providers for education:

  • Panoptics
  • Entanet
  • Exponential-e
  • Zen Internet

 

So there you have it!

 

Understanding the range of services offered and the right questions to ask will play an important part in ensuring that your choice of broadband provider meets your school’s requirements.

 

Whichever model or provider you end up choosing is ultimately down to you and the needs of your school. But remember – if the service provided isn’t up to scratch then the network isn’t going to work, leaving your students and staff with no resource to complete day-to-day tasks.

 

As well as this, it’s essential to have effective security features and firewalls in place, particularly if you’re running a BYOD scheme, so look out for those providers who can quickly adapt and customise your service provision to your specific requirements. Finally, responsiveness is invaluable to your broadband provision so make sure you work with the right provider who can give you the right service that’s best for your school’s needs and your teaching and learning capabilities.

 

Need a bit more guidance on getting connected with the right broadband provision? Get in touch with us today.