In times of continuing austerity and ever greater pressure on IT budgets – every penny spent must be justified and contributed directly to the educational achievement of learners and the efficiency of teachers.
The following measures are not instant wins, but should be medium term projects that will provide an immediate saving, or excellent return on investment.
Maximise what you’re given free
Education as a sector is a hotbed for platform and software companies that readily compete for your students as users. The strategy of these companies has always been transparent – if a student has only ever used their software through their education, they will expect it and require it when they enter the workforce. The most obvious example of this has always been Microsoft, and the Office suite – few companies would consider the competing products as the cost of re-training their workforce, which has only known Microsoft’s platform, is enormous.
Most people will know that Microsoft offer OVS-ES agreements for schools and educational institutions across the world at a heavily reduced rate compared to the corporate market. However, few institutions will utilise the entire stack to its maximum.
Office 365 does more than just provide free email accounts and hosting, it can replace your entire requirement for an on-site file server – and seriously reduce the sheer volume of data you need to store and backup each day. Hyper-V, once widely considered a second-tier product to VMware’s vSphere hypervisor platform, matches performance punch for punch – at a fraction of the cost. The same can be said of DPM for backups, Defender for anti-virus and InTune for estate management.
Look beyond the hardware and software
The days of a school’s infrastructure requiring server rooms bigger than classrooms, 5 racks packed solid with equipment and 3 air conditioning units are well and truly behind us. One of the largest operational costs any institution will be exposed to that hasn’t refreshed its hardware in 4-7 years will be the sheer amount of electricity used to keep the systems on, and the systems cool. The latest hardware platforms available, both in terms of the servers in the server room and the devices in the hands of your students require a fraction of the power. For the last 10 years, virtualisation has allowed multiple physical servers to be replaced by a few servers and some enterprise storage, now multiple servers and storage can be condensed in to a single hyperconverged unit.
Suddenly 5 racks of flashing lights and 120 plugs can be replaced with a single box no bigger than a typical server and in need of only 2 sockets!
Everyone who works in a school, whether a bursar, teacher, support staff or student will have experienced the Monday morning 8:55am queue at the photocopier.
A 5-figure printing and consumables bill will be of no surprise to many school bursars. And yet the technology to limit both the need to print and the cost of printing itself has been around for some time. The take up has been oddly slow and difficult to understand. Reducing the cost of printing can be achieved through an implementation of a managed print solution – which reduces the sheer volume of waste prints, and spreads the operational load between multiple devices. With a managed ‘pull printing’ solution, you print to a secure central ‘bucket’ and print from the device closest to you. Spending limits can be set on students and policies put in place that automatically limit the use of colour printing and large paper.
Limiting the requirement for paper copies can be achieved in a number of ways. However, a straw poll of common use cases amongst your staff will highlight that the majority of printing and photocopying takes place for the distribution and collection of homework and assignments. Microsoft’s free Sharepoint Online and OneNote Class Notebook platforms remove this requirement, and provide an interactive and intuitive interface for managing homework and material distribution. An investment in a little training will pay dividends immediately in the Monday morning queue.
Dip a toe in the cloud
The Cloud has been an IT buzzword for the last 5 years, with every IT company extolling the virtues of their particular skew on it. In the last 24 months, significant consolidation in the market has led to a number of the key players, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google passing on the economies of scale they have achieved, and actively targeting the education market with aggressive pricing. One particular aspect that’s a quick win is online Cloud backup. Storage is extraordinarily cheap compared to buying backup systems for your server room, and it meets the off-site backup requirement for disaster recovery. Both Microsoft and Amazon can commit to data location policies that keep your backups in their secure datacentres in the UK or EU.
Consolidate your support
Whenever negotiating or purchasing a support package for any aspect of your infrastructure, there will normally be two elements to it:
- Hardware and warranty support – if you have purchased a desktop or laptop from Stone you will likely have done so with one of our next business day on-site warranties. These warranties give you peace of mind on your equipment for the period they are in warranty. Should anything go ‘pop’ someone will turn up the next day with the required part to fix it. Whatever you purchase, the length of warranty is crucial, and highly advisable.
- Configuration and technical support – for the majority of project implementations, alongside hardware warranty, you will likely have been offered and may have purchased technical support for an individual aspect of your infrastructure. A good example of this would be technical support for your wireless network. You would then reasonably expect to ring this company in the event of any issue with your wireless for them to fix it.
Where multiple upgrades have taken place across multiple systems with different vendors or solutions partners, it’s quite possible you’re paying for a number of complex support packages. This can be both expensive, and leave you in the lurch when one support company blames another for an issue and you end up as the go-between trying to assess and enforce responsibility. Writing a complete list of the systems and solutions you have in your school and then getting quotes for complete and all-encompassing support will likely save you a significant sum of money and allow you to make one call, regardless of the system.
None of these suggestions are 24 hour implementations, however taking the time to consider some of your options should allow you to make significant savings in the medium term. Any good IT partner will be able to advise on these issues and support you through the implementation process, start to finish.