Background

St. Wilfrid’s Catholic High School and Sixth Form is the largest Catholic school in the country. A highly successful and vibrant school, they are one of two secondary schools, alongside many primary schools, within the Bishop Konstant Multi-Academy Trust in Wakefield. St. Wilfrid’s welcomes all students throughout the 11-19 age range, and currently has over 1800 students, including 400 in the Sixth Form. They value inclusion, respect, and integrity in their community of young adults, and seek to celebrate each student’s spiritual, moral, and academic potential.

Situation

Stone previously provided the school with approximately 90 desktops, including both Stone Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs and the StonePC Lite. As part of their strategic IT vision, St Wilfrid’s were renovating their physical IT sites, and updating their AV technology. Upgrading the existing desktops was not part of this plan, and in order to cut costs and invest the money in the ongoing renovations, they decided to re-use the 3-year-old Stone PCs. However, they didn’t want to just put the old desktops back with no noticeable improvement. With only a £20k budget available, the school needed to find a cheaper, alternative way to ensure they got the full 5 years of economic value for the existing hardware.

 

Chris Slater has been an IT Manager at St Wilfrid’s for over 5 years, with more than 10 years’ experience in the role, and his team is responsible for IT at the majority of the schools in the Multi-Academy Trust. He explains, “The school invests a great deal of money in IT, but it can be difficult at times to keep up with the sheer amount of hardware that needs replacing. So, this year we wanted to see what we could do differently. After a productive meeting with our account manager at Stone, we acted on his advice to go down the route of Solid State Drive (SSD) storage and memory upgrade. Personally, I had used SSD drives before and was aware of the difference they make. I decided to see what Stone could offer the school with their excellent reputation of flexible and tailored solutions.”

Solution

More and more consumers are opting for performance over capacity, and investing in SSD storage. Eager for top computing performance, St Wilfrid’s chose to incorporate SSD storage as an upgrade to their existing setup. They purchased 90 Samsung 120GB EVO SSDs, going from traditional Hard Drives (HDDs), and doubling their RAM from 2GB to 4GB. Spread across 3 dedicated IT suites, the investment allowed them to future-proof their technology with minimal expenditure. At £80 per machine, the total cost was well within their budget – a mere £9k compared to the potential £45k cost of updating the entire machines.

 

Stone were able to recommend the tailored storage solution after evaluating the specific needs of the institution. For St Wilfrid’s, the priority was not the storage space, but the performance of student machines running the operating system. SSDs were the right choice for faster performance and instantaneous operation. As an additional benefit, lack of spinning parts means that less heat is emitted – very noticeable in an ICT suite full of 30 PCs, as well as from an environmental perspective.

 

The upgrade was feasible for the school’s existing desktops because the form factor of the SSD is the same as a regular hard drive. The standard 1.8”, 2.5”, or 3.5” sizes can fit into the housing and connectors for the same-sized hard drives, in this case with SATA connectors.

 

SSDs rely on an embedded processor with information stored on microchips, as opposed to a mechanical arm reading information from various locations on a storage platter. The fast flash memory format means its speed is not affected by fragmentation or file locations, and it will boot in seconds – certainly under a minute – with the added benefit of higher overall performance. Whereas, traditional hard drives would require time to speed up operating specifications, and would continue to be slower in comparison during normal operation.

Chris comments on the visible improvement in performance, “I am amazed at the noticeable difference between the HDDs and new SSDs. Everything on the desktops is faster – surfing the web, apps, and even boot up time. The improved speed has enabled us to move to different versions of the Adobe suite, so we’ve upgraded to Adobe CS6, which is of great benefit to the school’s IT and Photography courses. “Logging on time is a general concern in any school, because it’s unproductive and takes up a lot of valuable lesson time. The new storage is great because it takes minutes off logging in –combined with the dramatically increased boot up time, if you add the minutes up over a week then it’s clearly having a very big impact on the learning time available for the students. The performance of the desktop, and the speed of the operating system has been improved tremendously. Launching programs is delivering similar impressive results, as does file transfer speed and any other intensive processing chore.

 

“Stone also provided us with new monitors, which created a visual element of noticeable improvement for students to feel like they’re working on new machines. We chose 90 Iiyama 21.5” touchscreen monitors after further consultation with our dedicated account manager. We decided to invest in the touchscreen technology because we anticipate moving to a newer version of Windows as part of our ongoing IT strategy, and the main purpose of our venture was to future-proof the desktops for the remainder of their 5-year lifespan. I’m very pleased with the effect of the high contrast and colour reproduction in combination with our new Adobe Suite applications. The flexibility of the stand is another great benefit for the students, as it can be positioned at several angles, creating a more comfortable experience for them in lessons.”

“I’ve been working with Stone for a long time – even longer than I’ve been an IT Manager at St Wilfrid’s. Our continuing relationship has been built on their excellent service and aftercare support, always in the best interests of the school. After encountering them at my previous institution and buying from them frequently, I was so happy with the level of personalised service that I transferred the relationship over with me to my current position. They’ve now been my strategic IT partner for over 12 years.

“All I have to do is send an e-mail to my dedicated account manager, and they’ll have someone out to us the next day, be it their own local engineers or the account manager himself. They don’t spend ages diagnosing the problem either, they just sort it out. The responsiveness is great, and combined with the quality of products, provides me with the confidence to consistently choose Stone as my preferred supplier.

“Stone have always ensured that the service is tailored and relevant to the individual needs of the school. Our account manager has always been very upfront with what they recommend, and the flexibility of what they have offered us is outstanding. They are a genuinely trustworthy company –they’ve never tried to sell me anything that I haven’t actually needed. Instead of being rigid like many companies, and insisting that the only solution would be to completely replace the entirety of our existing hardware, they created a flexible solution based on our situation. Stone were able to offer us a complete solution that met our budgetary requirements, simply upgrading our storage and monitors with no unnecessary hassle or fuss. Their brilliant support has enabled us to truly future-proof our technology – and saved us an extraordinary amount of money in the process. We’ve been able to invest the excess in other areas of our ongoing IT expansion. I look forward to seeing what else they can help us achieve in the future.”

— Chris Slater, IT Manager