Founded in 1963, the University of York provides a high-quality learning experience for around 16,000 students and has established over 30 academic departments. With over 50 years of excellent teaching, they are an elite member of the prestigious Russell Group, and one of the world’s leading universities.
The University distinguishes itself not only in the quality of its research and teaching, but also in the value of the students’ university experience. Since 2000, they have undergone a period of renewal that includes an ongoing £750m campus expansion. The resulting excellence of their Information Directorate, including IT services, is evidenced by their 2014 accreditation with the Customer Services Excellence (CSE) award.
IT Services at York deliver a secure and reliable service to all 18,000 registered users, including both students and staff, and aim to develop new services to meet the University’s changing needs. Within the IT team are the Desktop and Printing Services Team, whose core aim is to provide a managed service for the entire lifecycle of desktop and printing devices and software. Adrian Young is the Head of Desktop and Printing Services, and took charge of the managed hardware for the entire University 2 years ago.
Adrian explains how their partnership with Stone began after becoming dissatisfied with their previous hardware solutions provider, “When I took charge of the hardware side of things 2 years ago, we had been dealing with our previous supplier for almost 15 years. There wasn’t a massive problem, but we were experiencing minor technical difficulties on a daily basis. I recall that it would take weeks to get a replacement PC on the desk. To save my team time and hassle, I felt that it was time to look at the market and see what else was available.”
The desktop has been the University’s main provision of digital access since the early 1990s. They installed the first IT suite in 1991, and have been installing new rooms as fast as they could afford them ever since. There are currently over 5,000 centrally-managed PCs across the University.
Maintaining the hardware estate is fundamental to the teaching and research success of the University, as well as its day-to-day operations; therefore, high quality service was the most important feature that Adrian’s team were looking for in a desktop solution. He comments, “The quality of the service was the main aspect for me. The price and quality of the hardware was a part of it, but what we really needed was a reliable supplier for when things went wrong.”
The University of York needed a hardware provider whose service would be flexible to their needs and be 100% reliable. To ensure that they found the right vendor to meet their specific requirements, the University launched a National Desktop and Notebook Association (NDNA) mini-competition. After careful consideration, they made the decision to partner with Stone under Lot 1 after being impressed by the competitive pricing and flexible service. Commenting on ther choice, Adrian says, “We made the right decision in choosing Stone as our preferred supplier. Our managed service from Stone includes delivery and installation of equipment, with a specification of replacement desktops ready to order through Science Warehouse. They not only delivered a competitive price but also added value to the service by having everything pre-built and ready to go in stock. Our tender had a seven day lead time, but with Stone, replacement desktops are ready in 2 or 3 days.”
With so many different PC requirements within the same institution, Stone consulted with the University of York to account for the diversity of their academic and research needs. Together they decided to invest in a combination of StonePC Micro and StonePC Lite desktops to provide for the range of users with different requirements. As Adrian explains, “The main reason for selecting the StonePC Micro was the size, and the fact that they are a full fat PC rather than a thin client. Crucially, they also match the same specs as the StonePC Lite. We wanted to offer our staff an alternative PC that had a very small footprint and this fitted the bill exactly.
“All you need is to VESA mount one on the back of a display, add a mouse and keyboard, and you have a superefficient, light workstation. For example, we are using the StonePC Micro on our library front desk where we have them attached to the back of the monitor – this has freed up space under the desk where the StonePC Tower used to be in the way. We are so impressed that we will be increasing our stock in the summer, with the next generation of StonePC Micro models.
“One thing that made this project so successful is that we’ve been using the StonePC Lite in combination with Stone’s Premium Stand to connect the PCs to the monitors. It has really saved us a lot of space; so much so, that we’ve been able to get new desks that are much cheaper as well, allowing us to save that little bit extra to help towards the next round of PCs. For the future, providing students with more study space is high on the agenda. Our current classrooms are all built to be dedicated IT suites, but we’re also hoping to expand into new spaces that aren’t purpose-built for PCs. This is where the flexibility of the StonePC Micro and StonePC Lite is ideal – their size allows us to expand the number of PCs within the limited desk space. However, our top priority is to replace our legacy estate of IT hardware with Stone PCs, because they are so much more reliable.”
The best thing about choosing Stone as our hardware provider is the availability of our dedicated account manager. He is always very upfront, and very good at keeping us informed about fluctuations in pricing. It’s so reassuring to have a good relationship with your ICT provider, and have someone who is already familiar with your requirements; someone who you can just pick up the phone and call, or send an e-mail to, to sort out any problem. Stone are always willing to go the extra mile; we cannot fault their approach of personalised service that just wasn’t available from our previous supplier.
Since partnering with Stone, ordering a new wave of devices is a very simple process; they pre-build the PCs for us so that there is very little hassle at the other end. Their on-site engineers configure the ICT in such a way that they’re put on the desk, plugged in, and fully-working within about half an hour. This saves so much time and hassle for my team because instead of having to spend the time setting it up, our own engineers are free to prioritise other things. The responsiveness is great, because I don’t want to have to be chasing stuff up, and when things do go wrong a quick phone call sorts it all out.
Stone is such an easy company to work with, and I was impressed by the diligent atmosphere of their production team when we visited their site last year; they really seemed to know what they were doing, and care about the result. The traceability of the process itself was impressive and it was really encouraging to see it first-hand. You could see every single step, and if there was a problem it would be easy to pinpoint and tackle it. I imagine that you wouldn’t get that with larger companies, simply because of their size. The more I saw of Stone, the more it became clear that they were the partner we needed.