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Background

Established in 2015, Trinity Multi Academy Trust is a high-performing and rapidly growing education network in and around West Yorkshire. The trust, which began by opening Trinity Academy Halifax to address underperformance at secondary school level, now consists of five thriving education establishments.

Supporting children and young people from nursery through to sixth form, the trust has gained national recognition for a number of outstanding achievements and performance ratings. With an overarching vision across the trusts group of like-minded schools, Trinity MAT aims to make a positive difference on a wider scale, and deliver quality teaching, inspirational learning and an innovative curriculum to all its pupils.

Oliver Alcock is the Trust’s Director of ICT and has a diverse role that covers everything from procurement to overseeing IT support. A key task for Oliver is to manage contracts and infrastructure across the schools and he is currently working to standardise systems to streamline IT management and ensure consistent and quality digital experiences for all students and staff.

Challenge

As a part of the strategy to standardise the infrastructure across the trust, Oliver wanted to begin with server refreshes starting with one of the flagship schools.

The solutions in the different establishments were inconsistent and distinct from one another, which, as a central MAT support team, was causing a huge headache from an IT perspective and was making maintenance increasingly time consuming and unnecessarily complicated.

  • “It was a massive mish-mash of solutions. Generally, the schools had a large mix of different servers with separate storage networks.” Oliver explained, “They’re comprised of a number of completely different systems all by different manufacturers which adds an extra layer of complexity that we really don’t need.”

    Running an aging and increasingly unreliable server setup was also causing issues on a ground level for students and staff as well as being costly for the trust and so Oliver reached out to find a solution.

Solution

Oliver was interested in hyper-converged infrastructure and looked into a variety of solutions from a number of different suppliers. He had already met with Stone to discuss new OVS agreements, and it was from this that conversations opened up surrounding the trusts server requirements, and where Oliver was introduced to the Stone Equinox.

The Equinox is Stone’s hyper-converged virtualisation platform that’s a high-performance alternative to traditional Server and SAN solutions. Utilising Microsoft’s industry-leading Hyper-V platform and the latest Intel® technologies such as Intel® QuickAssist, the Stone Equinox provides impressive speed, storage and scalability, at a fraction of the cost of competing solutions.

Upon discussing the Stone Equinox with his dedicated Stone account manager, Oliver discussed how the platform rose to the top for value-for-money and performance. “We spoke to a number of different suppliers about hyper-converged solutions, and both price-wise and feature-wise, the Equinox was the winner.”

Bringing the server and storage in to one unified appliance would alleviate the management challenges that the multiple systems in the existing setup created, in addition to providing cost-savings and performance gains. “The existing servers were slow, expensive and difficult to manage, and the Equinox provided an all-in-one solution.”

And so, Stone worked with Oliver and his team to come up with a personalised project plan for the first Equinox solution, and it was decided that the installation would be undertaken as a joint effort between trust and Stone. Oliver said, “We wanted a bespoke installation process as we have a certain way of doing things, and Stone were happy to help us come up with a solution to make this work.”

An installation date was set, and Stone made the bespoke configurations as outlined by the trust. As the date arrived, Stones fully-accredited engineers worked collaboratively with Oliver and his team to achieve a smooth installation. One year later, the trust is extremely impressed with the solution.

“It has really benefitted us on the IT side of things, and this has filtered positive effects down to the students and teaching staff as well.” Oliver explained, “It’s faster and there’s more storage which gives us much more freedom with what we can do with it. We also have peace of mind with the next day onsite repairs which is great.”

The solution has also been helping the trust to balance their budgets. “The Equinox platform has saved us a lot of money which we’ve been able to use on other things. It uses a lot less energy and produces less heat which means we’re saving money on things like air conditioning to keep them cool; cutting down our bills and reducing our energy consumption.”

The trust has also utilised Stone Virtualisation Support Services (VSS), which provides an amplified level of virtualisation support in a flexible, cost-effective package. “Stone VSS has been great. We initially just took out 1 year, but it’s so helpful that we’ve carried the contract on.” Oliver added, “It’s just having that guardian angel and constant communication and email updates that highlight changes or issues. If we miss anything, Stones support picks up on it and it’s resolved.”

The relationship between the trust and Stone is going from strength to strength, and Oliver has been impressed with the commitment he has received from the team. “The support from Stone is great – we get fast responses and same day assistance, compared to other support providers where you can find yourself waiting 3 days before you even get a reply.”

He’s also felt the benefits of having a dedicated account manager, “John has been excellent. With any sales assistance or requests, he’s very responsive.”  Oliver continued, “Any problems or queries – even with implementation or installation – he’s quickly resolved or put us in contact with the right person to get the results we needed, so hats off to him!”

Oliver also discussed how in the future the trust is also interested in upgrading their devices to Stone kit, “We’ve tended to use a select few brands for our devices, but I’ve been swayed by the Stone desktops PCs.”

Stone has been working with the trust on this project for over a year, and they have two Equinox platforms that will be installed in two more schools by the end of the year. For the trust, the end goal will be achieved when all five schools will be standardised with Equinox to provide a consistent and unified solution across the board.

The support from Stone is great - we get fast responses and same day assistance, compared to other support providers where you can find yourself waiting 3 days before you even get a reply.

Oliver Alcock, Director of ICT

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