Stone Group - Providing digital transformation solutions to organisations across the UK.

The Background

The Chesterfield College Group is a leading provider of further and higher education, apprenticeships and professional training.  Situated in the heart of the community, the wide range of both vocational and academic courses on offer mean the college works closely with local employers, as well as other education partners.

The Group also has an employer engagement arm known as Learning Unlimited.  With teams based in Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham and Manchester, the Chesterfield College Group has over 10,000 students and apprentices.

In Chesterfield itself, students work across numerous sites, from traditional classrooms in the college to vocational workshops in auto garages or sports centres.  Looking after the IT for this wide-ranging portfolio is Head of ICT Matthew Day.  Along with a team of 13 staff, Matthew is responsible for maintaining the smooth running of the thousands of desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and teaching and learning systems used by both staff and students.

The Problem

Like many educational establishments, the management team were faced with budget cuts whilst still having to deliver a first-class service.  The IT team had to manage and maintain equipment that was out of date and no longer fit for purpose.  “Our desktops were unreliable with a high failure rate,” said Matthew.  “This meant my technicians were spending a lot of time trying to repair them, while users were frustrated with slow start ups and sluggish responses.”

With over 1000 PCs to upgrade and replace, investing in a bulk of brand-new equipment was going to cause difficulty financially.  Matthew considered solutions such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, but concluded there were no significant cost savings to be had for his case.  He also contemplated terminal services, but determined they would not provide the flexibility he required.

The Group had worked with Stone previously to buy the occasional new piece of kit, and so he asked them if they could help him find a solution to the dilemma.  How could he replace the ageing IT infrastructure with modern, reliable machines with the limited budget he had?

Matthew’s dedicated account manager at Stone proposed Stone Approved®, an extensive range of professionally refurbished second-user equipment that provides a lower cost alternative to purchasing new technology.

“Users were frustrated with slow start ups and sluggish responses”

Matthew Day – Head of IT 

Stone is always happy to help and always available

Matthew Day - Head of IT - Chesterfield College Group

The Solution

As the only OEM and value-added reseller with their own, onsite award winning recycling facility, Stone are in the unique position of being able to make used kit like new.  Stone’s team of experts take every single returned device to inspect, test and examine with the upmost precision.  Some of the equipment in this category has been returned because a client has changed their mind, some of it is returned because of cosmetic damage, and some will have a fault.

Each piece of kit Stone collect to recycle undergoes a stringent data erasure process using industry leading software Blancco, to ensure unwanted data-bearing kit is wiped clear to the highest security standards and in compliance with GDPR. The team find and fix any damage or faults, and all software is reset to factory settings so that each item is as close to its original manufactured state as possible.

Any equipment that is deemed unfit for refurbishment is responsibly disposed of with the environment in line. Equipment that is suitable for a second lease of life is then professionally refurbished by Stone engineers. As the recycling and refurbishment process if handled in house by Stone, 100% of any residual value goes back to the customer the equipment was collected from in the form of cash rebates. Every Stone Approved device comes with a Certificate of Genuine Authenticity and a 3-year no quibble warranty as standard for peace of mind.

Matthew said: “When we were first introduced to the idea of using refurbished equipment, we were skeptical, as there is a tendency to assume that refurbished means second hand, and therefore, second best.  We decided to try Stone Approved equipment on a small scale first.”

Stone provided some bits of kit for Chesterfield Group to trial. The feedback Matthew and his team received from the pilot scheme was excellent.  The machines delivered on all their promises and any reservations there may have been about using recycled equipment soon disappeared.  Stone were asked to start replacing all the end of life machines for Chesterfield with the Stone Approved® equipment.

“We tend to replace the machines in batches of several hundred during school holidays,” said Matthew.  “We order what we need and Stone build them. Thankfully Stone has a bonded warehouse facility which has proved invaluable as there is no way the college could securely store more than a few pieces of equipment at one time.”

Chesterfield want PCs that are good all-rounders and so most of the refurbished kit are Stone Approved® tier 1 branded devices. Stone provides the kit with a Microsoft Licence, but without any software, at the College’s request.

“We want our machines to be a blank sheet of paper as we have so many different environments; from administration to curriculum, to learning centres and IT suites.  It’s just easier for us to do our own imaging on the equipment.  Although Stone does offer that service should we need it.”

In addition, the College Group has purchased some brand-new machines for where they need a high specification such as those found on CAD, graphics and developer work stations.

The Stone Difference

As a Microsoft Gold Partner the Stone is able to take care of the licensing negotiations for Chesterfield College Group, which is something Matthew is very grateful for.

“Licensing can be a minefield that takes a lot of time,” he said.  “Stone take all the hassle away from us – and is able to access licensing at a lower cost too.  I don’t even have to think about it.”

As Stone start to replace the old PCs with the refurbished kit, those users who have the Stone Approved® machines have already noticed a difference.  The old machines can have start up time of 20 minutes compared to around a minute with the new kit, which is a huge difference especially for the teaching staff.

Matthew adds: “Our dilemma was how to replace our aging IT fleet with a fast, reliable and responsive, general purpose PC that was flexible enough to suit the various needs of our diverse users. The Stone Approved kit has not only solved the dilemma, but has done so at half the price of a new machine, and so is within our budget.”

An additional benefit is that using Stone Approved machines is doing wonders for the Group’s environmental credentials too. Using refurbished equipment offers a sustainable approach to IT refreshes and also means the Group is not paying top price for brand new kit that starts to deplete in value from day one.

“Stone has so many partnerships with providers and manufacturers, and this tremendous knowledge across the industry which they share with us”

Matthew Day – Head of IT 

Having experienced the quality of Stone Approved® kit I doubt we will ever buy new general PCs again

Matthew Day - Head of IT - Chesterfield College Group

Stone Quality

As a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, clients recognise they are getting a quality machine, backed up with a three-year peace of mind warranty and at the same time they are doing their bit for the environment. Stone is determined to ensure that IT equipment does not end up as e-waste, and as a Stone Approved user, the College Group is also playing its part.

Matthew says the process of ordering, building and delivering the machines to site is now down to a fine art with a smooth process from start to finish.  “If we do have any issues with Stone, I like the fact they work to our deadlines rather than theirs,” he said.

“It’s great to have one point of contact for all queries, and we are never passed from one department to another.  Stone has so many partnerships and contacts with providers and manufacturers and we know they have this tremendous knowledge across the industry which they share with us.”

“We really enjoy the networking and learning events they provide for customers as well, as not only do we get to meet colleagues from other institutions, but we can talk to industry leaders first hand and learn about future developments in the sector which is invaluable for IT managers.”

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