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St Edward’s College is a Catholic academy, providing education to over 1000 children from across Liverpool and further afield. The majority of pupils are young people of all abilities who want to experience a traditional, academic
curriculum combined with Catholic culture. Academic standards and expectations are high, and the curriculum offers breadth, choice and challenge at all key stages. It’s a highly successful school in which young people are challenged and supported in equal measure.

As the choir school to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, the school has high standards in music, in addition to excellent exam results and a much success in a variety of sports. St Edward’s plays a prominent role within the community, with many pupils taking part in voluntary and charity work, while the school’s sports facilities are available for community use during the evenings and weekends.

 

The Problem

David Armsby is the IT Network Manager for the College and is supported by one IT Technician. David has worked with Stone Group since 2005, and the college has gone through several whole school PC refreshes with the business.

With a dedicated secondary school team, Stone prides itself on recognising how schools must balance budgetary
pressures against providing the latest technology to engage students. They work with industry leaders to provide software, hardware, server and licensing solutions to schools across the country.

In 2019, St Edwards were ready for another PC refresh. David said: “Our youngest PCs were around six years old and our oldest about eleven years old. This time around, however, we didn’t have the budget to buy new machines. Another issue was migrating all our PCs to Windows 10, which was not viable on some of the older machines. However, it was when our old servers dropped out of warranty and the suppliers said they wanted £16,000 a year to continue their support, that we realised we needed to take a different approach.”

The college decided that leasing rather than buying the new equipment would make financial sense. At the same time, they decided it was the ideal opportunity to invest in a complete IT strategy to replace, not just the hardware, including 380 Windows 10 PCs, but also the server infrastructure and licensing.

They initiated a tender process and several companies were invited to provide solutions. Stone won the tender based not only on competitive pricing, but the quality of the equipment they proposed. This included Stone branded Windows 10 devices and software, Meraki switches and Equinox servers.

“Stone has been an outstanding partner for many years, we have always purchased Stone devices when we renew as they represent excellent value for money. In addition, I never fail to be impressed with the service I receive from both the head office and the engineers.”

David Armsby, IT Network Manager

“One of the reasons we like working with Stone is because they make everything so easy, with a team of two responsible for the entire school IT, it’s so important we have reliable support and Stone have the PC refresh down to a fine art.”

David Armsby, IT Network Manager

The Solution

Stone sent one of the new Windows 10 PCs to David, who built it to his specification and added Windows 10 and software such as SIMS (the school’s app). He then returned that machine to Stone, where their expert technicians copied his specification to the other 379 Windows 10 PCs.

“This is such a great way to work,” said David. “It saves us so much time to have the PCs already imaged and built. What’s more, the PCs are safely stored in Stone’s bonded warehouse so that we can just call them off in batches as and when we need them. All we have to do is take them out of their boxes, plug them in and they are ready to be used.”

Stone is happy to pre-image machines for schools who often have a tight schedule and limited IT support and, in this case, the entire PC network was renewed and up and running in a few weeks.

The college’s former server was based on a standard SAN which frequently reached capacity limits, suffered hardware failure and generally saw us doing a lot of trouble shooting. However, a new 32 TB Stone Equinox server has been installed. This hyper converged visualisation platform is ideal for the developing needs of the education sector and comes at a fraction of the cost of similar competing propositions. In addition, the college has had 46 new Cisco Meraki network switches installed including one new core switch to replace the former HP solution which is almost 12 years old.

As a Cisco Premier Partner Stone boasts a long-standing partnership with this brand leader and we specialise in all areas of delivery.

Did you know Stone offer Windows Autopilot services for the congifuration of your Windows 10 devices? We can deliver Windows 10 devices ready to go, straight to your users. There’s no need to reimage or manually set up new devices before handing them out, Stone manage the whole process for you.

We offer two Windows Autopilot services, User Driven Mode and Pre-provisioned Deployment. User-driven mode enables your Windows 10 devices to be transformed into a ready-to-use state without requiring an IT team to ever touch the device. With Pre-provisioned Deployment, the user-driven experience is unchanged, but further development from us means getting your device to a fully provisioned state is faster.

Find out more about Windows Autopilot here.

“We have had amazing feedback about the speed and performance of the Windows 10 devices. Teachers in particular were always frustrated at the length of time it took them to log on in the morning as under the old system it could take up to ten minutes. Now, however, they are ready to go in around 15 seconds.”

David Armsby, IT Network Manager

The Results

The school has a Windows 10 PC in every classroom, and has eight IT suites, six of which are for in-school work and two for students to use for homework. All 380 of the new PCs are up and running and in use throughout the school by pupils, teaching staff and administration staff.

The Stone custom built machines are Windows 10 Pro, 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processors with 8 GB RAM and 240 GB SSD. Certain lessons require the PCs to work harder such as film studies, film animation and multi media studies and David says both pupils and staff are thrilled with the power and performance of the new machines compared to the old ones.

“Every single device has a five-year warranty which provides next day support,” said David. “We don’t need to worry about anything because the fabulous customer care offered by Stone takes the strain.”

In addition, Stone is also taking the strain when it comes to recycling the old machines. Recycling was included in the installation price and once David and his colleague have catalogued all the old machines, Stone will recycle them completely free of charge. Stone’s recycling centre ensures old PCs are collected in GPS tracked vehicles, dismantled and recycled accordingly. Any data on the machines are erased using industry leading data wiping software.

“We don’t need to think about disposing of the old machines which could cost us a lot of money,” said David. “We don’t even have to spend time wiping them as Stone have all the necessary credentials to do that securely. Better still, Stone believe we may even be entitled to a rebate on the old machines and, recycling is obviously so much better for the
environment. It’s win – win.”

The Meraki switches now provide much greater management over the network and as the college had instances where the old switches failed, the ten-year support offered in this instance means the new system is future proofed. The speed of the new network has already been noted across the college but from an IT point of view, it offers David
much more storage than the previous system. “Once again, I have to say it’s that Stone support that’s the big win for me,” said David. “They offer full maintenance and monitoring which means Stone can detect any problems remotely and resolve it instantly. Another weight off my mind.”

Peace of mind is also provided by the fail-safe server, a piece of kit that is in place purely for data back-up of the whole system, and in the unlikely event that the system fails, this provides a straight restore and was part of Stone’s specification.

As so much education software today is app based, David wanted to have iPads for 80 members of staff which were rolled into the overall lease agreement from Stone. “When teachers use iPads for registration and behaviour management it keeps the desk top PCs purely for teaching,” said David. “However, the tablets now allow teachers to access SIMS wherever they are in school and our PE staff really like them because it means they can take registers and make notes from the gym or on a playing field.”

Installation of the new server was done during a half term. This had already been preconfigured at Stone’s headquarters and Stone engineers transferred all the College data from the old server to the new system quickly and smoothly. “Of course, there was some nervousness about the migration process from my end, however, I had every faith in the on-site Stone team who were totally professional.”

David Armsby, IT Network Manager

The Future

The next step for the college is to work with Stone to develop a management solution that allows IT to manage and control the iPads so what is essentially school equipment does not become overloaded with personal data and apps.

As part of the infrastructure agreement Stone are creating a server that will all provide staff direct access to the network, allowing them to take their laptop home and log on to the network . “It will be really useful for staff to be able to see and access whole school resources from anywhere,” said David. “Stone is developing and configuring this for us as part of the overall deal.”

The college has found the lease option to be invaluable as it has provided an affordable solution to numerous problems. At the end of the five-year period, there is an option to purchase the equipment outright.

“Throughout this process, I have wanted to ensure that the entire IT infrastructure of the College is not only future proofed, but also backed up by experts I can rely on, the lease option provided by Stone has allowed us to give our children and staff the equipment they deserve at a cost we can afford and my colleague and I know that we have the backing of a professional and supportive company that behave like genuine partners.”

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