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

We’re thrilled to announce that The Dean Trust have chosen us as their partner of choice, to create a hybrid cloud platform using our brand new Unity cloud and digital transformation solution specifically for Multi Academy Trusts (MATs).

Designed to enable MATS to migrate their ICT to the cloud at a pace that works for them, Unity allows academies to deliver consistent, scaleable services across their schools. Trusts can provide each school with access to the same applications, data and resources, while maintaining a simple converged appliance on site to provide local storage until they are ready to fully embrace the cloud.

The Dean Trust currently operates in three Local Authorities: Manchester, Trafford and Knowsley. They are currently comprised of eight schools and academies in both the primary and secondary sectors, with immediate plans to grow to ten schools and beyond.

The Dean Trust’s IT Director, Mike Ward, explains: “One centralised IT solution that provides for the needs of all of our schools was a no-brainer as it means we can make far better use of our resources and deliver the same high-quality services across each of our academies. Stone’s Unity solution also provides a much stronger foundation for growth – as well as enabling us to harmonise and optimise the services we provide. With Unity we can bring on new schools a lot faster because we know we can get them up and running in a fraction of the time.”

The Dean Trust is one of very few MATs to be creating its own hybrid cloud rather than going with a pay-as-you-go public cloud model.

Mike comments: “This model offers us a one-off capital cost that we’re in control of. With our current number of schools, our requirements are a known entity, and as we grow we have the option of plugging in public cloud services from the Microsoft Azure platform to get the best of both worlds.

“The National Funding Formula is changing, there’s less money available, and IT is a significant expense. It’s true that not many schools are looking into their own data centres at the moment, but if you look at the industry – centralising and rationalising services is standard practice. There’s no reason schools shouldn’t do the same.”

Simon Harbridge, CEO at Stone, comments: “The Stone Unity solution helps fast-growing and forward-looking MATs, like The Dean Trust, address the challenge of inherited inconsistent ICT across the schools and academies they take on board. Schools within an MAT will likely have diverse legacy ICT infrastructures and will be at different points in their IT investment cycle. With Unity, all members can access the same services and benefit regardless of the legacy infrastructure currently in place.”

“Stone was our clear choice for a number of reasons,” continues Mike. “Firstly, they offered the most cost-effective solution, which is crucial in the current environment. Secondly, the team spent a lot of time with us to make sure they understood our specific needs. When you combine that with their unparalleled understanding of the technology, it was clear that they were the best supplier for the job. At the end of the day, the children attending our schools are the most important part of what we do, and the Stone team get that.”

The project will be carried out in stages, with phase one taking place around the February half term and phase two set for early March. These initial stages will put the core infrastructure in place, with plans for much more, including provision of cloud collaboration tools, to follow.

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