Partnership Sees Newcastle Prep School Set New Standards

Issue 17

Jesmond-based Newcastle Preparatory School is blazing a trail and setting new standards in schools IT management thanks to a partnership with ICT experts ITPS, which has seen the school move its entire infrastructure to a cloud-based model that delivers better value for money and more structured management and monitoring.

The 130-year old school is the only independent prep school in the Tyneside area to specialise in the education of children from three to 11 years of age. A thoroughly modern school with a great history, NPS prides itself on providing a warm, caring environment in which children experience success, both academic and extra-curricular, whilst growing in confidence and self-esteem. The school is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, which judges it to be excellent in every aspect of school life.

With access to the latest technology now forming a cornerstone of school life, when Bursar Susan Easton and her team decided on an IT infrastructure refresh, ITPS was invited in for discussions.

ITPS account director David Bradbury takes up the story: “The NPS team knew they needed to upgrade their IT, and were looking for some expert help to establish the right route to take.

Taking the decision to partner with ITPS was a good one.

“Our work with a large client base of schools and colleges has given us an insight into the issues they face in maintaining an efficient and cost effective IT infrastructure. Schools want to know what other schools are doing in terms of best practice, and what’s possible, and that’s where we add value.

“NPS’s previous infrastructure consisted of a bank of onsite servers, and we were able to demonstrate that rather than simply replacing like with like, a better solution would be to wipe out all the cost and effort involved in maintaining that, switch to virtual servers and house the IT infrastructure in a secure, private cloud, hosted in our state of the art data centre instead.

“From the client’s point of view one of the big advantages of this model is that we continually and heavily invest in the best, most up to date and secure technology, so they don’t need to.

“Many schools are making large capital expenditure decisions based on outdated IT models, but NPS is a perfect example of how to embrace new technology and get much better value from the IT budget. If they had simply replaced like with like, it would have cost many tens of thousands to achieve the same level of IT resilience, speed and security as they currently enjoy.”

After going out to tender and holding discussions with several IT providers, the NPS team visited ITPS’s £4m data centre in Chester le Street, spoke to several of its schools clients, liked what they heard, and awarded the contract to ITPS.

The project team developed a plan that saw the onsite server estate consolidated into an effective number of virtual servers housed in ITPS’s data centre and linked via a 200MB line giving super-fast connection speeds. Software platforms were updated, files were migrated across and the majority of the work was carried out during school holidays, minimising any interruption to school service and supporting a smooth implementation.

The result is that NPS now has a highly available IT infrastructure with improved internet speeds, better network resilience and fixed, predictable costs.

As part of the deal, ITPS provides a managed support service using sophisticated network management tools which monitor for and fix problems, backed up by a 24/7 helpdesk. NPS also has access to ITPS’s fully equipped workspace recovery centre, so staff can relocate in the face of any kind of interruption at the school.

“They were very good at listening to what we wanted to do, and then proposing a solution that solved our problems. For instance, in common with many schools our in-house IT person also teaches and problems cannot always be dealt with immediately. As IT itself becomes more complicated, that became a bigger issue, so having access to a permanent helpdesk is particularly useful because we know problems will be dealt with immediately.

“We are still very much in control of our IT, but we trust ITPS to take responsibility. We also have the benefit of fixed IT costs far below what it would have cost us to replace like for like, and we often find that IT problems are resolved before we even know about them.

“That’s a good position to be in, and one which frees us to get on with running a very successful school.”

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