Allerton Grange school, based in Leeds, works with public sector IT specialists Stone to refresh its ageing equipment – Here’s how they did it…
A school focused on growing and succeeding
At Allerton Grange, the whole school community is committed to the principles of Aspire, Grow and Succeed. It is a good and rapidly improving school where every student is expected to aspire to be the best they can be through hard work and good teaching.
The school also recognises that students achieve best when the school, students and parents work together. The school is also proud of its relationship with parents.
Ian Thomson is IT Manager at the school and is supported by IT Technician Rich West. The duo had been spending much of their time managing the problems thrown up by the school’s ageing servers, desktops and laptops. They were constantly nursing the old servers and were continually running around the school to replace parts and keep things physically working.
“Although our servers were not out of warranty, they were nearly five years old,” said Thomson. “Our wireless network was really slow and didn’t support Windows 8 or Windows 10 and the student desktops and many of the staff laptops were nine years old. Basically, the whole system was old and creaky and much of our time was spent firefighting problems.”
Ageing equipment in need of an upgrade
It was clear that the school needed to invest in upgrading the system and so, in early 2018, Thomson approached the management to explain how a new system would benefit the staff and students and equally importantly keep the school secure. They agreed that Ian could develop a solution to resolve the problems.
Thomson approached several companies including their current provider and described the issues that needed to be resolved, namely: new servers, a faster network, installation of Windows 10, an improved wireless and new kit for students and staff. Each provider gave a slightly different solution and price and these were taken to the school governing body which made the decision to give the contract to Stone.
The school had some experience of working with Stone previously. “We had laptops from Stone in the past and we were really impressed with their aftercare service,” said Thomson. “In fact, they even helped us out on a non-Stone network problem – there are not many companies that would give you help like that if you were not paying for it. As well as its service, Stone was very competitively priced and so it was an easy decision.”
A versatile offering
After being appointed, Stone attended several meetings on site with Thomson and West, and assigned a named project manager and technical consultant.
The school had to replace 500 desktop computers and laptops. Ian and Rich decided on the versatile StonePC Lite powered by 6th Generation Intel Core i3 and i5 Processors to refresh they’re outdated desktop estate. The StonePC Lite utilises immersive Intel HD Graphics to engage students, in a compact and flexible chassis with an array of connectivity options, making it easy to create the most effective workspaces.
To update their laptops, the school chose a mix of sophisticated Stonebook Pro devices and ultra-lightweight Stone Cloudbooks to best meet the diverse requirements in education. The devices chosen featured powerful 7th Gen Intel Core i5 and Intel Celeron processors respectively, providing reliability and performance on the go for both the students and teachers alike.
A collaborative implementation
The new kit arrived in June 2018 and was stored at the school ready for installation. Stone was able to carry out most of its work remotely, while Ian, Rich and another technician did the on-site work, although Stone was on site at various points.
The physical work necessary commenced on 24th July and 120 wireless access points had to be taken out of the ceiling and replaced with 78 new wireless points which are easier to manage for Ian and supported by the Stone helpdesk. The old server was replaced with the powerful yet cost-effective Stone Equinox, which makes use of the latest Intel technologies and scalable platforms to deliver a hyper-converged cluster-in-a-box solution, at a fraction of the cost of most competing solutions.
The Equinox platform utilises Intel QuickAssist Technology which speeds up critical workloads for staff, and features high-speed integrated Intel® Ethernet to lower power consumption and reduce costs to help the school operate more efficiently and with budget in mind.
“Stone built the network with us and did the all the ground work around building the System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) imaging,” explained Thomson.
This Microsoft device works with individual computers and then communicates back to the server. It allows the school to install specific software on an individual machine or group of machines and provides the IT team with the ability to intelligently and flexibly understand which computers need new updates and plug ins.
A refreshed solution for Allerton Grange
“The SCCM saves us a lot of work,” said Thomson, “it is amazing how it can handle a request to install say, Flash Player for example, on any computer that needs it.”
The main issue for the school was not only to ensure the work was all completed during the summer holidays but that the system would also be available mid-August so that GCSE and A-Level students could access their exam results.
During the holidays the staff were invited to test the software as it came on board and then give feedback – any issues were ironed out quickly. “That was typical of Stone,” said Thomson. “Any set back we had was resolved very quickly and so it was not a problem for very long. I would recommend using Stone’s solution and to buying their branded computers as they are so competitively priced but are just as good as any other.”