The RM Group
Published 01 October 2007

Reducing strain on the ICT team

Outsourcing services at Withington Girls School

Withington Girls School in Manchester has a three-strong ICT support team. This team is led by the school's Network Manager, Sue Jenks. Throughout Sue's ten years at the school she has developed procedures that help to ensure that the school's ICT is supported to an exceptional standard.

Here Sue talks about a new service that she has used to enable her to make more time for pupils and teachers. Finding this time may sound easier that it is in reality.

The balancing act facing school ICT support teams

School ICT teams around the country face a daily balancing act. With multiple high-priority demands on their time, choices have to be made between essential network maintenance tasks and assisting pupils and teachers. With both responsibilities significantly impacting teaching at the school, it can be difficult to decide which to do first.

Adding to this, user expectations are rising. As the quality of ICT support improves over the years, user expectations become higher - particularly around response times.

So how can schools meet these increasing expectations without any additional hours in the day?

Withington Girls School tell us how they have achieved this with the use of RM Network Checks.

Outsourcing tasks to improve network support

Since Autumn 2006, RM Education has been performing the essential daily checks for Withington Girls School.

Sue no longer needs to put off other tasks so that she can perform backup or hard disk space checks each morning. Instead, RM Education performs these checks for Withington Girls school and send Sue a daily email with information on whether RM have found any issues that she needs to address. Sue can then call RM, or RM can call Sue to resolve this issue - already logged in RM's list of calls to be addressed.

Here's what Sue thinks about the service and how it can improve ICT support in schools:

"We chose to try RM Network Checks because we didn't have the time to dedicate to checking our backups every day. We had a fire two years ago so we are very aware of the importance of effective backup solutions.

"The service has made a big difference. We have the security we need and we don't have to worry about doing the checks.

"Before we had RM Network Checks we used to perform these checks most days, but with all the best will in the world it can be easy to miss it when other issues come up. In reality you can't always be as dedicated as you would like to be or plan to be. It means that the checks get done even when other urgent tasks take priority. If we're out we can even check the results from home.

"The service probably saves us about 1 hour per day, plus the time that you save by preventing something from going wrong. Now that I have the service I am aware of all of the things that could go wrong so it would take me even longer than before!

"It's great to come into work to a summary email first thing in the morning. This gives us real reassurance. Nine days out of ten everything may be fine, and we can just have a quick glance. The other day it focuses us and makes sure that we act on important issues.

"The service exceeds my expectations. The proactive element of the service is much greater than we had expected. It feels like the Network Checks team are part of our school now. You can accept that they will be there and help you when you need them to.

The Network Checks team has found issues every week. One day last week, after the checks had been performed, we received an alert stating that the server hadn't backed up. We also received another alert the next day stating that they hadn't been able to perform checks because of problems on the root server. This was flagged to RM Services who followed up on that. Calls about server space have also prevented significant network issues".

Benefits to the rest of the school

"The service gives teachers reassurance as well as us. It ensures that they don't run out of space when they try to save something (such as an exam), and also helps to ensure that the backups have been performed and they don't lose work.

"If someone deletes a file, they know that they will be able to get it back. There will be space to save everything, and we are available to help more.

"The service allows us to have more time to support the teachers and pupils around the school. We feel more able to help and we are able to spend more time with teachers, resolving their ICT issues. We can concentrate on providing a service with fewer small maintenance tasks eating up our day".

Withington Girls School's conclusion

"We think that the service is excellent value for money. Well worth it! We have just renewed for the next year and had absolutely no hesitations with renewing.

"I would give it ten out of ten. It delivers everything that we wanted it to. I can't think of anything further that we would want. We get all the information that we need, and in a quick and efficient format. We can just rely on the service without doubting.

"I have a lot of trust in RM checking our network. It is important to have someone technically aware at the appropriate level checking our servers. This reliability is one of the most important factors for us.

"In my experience I would advise schools to go for Network Checks. Look at all of the tasks that you need to do, and compare this with what you have time to do. It's important to find the right balance. If you can't find the time to do everything that you need to do, then get someone else to do it - Delegate it to the experts".

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