How to cost-effectively improve your school’s IT infrastructure

Dan May, commercial director at IT services provider Ramsac, explains how schools can save money whilst improving and streamlining infrastructure

In today’s modern teaching environment, IT is more important than ever. But some things never change, and one of those things is being able to roll out IT improvements cost-effectively. Sometimes, justifying your needs is simple. When staff struggle with slow PCs or dodgy wifi, you’ll find support coming out of the walls.

Other times, it’s much harder. Many aspects of IT management are unknown to most people. To get buy-in from all stakeholders, you need to educate people on the risks of not improving your IT and the benefits that upgrade will bring.

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If you can gain an understanding of what motivates each stakeholder, it can become much easier to get a larger share of stakeholder buy-in. Within the same department, people find that different things motivate them. The budget holder will want to know very different information than the end user, so ensure their unique needs and concerns are addressed.

Work with staff to identify expectations for technology use in schools. This often requires creative interpretation to identify what’s needed to meet goals today and to futureproof for growth in the years ahead.

It’s also important to work with facilities management personnel to coordinate technology infrastructure dependencies. Get a clear understanding of space needed for data centres, power, cooling and cabling.

Start with cabling

One of the easiest ways to improve your school’s IT performance is to improve the cabling. Fibre cables are reliable and provide fast transmission of data. Time is precious in schools and fibre provides for high-speed connections, over 1Gbps. This allows educators to stream content in seconds, without having to pause for buffering. This alone can provide a huge improvement to the end-user experience.

A fibre connection allows for high bandwidth and enables faster broadband. A fibre connection allows for high bandwidth and enables faster broadband.

Expand bandwidth

Without proper bandwidth, investing in hardware will not deliver good returns. Even the most up-to-date tablet can’t conjure an efficient internet connection.

Bandwidth management can keep everything flowing. While schools can (and should, up to a point) buy more bandwidth, management is better. It will help reduce the amount of spending while maximising efficiency.

To get buy-in from all stakeholders, you need to educate people on the risks of not improving your IT and the benefits that upgrade will bring.

For instance, a student downloading a new mobile game should never receive the same bandwidth as a teacher trying to work. Student devices can even be put on a separate, slower network, freeing up room for the educators to use on lessons.

While schools and universities can have their own servers, a cloud services provider can help ease this investment.

Factoring in IoT and BYOD

When considering costs, always remember that you have to manage more than computers in the classroom. Everyone – student and teacher – has a smartphone. Many others also have wearable technology like smartwatches and tablets. As the internet of things continues to grow, each device could sap bandwidth away from key areas.

This also represents a costly cybersecurity concern. School IT infrastructure should carry a layered password system. This will ensure that access is restricted to authorised users.

This will ensure that students only have as many permissions as they need. This keeps them away from confidential teacher data. The IT team will have oversight and the only administrator privileges on the network. This way if there is a breach, the potential damage will be contained.

Students can be placed on a separate network, freeing up bandwidth and reducing the likelihood of a school data breach.

Adding layers and security policies might sound like extra costs, but it will provide long term benefits and savings. When considering your IT infrastructure, it’s important to take into account the potential cost of a security breach or catastrophic loss of service.

Prepare to scale into 5G

Any education institution investing in wireless internet infrastructure needs to consider 5G. While not widely available now, 5G has already begun limited rollout. It will become widespread in 2020, according to IEEE 5G. This will serve as not only the next telecommunication standard. It will also empower higher capacity, massive machine communications.

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While it is still too soon to say what kind of wireless internet infrastructure 5G will bring, schools that need to update systems between now and 2020 should incorporate scalability into their infrastructure.

As schools and other education establishments begin improving their IT infrastructure, an experienced solutions provider can help smooth the transition and reduce cost spending.