Computers, internet use and digital equipment over the last 10 years has developed at a rapid pace. Many schools that are committed to providing the latest technology and facilities for students are often left unsure as to the most cost-effective and appropriate solutions for the school’s ICT infrastructure.

However, for a school in Stoke-on-Trent, the valuable advice they’ve received from a specialist ICT provider has supported them for over 10 years to access the latest technology and benefit from cost-effective IT solutions.

In November 2016, this school, The King’s Church of England Secondary School and Sixth Form, opened the doors of its new £14 million building, boasting exceptional facilities including dedicated computing suites; high spec science laboratories; Wi-Fi throughout the school, a community hub and expansive technology areas with 3D print and design rooms.

As a state-of-the-art educational facility, The King’s School (formerly Clough Hall Technology School) is equipped to deliver high quality education for over 700 students in a modern learning environment.
This recent modernisation is indicative of the school’s long term commitment to continually ensure students are provided with the best possible equipment for learning; a commitment that has been supported for over 10 years by school ICT specialists, First Class Technologies.

2006 – The King’s School Selects Expert ICT Support

As a specialist technology school in 2006, a significant challenge for the school was to ensure that it continually invested in the latest technologies to provide students with the tools that they needed.

In order to achieve this, it was important for the school to identify expert ICT technicians that they could rely on for long-standing technical support and advice.

Therefore in 2006, the school engaged the ICT services of First Class Technologies due to their proven track record in the education sector.

The first task would be to help the school migrate their existing network from a propriety operating system, to a standard Microsoft platform.  Over subsequent years, the school benefited immensely from the Microsoft solution which adequately served its purpose and provided a sound, reliable and resilient core platform for additional developments to be built on as required.

From that point forward, the school’s own ICT department would also rely on First Class Technologies to provide expertise and an external perspective whenever it was required.

2011 – Realising the Power of Virtualisation

Although the existing Microsoft platform had served the school well for over 5 years, a large increase in computers throughout the school now meant that by 2011, the school required 11 servers to support several hundred desktops across the campus.

First Class Technologies identified that the school was suffering from ‘server sprawl’, with parts of the system becoming obsolete and many servers reaching capacity and consuming high resources from the school.

A key consideration for the school was a need to balance the required financial investment in advancing the incumbent technology against budget restraints. On one hand, the school had to manage the ever-increasing challenges around budget cuts, and on the other hand, it needed to invest in the latest technologies.

The school turned to First Class Technologies for advice and to explore various options for overcoming the server sprawl, including how to keep costs down and continue to introduce the latest technologies and improve efficiency.

The traditional option of investing in 11 replacement servers and additional ones to cope with their need for extra capacity wasn’t an option; the costs involved would have considerably exceeded the schools budget.

After taking all factors into consideration, First Class Technologies recommended consolation of existing servers by implementing a virtualised solution that would be based on just four physical hosts. Two of which would be the schools existing Dell Power Edge servers upgraded to suit purpose and two additional Dell PE servicers along with an associated Dell SAN (Storage Area Network).  At the core of the new network would be a VMware virtualised platform.

This virtualisation based solution proved to be an ideal resolution to the issue faced by the school and offered a number of key advantages.

The main benefit would be the cost savings; instead of replacing numerous servers, this option meant that they only had to invest in 2 new devices. Furthermore, long term savings would also be achieved because of the system’s ability to cope with expansion (a virtualisation platform is specifically designed to consolidate storage).

Another key advantage of introducing a virtualisation solution is its ability to dramatically improve disaster recovery.  Due to the clustered nature of virtualisation, all platforms are linked to a central system that has the ability to dynamically manage any failure.  Because no single server holds just one specific application, should one server crash the other 3 continue running and as a result there is no user downtime.

In addition, the virtualised solution is cloud based, therefore it has capacity for growth without the need for continually introducing new hardware.  This will eliminate any future server sprawl and enable expansion as required with minimum financial outlay.  This was a solution designed to cope with considerable growth at limited cost.

First Class Technologies implemented the virtualisation system during the summer months to minimise disruption.  The entire process took just a few weeks to install and resulted in only half a day of downtime.  They also worked with the school’s own technicians to further drive costs down and at the same time educate them on the solution.

2016 – Expanding into State-of-the-Art Technology

The school’s trusted long term relationship with First Class Technologies helped to support them with their redevelopments and expansions; including the installation of hundreds of broadband-ready computers for students, interactive whiteboards and projectors, as well as upgrades of the dining facility equipped with biometric cashless vending.

So, when a grant was received by the Education Funding Agency to enable the school to move to a purpose-built, state-of-the-art educational facility, First Class Technologies were once again asked to support the complex technical move. Following a quick and seamless transition, along with continual network support, The King’s School complex was ready for its grand opening in November 2016.

Regarding the technical services and support that has been provided by First Class Technologies, Business Manager at The King’s School, Richard Norris comments:

“Like many schools we are facing a number of challenges at the present time.  It’s absolutely vital for us that we continue to invest in our technologies if we are to give our students the best possible learning experience and to help us continue to attract the best staff.”

What impresses me most about working with First Class Technologies is their ability to understand our needs and recommend solutions that address those needs, working alongside and in consultation with our own technical staff. I believe that this understanding is in part attributed to First Class Technologies’ vast and proven experience of working within the education sector, which has a unique dynamic and which presents a number of specific challenges.”

“The First Class Technologies team are incredibly supportive and helpful.  They are reliable and on the rare occasions that we need to call on them, they react swiftly and professionally. The most important attribute for any supplier is design solutions which are, to the extent possible, future-proof and which are cost-effective.

I would recommend First Class Technologies without hesitation to other educational establishments.”

Long Term ICT Support Provides Additional Benefits

For many schools that are dedicated to keeping apace with the continual changes of the digital world, the challenge of finding expert advice and services that can meet specific needs without exploiting the delicate educational budgets can be rare.

That’s why when First Class Technologies work with educational establishments such as schools and universities, they work closely with the departments to establish solutions that meet their needs not just today, but long into the future.

Evidence of such support is seen in the recommendations provided by First Class Technologies, including the King’s School VMware Virtualisation Solution which supported the school not only with cost savings, but with multiple benefits including:

  • Reduction in hardware
  • Improvement in disaster recovery
  • Scalable solutions for growth
  • Multiple operating systems from a single computer
  • Optimum performance of applications
  • Reduced carbon footprint

Rather than a transactional relationship, First Class Technologies work to establish a strong partnership with schools, colleges and universities – to develop a working relationship that delivers exceptional support, utilises the latest technologies and works within the specific needs and budgets of each establishment.

 

To benefit from cost-saving professional advice and a reliable, trusted working relationship – email First Class Technologies or call 01543 414 152.

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Cyber Attack Crime
Cyber Attack Crime

Machine learning is not a new-fangled security technology, but it is poised to be a crucial element in battling known and unknown ransomware threats and exploit kit attacks, among others. Machine learning is deployed through a layered system with human- and computer-provided inputs running through mathematical algorithms.

This model is then pitted against network traffic, allowing a machine to make quick and accurate decisions about whether the network content—files and behaviours—are malicious or not.

Enterprises must also ready themselves with proven protection against the anti-evasion techniques that threat actors will introduce in 2017. This challenge calls for a combination (versus a silver-bullet type approach) of different security technologies that should be available across the network to form a connected threat defence.

Technologies like:
• Advanced anti-malware (beyond blacklisting)
• Antispam and antiphishing at the Web and messaging gateways
• Web reputation
• Breach detection systems
• Application control (whitelisting)
• Content filtering
• Vulnerability shielding
• Mobile app reputation
• Host- and network-based intrusion prevention
• Host-based firewall protection

A majority of today’s threats can be detected by the aforementioned techniques working together, but in order to catch zero-day and “unknown” threats, enterprises must use behaviour and integrity monitoring as well as sandboxing.

IoT affords both risks and conveniences. Smart device users should learn to secure their routers before allowing any smart device to access the Internet through them. They should then include security as a consideration when buying a new smart device.

Does it provide for authentication or allow password changes? Can it be updated? Can it encrypt network communications? Does it have open ports? Does its vendor provide firmware updates?

Enterprises that collect data from EU citizens should expect a bump in administrative expenses as they grapple with major process changes and hire DPOs to comply with the GDPR. A thorough review of a company’s data protection strategy will also help in passing audits.
These new challenges require a new take on endpoint security, a cross-generational security approach combining proven threat-detection techniques for known and unknown threats with advanced protection techniques such as application control, exploit prevention and behavioural analysis, sandbox detection, and high-fidelity machine learning.

Training employees against social engineering attacks and about the latest threats like BEC will complete the security culture needed to fortify an enterprise’s defences for 2017 and beyond.

If you interested in knowing more about making your network as secure as possible then please get in touch with us. We have a number of great products that can help to either protect your network or quickly recover your data in the event of an attack

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3CX-Partner

We have recently installed and setup a 3CX VOIP phone system for one of our clients based in Nottingham. This was an interesting project because our client already had a hosted VOIP phone system. However they were getting frustrated with the lack of flexibility of the current system and when the VOIP hoster had an issue and they were without phones for four days, they decided it was time to change. FCT have installed the latest 3CX VOIP phone system on their network utilising a spare PC they had, as the new 3CX phone system server. They are now benefitting from much better control of their own system, a more reliable system and they are saving money every month with our SIP trunk package, which includes free phone calls!

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