Boudica Schools Trust

The Boudica Schools Trust oversees the operational activities of several educational programmes and institutions, including the Sprowston Community Academy in north Norwich. The Trust prides itself on an ethos where pupils and staff feel secure and safe within the learning environment. This includes the responsibility to provide an effectively managed access control system to all entrances and exits to the Trust’s academies.

To manage the extensive IT network comprising Chrome books, PCs, laptops, phone systems, broadband/leased line connectivity, CCTV, and automated gates, the Trust reached out to Eastern
Voice and Data to carry out the installation and maintenance across more than 10 sites, including Sprowston. Soon it became apparent that the school’s networking infrastructure was not living up to the expectations of both staff and pupils. Sprowston Community Academy had been struggling with a slow network and this was restricting productivity related to lessons and admin. After conducting onsite surveys, Eastern Voice and Data identified problems with the school’s cabling infrastructure as both OM1 and OM2 fibre optic cabling was in serious need of replacing. The audit found that the wrong OM patch leads were being used across the site and also multiple subcabinets were linked via the switch of the previous cabinet, so if the first cabinet/switch had an issue, it would take all the following cabinets offline. This was also causing a bottleneck on the network as the most densely IT populated rooms were running from sub-cabinets at the end of the chain.

Challenges

The network has become an important tool for the 1,500 pupils and the teachers looking to engage them with a first-class education. However, with increased demand for connectivity, there are now high expectations for seamless digital teaching and learning experiences. In fact, the school’s network proved particularly challenging with its low speed, which subsequently resulted in disruption to classes.

Solutions and Benefits

The installation of the new and improved network system took place over the summer holiday period with Eastern Voice and Data upgrading the school’s network with a centralised cloud-based solution. The Zyxel Nebula cloud network can be managed remotely, minimising on-site visits from Eastern Voice and Data. Nebula helps to provide a high level of visibility of data and network usage including both wireless and hard-wired connection. Also, new 10GB switches replaced old 1GB switches and each cabinet has a direct 10Gbps fibre link to the main cabinet, helping to manage the data more efficiently and improving speeds across the network. Andrew Mash, at Eastern Voice and Data says: “To ensure faster network speeds and high security, our solution included implementing 40 network switches, 70 Zyxel NWA 1123-AC HD PoE access points, Zyxel USG-210 firewall and Zyxel Nebula cloud network management.

The new switches provide greater control and performance to ensure that data is managed more efficiently. In fact, Zyxel Nebula network solutions are easy to use and provide real-time monitoring and configuration changes via the Nebula Control Centre online web portal and accompanying smartphone app. The products are also affordable but still offer high performance for schools aiming to meet high network infrastructure demands.” Andrew Mash adds that Zyxel has given the resources to provide users with truly high-speed WiFi. “In addition to improved user satisfaction, we have also seen great progress with Sprowston Community Academy’s overall network performance and we’re looking forward to working with the Trust to help build a reliable and safe networking infrastructure at its other school sites.” Jonathan Lumb, IT Manager at Boudica Schools Trust says: “The network has become an important tool
for both our teachers and students because technology helps us provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content. The new network offers greater efficiency and security, especially implementing a new cloud-based web filtering software that controls the types of content that can be
accessed by pupils. The new network system also creates better learning opportunities and standards, while reducing costs”.