Services

The most exciting part of the system are the services that are supported via the network. Some of the services listed below will be free to schools from the beginning. These include:

1 .Internet access
2 .Email
3. Remote backup
4 .Telephony (one telephone only initially)
5 .Digital resource centres

The other services can be added when they become available. The list of services below is not an exhaustive list but an indication of what is possible. The Schools eNetwork Trust is open to adding services on request as long as it’s viable and makes sense.

1. FAST AND RELIABLE INTERNET ACCESS

Currently most schools have some type of internet access ranging from dialup to ADSL and various other solutions in between. In most cases, schools are responsible for the payment of this service which is often not operational due to it being capped, suspended or technically dysfunctional. The connection speeds vary considerably and the school is responsible for controlling the access by staff and/or learners. This is a time consuming administration task which in many instances is not being done, and learners are therefore accessing content which is not helpful nor suitable.

The intranet gives each school a fast and reliable internet connection for use by staff and learners. The internet connection is ‘proxied’ which enables built in control and management with respect to what is accessible on the internet. SENT uses a web-based proxy admin system that will give schools hierarchical control over the type of access allowed by each station on their network. This should give teachers, administrators and parents peace of mind regarding what the learners are accessing on the internet. All internet requests from the schools will be transferred to a centralised proxy server hosted in one of the connected data centres and the resulting pages checked for content or against a list of disallowed sites. Each school can assign the control of this service to centralised administrators or take this on themselves if they would like control over it and have the skills at the school to manage the process. These servers will be supplied, hosted, managed and maintained by SENT at no extra cost.

The intranet will be connected to the internet via a hi-speed portal operating at 1Gbps. There are also multiple interconnect points offering redundancy.

2. FAST AND RELIABLE EMAIL SERVICES

Currently most schools have 1 or more email account/s which are located on different types of mail servers in different data centres on the internet. These servers may or may not be well maintained. In many situations the mail servers are maintained be companies other than those maintaining the internet connection, so if email is not working at the school, they may need to call both the internet service provider and/or the email service provider. If they bounce the problem between them the schools may not get their email working again until a technical person becomes involved and can work through it with both companies.

SENT hosts centralisedemail servers in 1 or more secure data centres and are homogenised so that all schools can use the same systems. These are well managed, reliable, quick and provide easy management via a management portal so that schools can manage their own mail boxes if they have the skills to do so or that it can be managed remotely by the contact service centre. The schools can have a mailbox for each staff member and learner.

There are currently 3rd party service providers already supplying email services to schools. These could be accommodated in the data centres co-existing with new services while migrations are planned.

Web based mail clients as well as POP mail clients (Outlook) are available.

3. SCHOOL ADMIN AND MANAGEMENT SERVICES

Various web based schools and WCED management applications will be made available through the intranet. These applications can be hosted on servers in the data centres linked to the intranet giving free access to any entity on the intranet. The application servers will be professionally monitored and maintained ensuring maximum up time. At the moment, many of these applications are hosted on servers at the schools which are not suitable and maintenance, when done, is on a piecemeal basis. The schools often don’t have the skills in house to monitor and manage these services, so they are either outsourced at an additional cost to the schools, or left to unskilled people to maintain which ultimately leads to system issues and failure.

There are currently web based applications in use at some schools. These could also be hosted at the data centres.

4. REMOTE NETWORK MONITORING AND MAINTENANCE

Most schools have some IT infrastructure which includes PCs, networks, servers and other peripheral devices like printers. Various network support companies are contracted to support these schools. If something goes wrong a call out is typically arranged which often can takes days before an engineer arrives on-site. In some cases this can be up to 2 weeks. During that period, the IT services may be partially or completely inoperable.

The intranet will allow the services on a school IT infrastructure to be managed and maintained remotely and proactively. If something goes wrong the school can log a call and an engineer can immediately log on to the affected device and in most cases fix the problem remotely in minutes, allowing the school to continue operations. This could include the admin systems and the learning system (Labs).

An increase in service up time will substantially enhance the value of the IT services at schools.

5. REMOTE SUPPORT

The intranet enables remote support of teachers and administrators who require assistance with an application and/or device. They would call the contact centre where an engineer would remote into their PC/device and fix the problem or lead them to the solution while on the line. This enables substantial assistance to those administrators and teachers who are not yet sufficiently skilled.

6. CCTV / SECURITY / ALARMS

Security is of great concern in our schools. Some schools have CCTV cameras but these are not monitored in many cases due to technical limitations and cost. The intranet enables monitored CCTV in a very cost effective way. 1 or more security centres can be setup to monitor schools 24/7 and then alert the local security teams when an incident occurs. The CCTV systems are configured so that any movement triggers notification. These are displayed on monitors in the security centres. The synchronous nature of the intranet allows backhauling of CCTV footage in real time.

7. REMOTE BACKUP

On-site data backup systems are expensive and require monitoring, maintenance and manual human intervention, which we know can lead to mistakes. In addition, if the data is not taken off site, the schools are exposed to having tapes/external HDD stolen, and with that losing critical information. The systems in many schools are therefore ineffective and this leaves the systems exposed when disaster strikes. The intranet connects each school with the remote data backup archive system where off-site/remote ‘automated low maintenance backup systems’ will process, protect and store the schools data so that if disaster does strike for whatever reason, the important data can be retrieved via the intranet and operations will continue as per usual.

8. TELEPHONY

Schools currently spend a lot of money on their telephone bills which includes calls to other schools.

The intranet network supports voice traffic i.e. Voice over IP. All schools that have a ‘SENT provided PBX’ are able to contact each other ‘on-net’ at much reduced rates. Call costs for all other destinations (i.e. non-schools) are optimised through least cost routing ‘pure per second billing’ which equates to significant savings on monthly telephone bills.

Schools who are not in a position to replace their existing PABX systems are able to gain the on-net calling benefits by installing SIP phone/s that connect to a centrally managed SENT VoIP PBX.

The VoIP PBX is hosted in the data centre and managed by skilled and professional technicians. SENT has employed all the necessary resources to setup, monitor and maintain these services.

9. DIGITAL RESOURCE CENTRES

here are currently a variety of resources available to schools on various web sites, but these cost money as bandwidth is required to download them. A digital resource centre can be setup in a data centre connected to the intranet that will enable any school on the intranet to download any material at no bandwidth cost. This can include instruction videos, teaching aids, books, videos, etc. For example, each subject can have it’s own DRC for the sharing of teaching material between schools and respective subject teachers.

10. E-LEARNING

E-Learning is a bandwidth intensive application and is currently delivered to a very selective audience via satellite or high capacity bandwidth. The intranet will enable this to be done on a mass market basis including all connected schools.

11. WEB BASED COMPUTER AIDED EDUCATION

There are currently a number of computer aided education (CAE) applications which are available to schools. These are typically loaded on a school server and therefore subject to the server being in operational order. The intranet makes web based CAE applications possible, where the application is hosted in a data centre which is monitored and maintained by professionals. No on-site servers are required. In addition, teachers do not need computing skills to manage the system and can concentrate on their core functions etc.

12. VIDEO COMMUNICATION

The intranet will enable video communication because it is synchronous and fast. This can include video conferencing and remote teaching.