Case Study – Tullow Community School
Tullow Community School was established in 1978 from the amalgamation of the Brigidine Convent Secondary School, the Patrician Brothers Secondary School and Tullow Vocational School. It aims to provide a comprehensive system of post-primary education open to all the children of the community. The school is co-educational and multi-denominational. Currently there are approximately six hundred students enrolled.
When Radius first partnered with TCS, what was inherited from an IT perspective was typical of many schools in that the IT infrastructure had developed over many years in an ad-hoc way and also typical of many schools, when budgets allowed (grants etc.) the rush was to buy in equipment (desktops/thin clients/servers etc.) as needs at the time dictated, without an overall plan or ultimately what was the goal or ‘end game’. The result (as in many cases) was a disjointed network with multiple points of failure (network switches added for ‘extra data points’, unstructured data cabinets, network speed issues, aging equipment, unmanaged users/network, Wi-Fi not fit for purpose and generally no strategic plan in place as well as a ‘man in a van’ approach to IT support requirements.
Network Infrastructure / Cabling: Obviously ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and a medium term goal needed to be established, factoring in budgetary requirements (3 – 4 years). Like a building construct, strong foundations are arguably the most significant part of the structure. Likewise with an ICT network environment, the foundations are of equal importance. This involves ensuring correctly structured network cabling and comms cabinets, removal of ‘points of failure’, managed network switches are all in place and taking a ‘tops down view’ of how the entire network is structured.
The Solution: Design and implement a structured network environment that included some new data cabling, optimisation of existing cabling (where possible) fibre optic links, structured comms cabinets, managed switches and configuration. Cabling was carried out by Radius’ own internal cabling team as well as any allied electrical work.
Unified Communications: Allied to the above and cognisant of new and emerging technologies, it is important to ensure that the network infrastructure is also capable of handling voice and data over the same cabling (VOIP phone systems, Wi-Fi handsets etc.). The provisioning of which can result in significant cost savings to the school as well as increased functionality and wireless connectivity (see wireless infrastructure below).
The Solution: Design and implement a structured network environment that included some new data cabling, optimisation of existing cabling (where possible) fibre optic links, restructured comms cabinets, configured managed switches and routers. Particularly the managed switches, which formed an integral part of the solution, allowing network segmentation into Admin, Teacher and Student networks, utilising the same cabling, but no compromising of security of networks. Secure and access available on a permissions basis only. Albeit, there was a new extension added and the school was re-cabled, Radius partnered with the school to advise and assist the IT coordinator with the third party cablers.
Wireless Infrastructure: In the past, many schools embarked on installing wireless access points with, in many cases, no due diligence given to either coverage, capacity planning, future developments or systems management. Often, as in the case of TCS, these units would
be stand alone and unmanaged. For example, If the Wi-Fi password was compromised, it meant each wireless access point needed to be reconfigured separately and was time consuming and costly and inefficient.
The Solution: The basis of a proper wireless solution starts with a site wireless survey utilising the latest survey technologies, which allows for the vagaries of a building construction (walls, glass, metal, interference, capacity and coverage). Once completed the exact number and location of the Wireless Access Points is known. Radius then supplied, installed and configured the wireless network which can now be managed from a single screen remotely while delivering multiple networks across the entire site (Admin, Teachers and Students).
Servers: The school originally had three separate servers, each providing a platform for different applications (Email, Admin, File and Print). These critical units were old and failing and there were no managed backups in place, thus creating a possible disaster scenario. There were also some older thin clients running off a separate server located in a separate classroom.
The Solution: Radius initially assessed each server for function, configuration, data volumes and potential future requirements. A single new server was proposed, with multiple virtual servers running on the same hardware, each performing a critical function. Email was migrated to the Microsoft cloud (Office 365) environment (no cost from Microsoft) and a robust backup solution was installed, configured and daily notifications enabled to the responsible person. New thin clients were provided and connected to a new virtual server, again on the same hardware.
Audio Visual: The issue with the AV environment was that either the existing units were aging, broken or not fit for purpose. There was also a lack of projectors in certain areas.
The Solution: Supply and fit the latest short throw units, supply and fit the audio elements as well as any cabling or electrical work required around the implementation.
IT Support: Past experiences of the school were disappointing. There was an overall lack of strategic direction, with the ad-hoc approach adopted.
The Solution: A formalised support contract was implemented and Radius supports the environments remotely. The support agreement is structured in such a way that telephone and remote dial in support is included, unlimited. Any installation or on site engineering is covered by a block purchase of engineering time in advance. All calls are tracked and monitored through a call management system where all work is logged and TCS have full web visibility through a web based portal, where support tickets can be reviewed, logged and tracked with full transparency.
*** It is important to note and acknowledge that none of the above would have happened without the vision and input of a dedicated IT coordinator (even under time resource pressure) and a principal at the school that both shared in the vision of what the ICT infrastructure should look like. In essence the entire project was a team collaborative effort with a forward looking and driven school team, assisted by a professional IT company who advised on best practice across the range of services above.
Client Testimonial: Radius, through consultation and listening to our needs delivered a network infrastructure that transformed how TCS deliver services across it to both staff and students. Not only did it meet the requirements technically, but in terms of managing the network with limited local resources, it means we can achieve more in less time. We found the Radius team, from sales to engineering through accounts, extremely competent and a pleasure to deal with. We are now on a professional IT footing and can deliver seamless learning to our students across multiple devices and platforms.