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Birmingham Grid for Learning (BGfL) Thread, Link2ICT Annual Conference in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Shame I couldn't be there, sounded fun...
  1. #91

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    Shame I couldn't be there, sounded fun

  2. #92
    DocHouse's Avatar
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    Have had an interesting few days... The Link2ICT conference was ok and I got to meet with a few of their senior people to discuss our concerns and apart from Andy's little dig, they seem to be willing to take on board what we (the techies, NM's and geeks) have to say. There was also the possibility mentioned of setting up a working group with schools that are pushing the limits of the BGFL with their good practice in ICT... so watch this space.

    I'm feeling a bit more positive but as ever with Link2ICT it will be a case of seeing what actually do and how it's implemented.

    Having spent this week going up and down the country (1200miles in a week does not a happy me make!) I've actually seen this week that Birmingham may have it's issue but we are a lot better off than smaller LA's and schools that have suffered historical underinvestment in the networks and backbone. Yep there has been failures and they've been yelled at, criticised (I think I might have been the biggest moaner!) and people have walked away, but go outside the Birmingham bubble and there are schools that are really struggling to be innovative or in some cases deliver a curriculum because the support, financial backing and crucially infrastructure and leadership at a higher level isn't there.

    I'm not saying Link2ICT is the greatest, or the worst but when you see the bigger picture you actually realise that;

    -It is incredibly difficult to go it alone and get it right, support companies and the way the BGFL/BCC network have been constructed make it difficult to exchange data once you leave it. (Difficult but not impossible.)

    - Birmingham has a huge network 450 schools (equals reasonable discounts for purchases v's huge independent costs.) I can't think of or find a bigger LA in the UK either.

    - Doing it well is incredibly difficult and schools are being held back by restrictive and unsupportive support companies all over the country.


    So, what we now need to do as an IT community in Birmingham is hold Link2ICT to account make it keep the promises they made at the conference and in meetings with schools and staff and get them to see the direction innovative schools are taking, so that they can become a school led rather than a capita lead business.

    I really hope that what they've said will work and be implmented, but until we see it in schools I will keep on the side of cautiousness and scepticism

    I'm off to bed for the rest of the weekend

    Goodnight ;-)

  3. #93
    machin05's Avatar
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    I think I'm right in saying that Birmingham is the biggest LA in Europe. It goes to show how under-staffed and underpowered they are when you consider how many establishments they have to provide for and support.

    But that doesn't excuse the basic level of service that they fail to provide. Constant outages and inflexibility were the main reason we left, and we haven't regretted since - especially as I'm still on their text alert system so am seeing how often problems are occurring.

    In fact we still had issues with them after we moved away. They retained our MX records in their DNS, so every time we tried to email another Bham school we'd get a 3 day delayed bounce-back - this was never fully resolved and we ended up buying and using a different domain name. We still can't carry out our CRISP reports as you need to be connected to the Birmingham Grid in order to transfer the files securely(!?!) - their solution was to go to a neighbouring school that was still connected or go to Lancaster Circus... no parking available though!

    Anyway, for those that went to the conference, what were their promises for the coming year?

    - - - Updated - - -

    I think I'm right in saying that Birmingham is the biggest LA in Europe. It goes to show how under-staffed and underpowered they are when you consider how many establishments they have to provide for and support.

    But that doesn't excuse the basic level of service that they fail to provide. Constant outages and inflexibility were the main reason we left, and we haven't regretted since - especially as I'm still on their text alert system so am seeing how often problems are occurring.

    In fact we still had issues with them after we moved away. They retained our MX records in their DNS, so every time we tried to email another Bham school we'd get a 3 day delayed bounce-back - this was never fully resolved and we ended up buying and using a different domain name. We still can't carry out our CRISP reports as you need to be connected to the Birmingham Grid in order to transfer the files securely(!?!) - their solution was to go to a neighbouring school that was still connected or go to Lancaster Circus... no parking available though!

    Anyway, for those that went to the conference, what were their promises for the coming year?

  4. #94

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    It depends at what angle you look at things - statistically since the new firewall, have their been more outages than the last 12 months? It my opinion, yes by far and unfortunately (as I am sure Link2ICT would agree) the new firewall has introduced absolutely no benefit so far. Until these core issues are resolved, no other 'fancy' services/options call it what you like will start to be introduced.
    The problem is, how long is this going to take? It is very much like asking 'how long's a piece of string', but in that case, keep the communication channels open. At the moment things are incredibly quiet and Link2ICT (if they wanted to) could have addressed the wider audience on Wednesday but they didn't. Although you can't blame anyone directly for these problems, you could argue (at the same time) schools are paying, so is it at schools expense and do schools have a right to know?

    Looking at things from another angle, Zimbra hasn't been a success story in a long time. Link2ICT unfortunately failed to upgrade Zimbra 5, then introduced a poorly thought out policy of deleting user accounts, then were forced to upgrade to Zimbra 8 which also introduced a whole range of problems.
    If you talk to the right people in Link2ICT, they actually agree with everything I've written above - and as a result, since migrating to the likes of Office 365 - it's been extremely successful and problems are typically end user, rather than technical.

    With regards to the firewalling/filtering, Link2ICT do, do a good job, but then again some Academies have decided to continue using Link2ICT services and others move away completely. Does this mean it's below standard? No of course not! Anything is possible with a great deal of thinking, researching and consulting the right organisations/people.

    So hypothetically, if we do reach the magic 12 months since the new firewall was installed and the problems are still there, then maybe you could argue, I have a point - schools do have the right to start questioning 'Is this good value'? And I don't just mean financially - I mean (more crucially) from a service delivery point of view.

    - - - Updated - - -

    It depends at what angle you look at things - statistically since the new firewall, have their been more outages than the last 12 months? It my opinion, yes by far and unfortunately (as I am sure Link2ICT would agree) the new firewall has introduced absolutely no benefit so far. Until these core issues are resolved, no other 'fancy' services/options call it what you like will start to be introduced.
    The problem is, how long is this going to take? It is very much like asking 'how long's a piece of string', but in that case, keep the communication channels open. At the moment things are incredibly quiet and Link2ICT (if they wanted to) could have addressed the wider audience on Wednesday but they didn't. Although you can't blame anyone directly for these problems, you could argue (at the same time) schools are paying, so is it at schools expense and do schools have a right to know?

    Looking at things from another angle, Zimbra hasn't been a success story in a long time. Link2ICT unfortunately failed to upgrade Zimbra 5, then introduced a poorly thought out policy of deleting user accounts, then were forced to upgrade to Zimbra 8 which also introduced a whole range of problems.
    If you talk to the right people in Link2ICT, they actually agree with everything I've written above - and as a result, since migrating to the likes of Office 365 - it's been extremely successful and problems are typically end user, rather than technical.

    With regards to the firewalling/filtering, Link2ICT do, do a good job, but then again some Academies have decided to continue using Link2ICT services and others move away completely. Does this mean it's below standard? No of course not! Anything is possible with a great deal of thinking, researching and consulting the right organisations/people.

    So hypothetically, if we do reach the magic 12 months since the new firewall was installed and the problems are still there, then maybe you could argue, I have a point - schools do have the right to start questioning 'Is this good value'? And I don't just mean financially - I mean (more crucially) from a service delivery point of view.

  5. #95

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    I think you make some very valid point Michael and yes on the whole the internet provision isn't that bad.

    However, what really annoys me and would be so easy to fix is the transparency. If there is a problem, tell people about it as soon as you know and then when it's fixed tell people, in detail, what happened, why it did and how you fixed it so it isn't going to happen next time.

    Yes 450 schools is a lot, but in terms of network size you don't have to look very far in to the corporate world to find much much larger and more complex networks. There are plenty of people out their with the skills to manage a network of this size and these are the sort of people that need to be employed.

    In regards to buying power, then I think it's a shame that Andy doesn't think it's worth their time to sell things to schools. If we think back to Tempus, everyone had one of those servers and on the whole they weren't bad and it meant that everything was set up the same in each school which makes maintenance and problem solving much easier. If Link2ICT could setup a strategic alliance with a similar company it would be fantastic as there are many schools now running very old server 2003 Tempus boxes and they don't know who to turn to. There are also some awful cowboys out their who will rip them off blind.

    IMO though, a lot of these small schools and nurserys really should have a virtual server inside Link2ICT HQ that is managed for them. But that would involve Link2ICT actually thinking a bit differently and taking a risk.

  6. #96
    machin05's Avatar
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    Personally, I think it internet provision is wholly unacceptable and has seemingly gotten worse since we left.

  7. #97
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    As I said to my account manager; in terms of the QoS up until the Firewall issue I was fine and the reduction of connectivity costs (for us) has been welcome. However the lack of control over filtering both in terms of URLs and content is still a big issue for me. As @Michael points out these features may well be on their way but I am growing impatient of throttling back my own development strategy waiting for a 3rd party.

    - - - Updated - - -

    As I said to my account manager; in terms of the QoS up until the Firewall issue I was fine and the reduction of connectivity costs (for us) has been welcome. However the lack of control over filtering both in terms of URLs and content is still a big issue for me. As @Michael points out these features may well be on their way but I am growing impatient of throttling back my own development strategy waiting for a 3rd party.

  8. #98
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    [QUOTE=foofighterjim;1149072]As I said to my account manager; in terms of the QoS up until the Firewall issue I was fine and the reduction of connectivity costs (for us) has been welcome. However the lack of control over filtering both in terms of URLs and content is still a big issue for me. As @Michael points out these features may well be on their way but I am growing impatient of throttling back my own development strategy waiting for a 3rd party.

    Yep and that is why we have to hold them to account if we don't do this then they ain't going to move forward... and I'm frustrated as well by the lack of development/communication but I'm sitting in a school in staffs today that is being royally screwed by it's support company and would be glad of Link's infrastructure and support.

    - - - Updated - - -

    [QUOTE=foofighterjim;1149072]As I said to my account manager; in terms of the QoS up until the Firewall issue I was fine and the reduction of connectivity costs (for us) has been welcome. However the lack of control over filtering both in terms of URLs and content is still a big issue for me. As @Michael points out these features may well be on their way but I am growing impatient of throttling back my own development strategy waiting for a 3rd party.

    Yep and that is why we have to hold them to account if we don't do this then they ain't going to move forward... and I'm frustrated as well by the lack of development/communication but I'm sitting in a school in staffs today that is being royally screwed by it's support company and would be glad of Link's infrastructure and support.

  9. #99

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    I think you make some very valid point Michael and yes on the whole the internet provision isn't that bad.

    However, what really annoys me and would be so easy to fix is the transparency. If there is a problem, tell people about it as soon as you know and then when it's fixed tell people, in detail, what happened, why it did and how you fixed it so it isn't going to happen next time.

    Yes 450 schools is a lot, but in terms of network size you don't have to look very far in to the corporate world to find much much larger and more complex networks. There are plenty of people out their with the skills to manage a network of this size and these are the sort of people that need to be employed.

    In regards to buying power, then I think it's a shame that Andy doesn't think it's worth their time to sell things to schools. If we think back to Tempus, everyone had one of those servers and on the whole they weren't bad and it meant that everything was set up the same in each school which makes maintenance and problem solving much easier. If Link2ICT could setup a strategic alliance with a similar company it would be fantastic as there are many schools now running very old server 2003 Tempus boxes and they don't know who to turn to. There are also some awful cowboys out their who will rip them off blind.

    IMO though, a lot of these small schools and nurserys really should have a virtual server inside Link2ICT HQ that is managed for them. But that would involve Link2ICT actually thinking a bit differently and taking a risk.
    Again it depends what angle you look at things - treating everyone the same has its pros and cons. Every school is different and should be allowed to innovate in its own unique way. I agree 'some' schools have made costly mistakes, but with tighter budgets, I think most schools are now a lot wiser and do push harder for better quotes.

    As for the virtual server idea - it's good and bad. It's good as everything such as Active Directory is managed centrally, but then it means you're relying on everything travelling down a 10Mbps pipe. It's extremely unrealistic and many Primaries are unfortunately in a catch 22, where they cannot afford the 100Mbps upgrade, but they're using all of 10Mbps quite regularly.

    An on site server is still necessary - even for the likes of accessing files, server hosted applications and MIS systems.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    I think you make some very valid point Michael and yes on the whole the internet provision isn't that bad.

    However, what really annoys me and would be so easy to fix is the transparency. If there is a problem, tell people about it as soon as you know and then when it's fixed tell people, in detail, what happened, why it did and how you fixed it so it isn't going to happen next time.

    Yes 450 schools is a lot, but in terms of network size you don't have to look very far in to the corporate world to find much much larger and more complex networks. There are plenty of people out their with the skills to manage a network of this size and these are the sort of people that need to be employed.

    In regards to buying power, then I think it's a shame that Andy doesn't think it's worth their time to sell things to schools. If we think back to Tempus, everyone had one of those servers and on the whole they weren't bad and it meant that everything was set up the same in each school which makes maintenance and problem solving much easier. If Link2ICT could setup a strategic alliance with a similar company it would be fantastic as there are many schools now running very old server 2003 Tempus boxes and they don't know who to turn to. There are also some awful cowboys out their who will rip them off blind.

    IMO though, a lot of these small schools and nurserys really should have a virtual server inside Link2ICT HQ that is managed for them. But that would involve Link2ICT actually thinking a bit differently and taking a risk.
    Again it depends what angle you look at things - treating everyone the same has its pros and cons. Every school is different and should be allowed to innovate in its own unique way. I agree 'some' schools have made costly mistakes, but with tighter budgets, I think most schools are now a lot wiser and do push harder for better quotes.

    As for the virtual server idea - it's good and bad. It's good as everything such as Active Directory is managed centrally, but then it means you're relying on everything travelling down a 10Mbps pipe. It's extremely unrealistic and many Primaries are unfortunately in a catch 22, where they cannot afford the 100Mbps upgrade, but they're using all of 10Mbps quite regularly.

    An on site server is still necessary - even for the likes of accessing files, server hosted applications and MIS systems.

  10. #100
    foofighterjim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DocHouse View Post
    Yep and that is why we have to hold them to account if we don't do this then they ain't going to move forward.
    They do have another problem here. With the firewall issues I managed to get the staff here to understand that it was not our fault (eventually). As a result now my SLT are extremely sensitive to any downtime of the internet connection and they (and me) want to look at our options. Did anyone ever find out any information about the knowledge base article Link (allegedly) have to compare their service against others? I don't think I can undercut the price by much anymore but the added flexibility alone is enough to still make me want to have a good look at this.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by DocHouse View Post
    Yep and that is why we have to hold them to account if we don't do this then they ain't going to move forward.
    They do have another problem here. With the firewall issues I managed to get the staff here to understand that it was not our fault (eventually). As a result now my SLT are extremely sensitive to any downtime of the internet connection and they (and me) want to look at our options. Did anyone ever find out any information about the knowledge base article Link (allegedly) have to compare their service against others? I don't think I can undercut the price by much anymore but the added flexibility alone is enough to still make me want to have a good look at this.

  11. #101

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    We saved a considerable amount on our broadband & have the option of a static ip 3g connection as broadband failover.
    Moving anyway from Link2ICT is not for every school, but we have found we have far more flexibility.

    - - - Updated - - -

    We saved a considerable amount on our broadband & have the option of a static ip 3g connection as broadband failover.
    Moving anyway from Link2ICT is not for every school, but we have found we have far more flexibility.

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