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East Midlands Broadband Consortium (EMBC) Thread, EMBC past, present & future. in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Afternoon, Fresh new forum for the EMBC users amongst us to chatter on. So, thinking back to the days of ...
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    EMBC past, present & future.

    Afternoon,

    Fresh new forum for the EMBC users amongst us to chatter on.

    So, thinking back to the days of yonder with EMBC operating with the Assimilate Platform on Fujitsu's network through to the current Sharepoint solution with Synetrix ...

    1) Where did everyone think we'd be by now?
    2) Where does everyone think we'll be going?
    3) Is anybody trying to *get* out of EMBC/Synetrix and do their own thing?

    Discuss

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    1) I thought we'd be making more use of the NEN resources, Video conferencing over EMBC (that's never worked for us) and moving our resources into a more 'digital-esque' environment.

    I remember the Assimilate platform promising the 'groupware' style collaboration long before people spoke of VLEs etc.

    Oh the days of yonder...

    2) I don't know where we're going, several steps forward a few steps back is all I can see when looking at 'what we've got'. I think its time we actually invest into our platform as schools and build on the collaboration aspect. Unfortunately, the key users in this situation would be the difficult to motivate and change teachers. Without them, the platform can't develop, mature, or even flow properly.

    3) We're trying to move as many services away from EMBC/Synetrix as possible as we're finding decisions made for us at county and EMBC are causing us great friction so our best bet is to take control ourselves.

    The irony is that EMBC charge us less for a LES10 than BT would so we're kind of stuck on the broadband provision front, but as times change, we may well end up doing our own thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kmount View Post
    1) I thought we'd be making more use of the NEN resources, Video conferencing over EMBC (that's never worked for us) and moving our resources into a more 'digital-esque' environment.

    I remember the Assimilate platform promising the 'groupware' style collaboration long before people spoke of VLEs etc.

    Oh the days of yonder...

    2) I don't know where we're going, several steps forward a few steps back is all I can see when looking at 'what we've got'. I think its time we actually invest into our platform as schools and build on the collaboration aspect. Unfortunately, the key users in this situation would be the difficult to motivate and change teachers. Without them, the platform can't develop, mature, or even flow properly.

    3) We're trying to move as many services away from EMBC/Synetrix as possible as we're finding decisions made for us at county and EMBC are causing us great friction so our best bet is to take control ourselves.

    The irony is that EMBC charge us less for a LES10 than BT would so we're kind of stuck on the broadband provision front, but as times change, we may well end up doing our own thing.
    Hi Kim,

    We moved away from EMBC about three years ago and went our ways and its been good as the control is there. One of the interesting elements of this is that there is more cost but its still not as much as people think.

    To go into the discussion side of things the NEN thing really gets me everytime someone mentions this as at the moment there really isn't much on it to justify going with EMBC for this facility. This will take off some time when the RBCs can work together and co-opperate with each other and this won't happen until there is some kind of standards that the RBCs must abide by. Just to give you some examples some RBCs charge for more public IPs, some don't, some just don't open the ports you need and some fail in the whole SLA chain. I know these points are all technical issues but the they still matter.

    The colloboration side of thing needs dedicate people whom meet to discuss the best way forward for this and keeping schools informed about it. I feel that if this is not done then many won't bother and will not even know about it let along use it. VLEs are slowley making their ways into schools and both staff and students are getting used to the idea but it will take time and once they grasped this idea then we are more likely to have the colloboration (within NEN and outside) take off.

    One other think i dislike about the RBCs is the handing out IP address for you to use. I still think the school's team should be give freedom to choose this to suit thier purpose. This will cut down issues when schools run out IP addresses etc. The RBC's connection should really end at the router/gateway. If the excuse is that this will break the grand centralised approach of apps not working at EMBC HQ then the whole centralised approach should be questioned. For larger schools i think the web filtering box should be local to save on the WAN bandwidth because if you image the number of students using the internet, they will try to access blocked site, the connection request would go through the embc web filter (through the WAN) and then will be replied by a blocked message. Multiply this by the numbers of students and the number of schools connected on EMBC and it really causes concerns.

    The video conferencing doesn't work (it didn't last year) as when we tried to VC with another school in Nottingham we couldn't the connection just dropped. The result of the investigation revealed that it was something to do with EMBC as schools located within EMBC network couldn't even do VC sessions, let alone outside it.

    On the future i think the SSO (from schools AD to other resourecs i.e. web filter sharepoint etc) should be developed so the need for WAT is removed. I think there is something being done about this using LANLogin but this will still require the users to be created using the WAT system.

    Remote Backup storage is another area that i think has potential as this would cater for the need to have the backups located off-site at remote location. This will give protection in the event that local tapes are not available, damaged or worn out etc.


    Apologies if the above points are more technical one only but for the moment its what my thoughts are.

    Ash.
    Last edited by spc-rocket; 16th September 2008 at 06:39 PM.

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    1) To be frank, I have never relly expected much from EMBC since I started in education. The CG had just replaced Assimilate and people were pulling their hair out in frustration with all kinds of issues. People just lost interest.

    In the run up to the switch to Synterix I had just about convinced people to give it another go. Bad timing. People's frustrations from before were confirmed and now view having to deal with EMBC as more of a hinderance than a help. Its actually become like a swear word round here.

    Its such a shame as there could be such positive outcomes from using the RBC model but it seems lost. Of course I can only talk from my experience, but I haven't met anyone who is an EMBC fanboi.

    2) I honestly don't know. Like you (Kim) I can only really see where we are now. Is been such a struggle to get here I can't think about the future. Sometimes I think just having a stable connection would satisfy us. To be honest, I don't think any of my teachers care. Again, in my opinion.

    3) Interesting. I have been consistently told by the SMT that we don't have a choice so excepted this to be true without really checking. I might put this to them for discussion.

    To sum up I think that the opportunity has been lost. People are turned off to it and it will be hard to get them back. Shame

    Quote Originally Posted by ashok View Post
    The RBC's connection should really end at the router/gateway.
    Does here. Nice ISA box with private IPs. They hate that btw.

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    People always have choices depends on how political head wants to get as moving away from an rbc is most political thing a head can deal with.

    Russ

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    Kim ... If I didn't know you better I would call you a troll!

    People will have to wait until Friday for my response.

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    Fortunately, you know me better than that.

    I'm merely trying to bring the scattered opinions both good and bad to a central location; one which hopefully we (collectively regardless of individual LA) can thrash out and hopefully present EMBC/LA's with hands on views from the people on the front line. (See, even made a military link for you )

    There isn't a single statement I've made in my post which is untrue, or unquantified.

    Frankly I think my post was constructive and not vindictive or critical of EMBC/Synetrix as I questioned the technological uptake on items 1 and 2, and the issue of control in item 3.

    I could have simply stated EMBC/Synetrix are crap because of x,y and z which isn't constructive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kmount View Post
    Fortunately, you know me better than that.

    I'm merely trying to bring the scattered opinions both good and bad to a central location; one which hopefully we (collectively regardless of individual LA) can thrash out and hopefully present EMBC/LA's with hands on views from the people on the front line. (See, even made a military link for you )

    There isn't a single statement I've made in my post which is untrue, or unquantified.

    Frankly I think my post was constructive and not vindictive or critical of EMBC/Synetrix as I questioned the technological uptake on items 1 and 2, and the issue of control in item 3.

    I could have simply stated EMBC/Synetrix are crap because of x,y and z which isn't constructive.
    Yep ... a very constructive start to discussion ... I'll just have to be patient before responding otherwise it will take out the need for half of Friday's meeting.

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    Firstly, I have to go down on record and say what a great move it is to create some specific RBC forums. As someone who has "migrated" from an independant school to one that is encapsulated by the pros / cons of the EMBC, its going to be a great help.

    So in answer to the questions posed,

    (1) I cant really pass comment on "where we should be" having only been here a matter of weeks, and perhaps it would be unfair to offer comparisons between an independent school and an LA controlled one. I would however, have expected a stronger grasp of VLEs and yet this is only just starting to happen (this is maybe just our school; i dont wish to generalise as I know some schools have been using Moodle for a long time)

    (2) In terms of where we should be going, well i'm trying not to laugh / cry, but even in such a short space of time of being here, it beggars belief how much battling has to be done to get positive results. We have had members of staff who have found that their email has stopped working. We are now several weeks into the start of term, and despite daily phonecalls, issues still arent resolved. Websites blocked, unblocked and then blocked again; email filters that wont allow the words "Essex", "assessment" because they contain the words "sex" and "ass" (really clever). So what i would like to see is either better management at the EMBC / Synetrix end, or relinquish this whole "one for all, all for one" level of control

    (3) I appear to have a very open minded SLT who arent afraid to push the boundaries / be different, so there is a general mood that moving away from EMBC / Synetrix is going to be a positive step. I'm particularly keen to see if / how others have gone about this (separate post ensues!)

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    1) I thought we would be rid of Wired by now and have a decent replacement. I thought Synetrix would provide a more stable network. I never expected it to be perfect but am surprised at how bad as it is. Downtime although improved a lot in the past month is still far from at acceptable levels for us. Not just in school hours but its bad outside school hours as well.

    Surprised at the lack of upgrade speeds. Our speed hasnít changed in years. While home users in the same time frame have had 3 to 5 speed upgrades. Upload speeds are fine but 2meg download seems rather outdated to me.

    The major improvement with Synetrix over Fujitsu's are the feedback pages letting us know the status of the core network and when you have problems you get feedback and a response in a timely manner. Along with the control, itís far from perfect but at least we have decent control over email, internet filtering rules and the like. Overall Synetrix are doing much better then Fujitsu's but the downtime is still at unacceptable levels, although slowly improving. I donít like going though ICT Service's with problems, it was much faster when we could go directly to Synetrix

    If we where a company we would have left Synetrix ages ago due to the all the problems. But they are improveing.



    2) The two major things I would like to see from Synetrix are a more stable network and better download speeds. Upload is fine as it is for us. It would also be great if everything could be more merged. 1 single username and password for everything like the good old days. Was there a reason why wired and email got split? I would like to see a learning platform that replaceís Wired and has email merged into it with only 1 username and password so staff have less to remember.

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    My major gripe is the complete lack of an audit trail that schools within Netlinc can access and present to SMT when they ask about externally caused issues. The one status tracking system we do have currently changes the posted date of an issue to the current date whenever someone updates a ticket.

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    I can't comment on the approach of different LAs as to how they deal with first line calls.

    @cheesypete: please make comparisons ... it is good to have things to base it against. Was the connection at your last place with an educationally oriecntated ISP or was it a business line?

    The approach to VLEs vary. Some are tied in with major projects in the county (BSF), some with EMBC, some within the LA, some within clusters, some individually within the schools.

    With regards to filters ... yes, they can be damned frustrating. The email filter lists are being reviewed again and tweaked. You can ask for words to be whitelisted to get around some things ... but yes, there will still be a central list you cannot override. This is part of being part of a Becta accredited ISP ... the filters meet Becta's requirement.

    However, you can have a fair chunk of control. For web filtering you can have local control (access to change URLs / groups directly) and portal control (users can have specified and individual levels or based on groups). You can even run your own internal box to do that for you (a number here do). Email filters ... you should have access to EMF to be able to do similar ... but there are some restrictions as some wrods you *don't* want to release.

    I'll add more later.

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    One thing that would be useful is the status of the system to have an RSS feed.

    Russell

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    We asked for this when Synetrix first presented to Northants IT Managers. We discussed the potential of having the main content in the Sharepoint portal with T2S pulling from that, and in turn we're able to replicate said RSS on our own portals or readers etc.

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    We left EMBC after it took 6 weeks for them to make a users mailbox function correctly.

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