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East Midlands Broadband Consortium (EMBC) Thread, Thoughts on EMBC in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Morning guys & girlies, I've not long started as the network boss man at my school and among the increasingly-long-list ...
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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Thoughts on EMBC

    Morning guys & girlies,

    I've not long started as the network boss man at my school and among the increasingly-long-list of thigns requiring my attention, our broadband is up for review. At the moment we are on 8MB bonded broadband from RM which is alright, apart from everything being pornographic, but far too slow for 400 computers. It also costs us a fair chunk of money a year.

    I've heard some reasonably good things about EMBC but the problem is, I've heard & experienced some appallingly bad things from NetLinc (now LSN). We were a half&half school at my last job as a techie and NetLinc was like a secret word for sending our network manager into a rage. They had NetLinc at my current school at some point in the past, as well, but cut all ties with them due to not receiving the service they were paying for including very low speeds, and have gone through legal action against NetLinc in the past about charges made.

    As you can see, then, LSN are not popular with either myself or the management team here. I don't have much confidence that they've changed at all simply because they've changed the name and none of the staff. Is it possible for me to connect to EMBC without going through LSN, or is this a necessary step as part of the way EMBC works?

    If the answer to the above is yes, then can anyone give me some thoughts about their experiences with EMBC? Do you have much downtime for your internet? How are they at hosting VLE's (particularly Moodle, which I'm leaning towards)? Do you think they represent good value for money and are a relatively hassle-free experience, unlike NetLinc and its GPOs interfering with your own domain?

    Anything you can tell me would be helpful, I'd just like to have some knowledge behind me when we meet with Jez again soon so I can hold my own in the meeting. Thanks!

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    AIT
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    We have EMBC. Good filtering - if not too good. (Admin interface to unblock sites)

    Meant to have a 10mb symmetric link, for 700 pc's. Simply not fast enough. Drops out allot at night.

    We also have a 10mb DIA line from NTL. More expensive but 1000% worth it.

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    neon's Avatar
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    As said before we have embc and cant really complain, filtering good and hardly ever goes down have 100ish pc's here so no real strain...

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    Edu-IT's Avatar
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    Not really had any major issues with EMBC. Occasional downtime but this usually only is for a matter of minutes, and there's sometimes a bit of a slow connection but this could be down to a whole number of things and not necessarily EMBC or their network.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    I've heard some reasonably good things about EMBC but the problem is, I've heard & experienced some appallingly bad things from NetLinc (now LSN). We were a half&half school at my last job as a techie and NetLinc was like a secret word for sending our network manager into a rage. They had NetLinc at my current school at some point in the past, as well, but cut all ties with them due to not receiving the service they were paying for including very low speeds, and have gone through legal action against NetLinc in the past about charges made.
    Historically, Netlinc and their subcontracted minions have done BloodyStupidThings which has not endeared them to the schools suffering said BSTs.

    They have got better over the years, but they still need to do some work. Communication is better and the Mouchel helldesk is miles ahead of the Ramesys one. There's still* the problem that the Mouchel helldesk don't have any clout to get answers from other involved parties and can be messed about by them. If you can get hold of the right person, it's easy to get things done and it's easier to get hold of them these days.

    Some of the things in the upcoming LSN switcharound are stuff we've been asking about for years, but some of it isn't as well thought out or as clear as it could be - there's a revision to the original technical document hopefully out in January responding to feedback from schools.

    If the answer to the above is yes, then can anyone give me some thoughts about their experiences with EMBC? Do you have much downtime for your internet? How are they at hosting VLE's (particularly Moodle, which I'm leaning towards)? Do you think they represent good value for money and are a relatively hassle-free experience, unlike NetLinc and its GPOs interfering with your own domain?
    Disclaimer: we're an ISP school - Netlinc involvement ends the other side of our router. Bearing that in mind....

    Internet reliability is good - greatly improved from previous years. Speeds could be better, but 20MB is getting rolled out RealSoon (tm).

    It does still bug me when when I hear of $thing that other schools in embc can do that we can't because of the additional Netlinc complication. I haven't ever got a straight answer of whether a Lincolnshire school can get a feed from embc that circumvents Netlinc.

    *as of last time I needed to contact them.

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    Well, recently I have been fairly happy with the embc service and it certainly much better than it used to be (Fujitsu anyone?).

    Internet connectivity uptime is good, the odd short drop out but nothing major.
    Net filtering service is good, especially if you take local control of filtering.
    Did have a problem with web site going down during bad weather this week (parents checking if school open) but embc did take action fairly swiftly to upgrade webserver and since then website had been snappy.

    My only complaint is that the support can still be variable depending on who you get.
    Some are really on the mark on get problems solved quickly but others can leave you frustrated. However any issues with the support service are dealt with quickly if you complain.

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    We have had major problems with EMBC over the years some still ongoing like slow speeds. Very slow often half a meg download but upload speeds are good. Connections drop making large files hard to download, website take up to 1 to 2 mins to load, lots of downtime sometimes weeks at a time last year, tiny amount of web and Email space.

    On the up side the filtering is very good.
    *Just ran a speed test 0.8meg download with only me on the internet.

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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies. Lots of food for thought here.

    From what I gather, then, speeds are still only around the 10mb mark at the moment? I was hoping for 20mb which would make the hassle of switchover worthwhile, but not sure I want to open myself up to all the issues to go from 8mb bonded that is, at least, always 8mb (if stretched too thin) to 10mb that is a bit unreliable.

    Everyone seems to agree that the fitlering is good, I'm assuming it's not the horrible NetSweeper system that NetLinc started using a year ago based on a Canadian server with very little configuration possible? Ideally we would be able to implement levels of access for staff, 6th form, KS3&4 etc.

    Thanks for your indepth reply as well Pete, sounds like you've suffered under the yoke of yellerbelly internet pipes for quite a while. Were there any special requirements you had to meet to get ISP-only status? If I were to go to EMBC it would be under this provision anyway, I'm not willing to cede any control over my network at all. I don't mind taking the blame for problems of my own creation, but it always strikes me as unfair when I'm as stuck as everyone else!

    Are the downtimes short (a few minutes) or still fairly lengthy, 1-2 hours or more? In my experience the downtimes weren't overly frequent, but they were pretty epic in their failure.

    (That said, I only met my fiancée because NetLinc went down so I had no internet left to read, and went into a nearby classroom to watch a Christmas DVD. So thanks for that I guess!)

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    It’s meant to be 10meg being upgraded to 20meg at some point for secondary schools. Although saying that we have a 2meg connection as a secondary school But I think we are the exception and most secondary schools are 10meg due for an upgrade.

    NetSweeper is used but you have lots of options. We have different filtering at different times of day so at launch time extra filtering is on. Teachers can log in and access teacher level filtering and you can set up different levels for different groups. The only thing I don’t think you can do is set up filtering based on the machine used. The way it works is you log into the EMBC portal, open a new tab and you have filtering based on your access.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    Were there any special requirements you had to meet to get ISP-only status? If I were to go to EMBC it would be under this provision anyway, I'm not willing to cede any control over my network at all. I don't mind taking the blame for problems of my own creation, but it always strikes me as unfair when I'm as stuck as everyone else!
    IIRC it was formally accepting responsibility for ensuring Stuff Is Done Properly. We were a half-way house school then (before I came here) and the grapevine relates that BadThingsHappened and there were several heated exchanges of views. After that we effectively declared ourselves an a ISP school. This was formally set up a few years ago. We run our own filtering courtesy of Smoothwall and we had to absolve LEA/Netlinc of any responsibility re that.

    The LSN switchover does change some things, possibly for the worst, which is why we've fed back on some points saying "this isn't acceptable to us". If you want an off-the-record discussion, PM me - I think we talk to your lot reasonably often.
    Last edited by pete; 12th January 2010 at 12:30 PM.

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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Seems I picked a timely day to ask about this, we've just had a quote come in from LSN for 100Mbps ethernet service capped at 20Mbps. Annual charges are lower than our RM 8mb connection and at that speed boost it does make me very curious.

    It's encouraging to hear about NetSweeper being better than I'd seen it previously - there were no levels of access and we only had a very small list locally for our own blocks. I don't necessarily need to administer by individual machines so much as by accounts; allowing teachers onto YouTube would save me a hell of a lot of explaining with regards to saving videos onto pensticks.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    LSN do operate EMBC connections slightly differently to the other LAs is one thing to remember. The core services that we all use are good and improving though ... and I'm happy that things are flexible enough for our schools so that those that know what they are doing can get on with it!

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    Net is ok. Filtering is trash. We moved from smoothwall to netsweeper and we regret it alot.

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tommej View Post
    Filtering is trash
    Care to elaborate?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkeh View Post
    Care to elaborate?
    Was in a rush when i wrote that :P Filtering works, but actual management of netsweeper is awful. There are so many hoops you have to jump through in order to block a website it's ridiculous. Troubleshooting is made almost impossible if you have more than one policy in place for a group.

    Not to mention the fact we keep getting randomly prompted to enter credentials over and over again untill you enter something. It doesn't matter what you enter, but until you do you get cache access denied.
    Last edited by tommej; 12th January 2010 at 03:37 PM.

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