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East Midlands Broadband Consortium (EMBC) Thread, schoolsbroadband.co.uk in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Hi all, So. I bet we all really want another thread about EMBC / emPSN and whether to leave or ...
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    schoolsbroadband.co.uk

    Hi all,

    So. I bet we all really want another thread about EMBC / emPSN and whether to leave or stay!

    This thread is specifically asking about Schools Broadband (the company - I would post a link but it wont let me - schoolsbroadband dot co dot uk)

    Anyone in Leicestershire got any experience of them. The appear to be offering the moon on a stick in terms of connectivity, services and support at a VERY cheap price compared to the framework suppliers.

    I feel like there must be a catch!

    What do we think?

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    I have no experience of them. They seem a very new setup and are clearly pitching hard for EMBC business.

    There have been other threads on here about them recently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    I have no experience of them. They seem a very new setup and are clearly pitching hard for EMBC business.

    There have been other threads on here about them recently.
    I did a search. I couldn't find a great deal. Hopefully someone in Leicestershire will chime in...

    EDIT - forgot to say thanks for you input.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    They're not a new setup at all, they're aka Talk Straight and have been around a good deal of time. They are one of the people we are aiming towards most favourably as a combination of cost and feature, however they're not the cheapest for us (Northants) so may have to haggle a bit.
    They have so far been professional and quick, and have offered us some nice incentives to get up and running quickly with minimal transfer difficulty. All of my primary schools have signed up with them and dealings with them so far have been good. They all have a disadvantage of a crap ADSL line, however SB have it in the contract that when Fibre to the Cabinet arrives in December, they will move them over FOC. They're not connected up just yet but that won't be long.

    I have no complaints about them as yet, it's early days but I don't believe there's likely to be. I'll happily keep this thread up to date with how things go.
    Last edited by synaesthesia; 20th April 2012 at 12:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by synaesthesia View Post
    They're not a new setup at all, they're aka Talk Straight and have been around a good deal of time. They are one of the people we are aiming towards most favourably as a combination of cost and feature, however they're not the cheapest for us (Northants) so may have to haggle a bit.
    They have so far been professional and quick, and have offered us some nice incentives to get up and running quickly with minimal transfer difficulty. All of my primary schools have signed up with them and dealings with them so far have been good. They all have a disadvantage of a crap ADSL line, however SB have it in the contract that when Fibre to the Cabinet arrives in December, they will move them over FOC. They're not connected up just yet but that won't be long.

    I have no complaints about them as yet, it's early days but I don't believe there's likely to be. I'll happily keep this thread up to date with how things go.
    Please do.

    I went to a seminar that they gave. I came away in two minds.

    On paper they seemed great. They offer essentially the same as the EMBC framework for a lot less money. Their FORTINET boxes seemed great. Their online backups were cheap (although not fully manager I don't think). Lots of other great stuff too. Don't get me wrong, I was impressed.

    On the other hand I found myself feeling slightly uneasy. They made certain claims which were misleading IMO (as sales people always do) and even said one thing I am 99% sure is untrue. They commented on the LA in a way I found unnecessary - I really do not like sales people who feel the need to bash other products to sell their own. Also, there were additional costs for certain things I am interested in which were not clear until I started to dig a bit more.

    Something that worried me, which I think was supposed to be a good thing, is they said they made a loss in the first year in order to win business - suppose they make a loss on 1000 new schools - I am not business expert but that sounds a risky plan to me. How are they going to recoup that loss and continue to provide services at the same low price year on year? Perhaps I am being ridiculous.

    I suppose what I am really want is to speak to someone who has hands on, long term experience with them. I would like to hear from someone what my fears are unfounded.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Did you get any of the quote paperwork through with the references provided? Will be worth asking them (think the references were Bedford based schools). If not let me know and I'll find the paperwork with references on for you.

    As the school's side of it is a slightly different fork of their company, it'll be worth asking around about Talk Straight.

    Don't worry too much about some of the made claims - if there's anything you're unsure of, ask here; there are certainly people that can verify or discredit them. We've had similar from other large suppliers too, one claimed to own the national ethernet network, and that claim alone meant they had no chance of getting near us!

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    sjb
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    My school has recently switched over to Schools Broadband. Before we made our decision we spoke to a couple of schools in Bedfordshire who have been using them for two or three years and the references they gave were very positive - no downtime, very good support, effective filtering, less hassle - neither referee had anything negative to say about the service they had experienced.

    Our experience so far has been good. The installation went smoothly - the engineer was very knowledgeable and thorough and spent a whole day on site making sure everything was set up the way we wanted it. We have had a few issues due to our internal configuration, which the SB support staff helped us to resolve even though it was nothing to do with their installation. All services (B2B, AVCO etc) are working, including Leamis remote backups (Leamis have been great and spent a lot of time figuring things out for us). We are in a FTTC area, so speeds have increased significantly.

    I have been particularly impressed with the filtering - we have a Fortinet firewall onsite and it blocks a lot of things that our old EMBC filtering didn't, including Google Images. We also have more control over filtering levels for staff and pupils, which is linked to Active Directory so the appropriate levels are set at login (previously we had to login to the EMBC portal separately to get staff level filtering). I can easily change settings for individual sites and the SB support staff can dial in remotely to make more complicated changes. The firewall reporting is also very good.

    In response to goldie-gold's concern about making a loss in the first year - SB's initial contract term is three years, which is how they can make a loss in the first year as the equipment costs are spread over the contract period. But they do allow you to end the contract early if you choose to (in which case you pay the balance of the set up costs).

    Happy to answer any particular questions anyone may have.

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    Gibson335's Avatar
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    They were quick to respond and, yes, quick to make promises, but then they're business people first and foremost, so that was to be expected. They have an all-in price for services, some of which we didn't require, and so when set alongside one of the emPSN options they were no better financially. There will be slight cost differences sometimes even within the same county, but for us it just didn't stack up.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    OK, one of my primaries is now up and running with Schools Broadband and we're reasonably happy. Some small setup issues (i.e. filters) which just need tweaking to the school's requirements, and migration of email will be slow from EMBC's webmail over but that's not their problem. Performance is good, 3.5Mbit up from 1.5Mbit and the VPN system "just works".
    More to come hopefully but at all point they've been professional and support has been good.

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    We had our SB installation done today. Good points are the filtering and the performance, 8.5Mbit up from 2Mbit. Still waiting on email (mentioned live@edu, blank face response) and VPN's, installation guy didn't know how to do it, but said he would arrange for them sort it out remotely...

    Oh, and does anyone know if you can share Fortinet filters via VPN? They installed a second site for us, but it has no firewall!

    Also did anyone else get any paperwork? Unless the admin team took it off him before I was called upon I don't even have a helpdesk number.

    Overall good, but room to improve.
    Last edited by themanfromict; 14th May 2012 at 10:09 PM.

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    sjb
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    I didn't get any paperwork either on the day, but they emailed me a user guide when I asked. I set up live@edu myself (SB will do it but charge extra) - it's fairly straightforward to do. For VPN access you need to get users set up with permission to log in remotely. The support number is 01133 222333 - the support staff are good and usually respond quickly. You can also email support@talk-straight.com.

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    What kind of pricing did you get on the service?

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    Think the price for a primary was around £2900

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    Does anyone have a list of what was included in the 3 packages? I have a copy of the invoice which says we signed up for silver, but I can't for the life of me remember what that features!

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    SERVICE OPTIONS

    Gold Silver Bronze
    Super fast internet connection up to 40Mbps Y Y Y
    Ability for staff to block and unblock websites Y Y Y
    8 Real world IP addresses as standard Y Y Y
    Remote login to school network for staff, your Local Authority or you IT support technincians Y Y Y
    Uncongested contention ratio Y Y Y
    Unlimited POP email accounts Y Y Y
    Spam filtering of e mail (SMTP feed or POP e mail) Y Y Y
    Equipment warranty for duration of contract Y Y Y
    Keep your .sch.uk school e mail address Y Y Y
    Website hosting of your school website Y Y Y
    Onsite engineer installation Y Y Optional Extra
    Per IP address Web Filtering Policy Y Y
    Web Filtering Interaction into Windows Active Directory Y Y x
    Reporting of attempted access to blocked websites Y Y x
    Advanced customisable reporting of attempted access to block websites and application usage Y X x
    Inline Anti Virus scanning and free PC Anti Virus Software Y Y x

    Sorry for dodgy formatting. Get the picture though - assuming you mean primary level, anyway.
    Last edited by synaesthesia; 24th May 2012 at 04:27 PM.

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