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General Chat Thread, Technical support in a small school in General; Hi everyone, What you consider to be a sensible level of technical support in a small school? I ask this ...
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    mgwm's Avatar
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    Technical support in a small school

    Hi everyone,

    What you consider to be a sensible level of technical support in a small school?

    I ask this as I work part-time as an ICT teacher in a small independent school and I am helping the current technician put together a report for the bursar.

    We have had quite a few niggling issues with the network. The current technician has inherited an RM system which he hates and wants to change the system to a pure windows server solution or even a linux server solution.

    The school previously had 2 years relatively problem-free use of an RM system. The technician who implemented and managed it moved on to a better paid job last summer.

    The school now has a new technician who is fresh out of uni. He is still finding his feet, but I am sure he will get there in the end. Essentially he is required to do everything from being the budget holder to managing the entire school and office system (in all but name - a network manager)

    We are starting to look at alternative companies that provide training, off-site and some on-site support as part of their support contract, but I doubt that is enough in itself. In my mind he could still do with a part-time assistant to help him, as teacher-related problems still take up a vast amount of his time.


    The school has 130 computers, 450 end users, 20 interactive whiteboards


    Any advice or experiences gratefully received.

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    Pottsey's Avatar
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    "The school has 130 computers, 450 end users, 20 interactive whiteboards"
    1 full time without a doubt perhaps a 2nd either part time or full time is better then for the odd weeks when there’s not enough to do stick the 2nd tech in classrooms as IT support and/or as teacher training on software.

    He has to much work for an inexperienced tech out of uni. I assume he has no long tearm experienced. I believe on the Beta website there are guide lines for IT techs per computer. Isnt it something like 50 comps per 1 IT Tech?
    Last edited by Pottsey; 3rd April 2008 at 10:57 AM.

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    contink's Avatar
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    At a guess we're talking at least 2 servers, admin network responsibilities (SIMS, etc...) and he's being harangued from all sides by teachers who want the usual last minute things.

    Got agree, another tech, preferably someone with more experience would be nigh on essential. That's a hell of a lot to expect of a new graduate.

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    "small independent school"!

    Your setup is massive compared with my "small independent school" - I've got a Windows 2k3 vanilla network with 31 Pcs, 3 laptops & 5 (soon to be 7) IWBs. I'm part time - 20 hours per week and in that time, I also run the school Library... I actually work more like 30 hours pw.

    I will PM you regarding a training company I have found excellent.

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    enjay's Avatar
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    As others have said, although networks come much bigger yours isn't all that small. I would agree that it is more than a brand-new grad could run on their own, but I don't think it merits a full-time technician (assuming it is generally functioning okay). Consider a job-share with a IT-keen LSA or lab tech or, if you're a senior school, some Y11/Sixth Formers - have them do the day-to-day grind of toner changes and quick fixes, leaving your network manager free to get his head around the bigger things. If, however, the network is fast falling apart around yours ears, then you may well need a full time techie.

    Off site support could cause you as many problems as it solves (read some threads about BSF outsourcing for more info!) and I think the money would be better spent on training your network manager.

    Unless he has any particular expertise/experience of running a network, I would keep the RM stuff in place for now, even if just while he finds his feet, gets to know who is who, what is where and what the requirements and problems are. Do think long-term though - you don't want him to set up a network which only he can manage, as you would then be stuffed (to use the technical terms!) when he leaves (which he probably will within 3 years).

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    I would have said 1 full time experienced network manager should be able to cope with that size network on their own.

    At the end of the day it depends what you want from it, if you just want it maintained as is, replacing machines as they get old etc, then what you have should be enough. If you intend to develop ICT, want some innovation, expansion and training, then you will need aditional staff. As in ideal, I would have 1 expereinced network manager, and 1 part time technician.

    Although slightly different requirements, as I work in the primary sector, we support schools that have 450 pupils, 100 computers, 2 servers and 15 interactive whiteboards, who only pay for 4 hours of technician time a week, 40 weeks of the year, and on the whole this is enough.

    Steve

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    button_ripple's Avatar
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    If he hasn't had any RM training then he will absolutely hate the RM network as he won't know how to find any of it's great features.

    The RM network is supposed help you. If the techie is trying to use normal windows tools such as Active Directory then the RM network will be seen as annoying because the RM network does all of the Active Directory tools for you!

    Make sure that the techie is using the RM stuff and he will soon realise that they aren't an annoyance!

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    Quote Originally Posted by button_ripple View Post
    Make sure that the techie is using the RM stuff and he will soon realise that they aren't an annoyance!
    This isn't entirely true, there are certainly a lot of quirks and things that are harder to do on a RM network than a vanilla one so this could defiantly be viewed as an annoyance. A lot of RM networks also seem to rely on RM support to do certain tasks who aren't the fastest so that could be quite an annoyance as well.
    Last edited by Jona; 3rd April 2008 at 01:51 PM.

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    Snap

    That describes my network ok you got slightly more ie boards and we I would guess have few more projectors etc than you and few extra bits.

    Main problem is we are involved in some many external projects which takes away from day to day stuff bit.

    As amount of techies just me on my lonesome here. Also we are state school not an indie with all your money runs before Nick comes and kicks me...

    Russell

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    mgwm (4th April 2008)

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    apoth0r's Avatar
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    To be perfectly honest, I would wait and see how the technician gets on with the job. He may rise to the challenge and it would only be fair to give the guy a chance.
    I would be kinda annoyed if I was told of these responsibilites only to have them taken away a few weeks later.
    Especially as an independant school could snap up a network manager at a pretty fast pace.

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    mgwm's Avatar
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    thanks for the great responses - much food for thought.

    On the subject of RM and support contracts - we have had nothing major go wrong with the network, but there have been a few niggles and I know it bothers him greatly. Slow logging on times for pupils and staff being the main issue, despite many calls by him to the RM helpline. I know other people here have had a relatively problem-free existence with them.

    From what he has told me, he definitely wants to change this summer to a new system, complete with a support contract that includes training for him. I guess that will be good for the school as well as we have some outside support if he moves on to another job.

    I am not a techie, but I guess it is always going to be problematic when you take over system that somebody else has implemented and managed, especially without experience. He did have a changover training in the summer holiday from the previous technician - but with no teachers and pupils there you don't get much of a feel for all the problems that happen on a daily basis.

    I do know of an independent school nearby which has just over 100 computers managed by 2 full time msce qualified technicians and that is why i asked the question originally. From my experience of teacher needs, I am not sure how you guys manage in primary schools with such little support in terms of hours. What happens in an emergency?

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    In an emergency, I have EduGeek first, the support of another School Techie that I've known for years and the support of the trainer (mentioned in PM) who also does school support.

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    If they have two full MCSE folks for 100 computers they are either paying a fortune for them to sit and play games (Oh how I wish....).

    Us? 1250 kids, 250 staff, 300 desktops, 150 laptops, 50 Projectors/IWBs.

    Moi, 1 FT Snr Tech, 2 PT Techs.

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