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Internet Related/Filtering/Firewall Thread, What do i need to investigate and plan for if moving internet provider? in Technical; ...
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    What do i need to investigate and plan for if moving internet provider?

    We're a Norfolk school currently using the local authorities connection. Previously the funding was arranged so that approx £28000 was given to the school then immediately top-sliced in order to pay for our broadband connection. We had no say in this; county's opinion was that schools must put up with this arrangement as it subsidised the provision of internet access to smaller schools in rural locations who wouldn't be able to afford the £250,000 required to run fibre to their location.

    Things have changed now, however, and moves are afoot to alter how we're charged for broadband; this also now means that the funding we get can't be taken away from us if we choose not to use county's services. Hurrah!

    So; what issues do i need to be aware of when looking for alternate providers? There is a good chance that our cluster primary schools will also be interested in moving and i suspect i'll get roped in to advising them to an extent, to. Becta used to have some advice i believe about what to llok for, but as they've now gone, i'm not sure where to look.

    Cheers!

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    Firewall, filtering and your ISP. If your email / domain is a county owned one you'll need to move that i expect.

    I think off the top of my head that was the main concerns we dealt with when moving

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    Filtering we have - bought a protex license and are running it as a virtual machine. Firewall we'll need - any recommendations? As to picking the ISP, are there any requirements we need to take in to account? Any service standards that a prospective supplier must adhere to?

    Cheers

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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Main things I forgot about until last minute here were (iirc) mail host, DNS records, and sorting out the firewall's internal IP (to be default gateway internally).

    ISP wise, ask to see their SLA and what reimbursements they offer for downtime - any good business ISP should offer repayments on your monthly fee for certian percentages of downtime in that month e.g. 5% downtime means you pay 10% less that month. Most will have a "free" amount i.e. they can have 2% downtime without penalty; BT have a 100% SLA so you get repayments on any downtime, but when we had a quote they were 50% more than anyone else in the first place.

    If you rely on your net connection for email, MIS etc. then you should get an ADSL backup line on any fibre connection you have installed.

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    Well I think it's obvious who I'd recommend

    Even if you didn't use us for a school I think it's important to have an all inclusive service rather than buy your line from company x and your content filtering / security from company y but it does also depend on how competent you think you and your engineers are at managing a security service.

    Look for the following / ask the following questions

    What SLA does the company offer?
    If it doesn't hit its SLA what compensation do you get? (you'll generally find your LA won't give you any. We for example give you 1 day credit for every hour of downtime)
    Highly recommend an ADSL / FTTC backup in case of fibre or EFM failure
    Hosting of your .sch.uk domain name (or other)
    Backup MX as standard. This is particularly useful if you have your own mail server onsite
    What was BECTA approved content filtering. If its newer than when BECTA was about make sure the company / vendor of the device is part of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Without this your head may be very nervous about moving away
    What are the costs to upgrade your service in the future if you require faster speeds?
    I'd highly recommend an onsite firewall / content filtering device for a secondary school as this will give you much more control. Fortigate / Smoothwall / Watchguard / Cisco will all do the job
    Ensure you get reports on web activity. It's no good to just block sites, you really need to report too and really by username, not just by IP address of the device. Again your head will like this
    Integration of a firewall with Active Directory makes your life so much easier
    Make sure you understand what happens in the event of hardware failure on all equipment provided by the ISP e.g. router, firewall
    Remote VPN login for staff is extremely useful. Often the LA may need to use this if you still use them for any services so they can access your LAN. We've some LA's that do remote dial-in and others that have asked for a static IPSEC VPN back to their offices.
    Spam filtering is very useful
    The ability to filter devices offsite as well as onsite. We find lots of schools are giving Ipads to children and need to content filter when not in school
    Does the ISP specialise in the delivery of services to schools? I believe you get a lot of value add by the ISP understanding a schools needs. If you just want a fast Internet connection then fine you can go anywhere. If you want advice on how the services provided by the ISP can help you as a school then go to a specialist company as you'll get a lot more value add

    Don't go for more than a 3 year contract period. Unless you use BT fibre on a bearer of 1Gig or over, there is no cost advantage to the ISP. Therefore there's no real reason for the pricing to be different between a 3 year and a 5 year contract except for the ISP tying you in for longer which is of benefit to them.

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    Although I definitely agree that going independent is better and probably the right option.

    I wouldn't recommend getting everything from one place over getting them separately, they are both as much hassle as the other in my opinion. Both have pros and both have cons.

    All in one place, means you have 1 bill, and probably only one company you need to deal with (although you made need to contact different departments which means multiple phone calls), there may be restrictions with the variety of services offered to, such as only 1 type of filtering solution. It might be easier to get it through your finance department though.

    Separate providers might mean more initial leg work, but may well be cheaper and you can pick and choose all your options.

    I totally agree with the comment about 3 year contracts though, you don't want to be tied down for to long and the pricing differences tends to be peanuts.

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    @cheredenine, Would you be willing to share your thoughts as to why you are looking to move away from the LEA's service? We're also in Norfolk and have been looking at moving away when the time is right. But last weeks funding announcement (£5,500 + £12 per pupil for secondaries IIRC) has left us with second thoughts. I'm guessing you're a larger secondary school that'll come out on the wrong side of that deal?

    When I was looking into it I was getting quotes for...

    20/100 leased line, 50/100 leased line and 100/100 leased line
    2mb SDSL backup
    Smoothwall filtering and firewall

    as well as comparing Google Apps to Office 365 for e-mail. Still not sure which way we are going to jump, but the current LEA deal looks tempting. I think we're waiting to see what the pricing looks like when the contract expires in 2014.

    The other thing to bear in mind is it takes about 3 months from signing the contract to getting a new ISP live, so you need to carefully plan in advance when to cut off the county supply. I think we would want to make a decision 4-6 months before contract renewal, so around this time next year.

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    We jumped from our RBC in 2009 after becomming an Academy, for us it was simple as we had never relied on the RBC for any service other than piping packets to our site. We ran/run our own firewall, filtering, Email, DNS, etc. So we just changed our DNS modded some server IP's and chucked the RBC router in a box till they bothered to recover it.

    Rob

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    Thanks to all for comments, especially SchoolsBroadband comprehensive run-down, very useful!

    To answer tmcd35's question: there is a distinct anti-county feeling at our school based on issues we've had previously in terms of mediocre support, lengthy drawn-out projects not quite reaching fruition and, at times, just outright bad-management. Consequently we've been looking to move away from county's services pretty much across the board. We're a school of approx 600 pupils, so last weeks news would make things cheaper for us; though the fact that the money was always issued and then top-sliced made the actual figure pretty much irrelevant. Other news about broadband funding i heard from our business manager is more significant, however, specifically that we can no longer be forced to pay the fee for the county broadband connection even we don't use it. Previously, if we wanted another service, we'd be given and topsliced the fee for the county service, then have to find £££ for the connection we wanted to use. Soon we'll be given the money and if we don't use the county service we keep the cash...

  10. Thanks to cheredenine from:

    tmcd35 (12th October 2012)

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Thanks for your reply Cheredenine, very interesting. We are a similar size school, 850 pupils, and based on the quotes I've had I can't easily recommend moving away from County so long as prices beyond 2014 remain in line with last weeks funding announcement, and the they do actually implement their proposed Smoothwall filtering changes.

    Although, interestingly our Business Manager hinted at still being interested in exploring a change despite costing more...

  12. #11

    plexer's Avatar
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    We moved away from the county solution ealier in the year after becoming an academy on the 1st March and therefore had access to the LACSEG grant if you want to have a chat feel free to PM me and I'll give you my ddi.

    Ben

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    if you have never been outside of LA controlled Connection there are many things to review and issues which might effect and add costs to the base cost of the link.

    we have allways been outside of the local LA in peterborough but have moved to the LA connection but with a unfiltered feed. so we manage the email, internet, spam, firewall both first and second line, vpn, remote citrix, ssl's, dns settings.

    if you want to get a feel you could drop me a line.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    In Northants we worked with schools to put together such an advice list. You can have a look at it via some schools who were members of the working group.
    http://www.thedustonschool.northants.sch.uk/broadband

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    plexer's Avatar
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    Going by norfolks new charging model it would cost approx the same as we are paying for our connection now but we have 100mbit on a gig capable service.

    Ben

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    The Northants toolkit is a fantastic guide to work from - as a school, you will need to sit through each requirement and work out required specifics from there. For instance, you can tick the mail and web filtering boxes very easily but you may find there's something you used to get which you no longer will with some suppliers that you wouldn't have otherwise thought about (this is from experience).
    We missed one important part of this and as a result are having to consider a workaround but make sure you take a lot of time over each aspect to save problems in future.

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