stevenlong1985 (16th March 2012)
We've had the current link2ict service charges through today and my head has asked me to investigate the possibility of moving away from Link2ICt (BGFL) for our internet subscription.
The cost for this year is just shy of £6k for 10mb down 10mb up
So I have a few questions?
1. are there any ISP's that do filtering that are recommended as a replacement?
2. If we changed ISP would link2ict still be able to have remote access to the MIS workstations etc as we would still use Link2ICT for MIS Support and would still continue to pay the core subscription.
3. Are there any sites or services we would lose access too if we stopped using l2ict as an ISP?
stevenlong1985 (16th March 2012)
Interested to hear this myself...
1. Something like Virgin Media's Big Red Internet could potentially offer a cost saving, it can be managed but they do not, as far as I know, do filtering so this would be an additional cost on top.
2. I think it can be arranged - but if you are moving to something like progresso then it is not going to be locally in school anyway.
3. Link2ICT and the BGfL are not quite the same organisation, although very closely linked, so potentially nothing but it would be worth reflecting on what you currently subscribe to - do you, for example, use remote backup or web hosting?
I think in reality you will probably not gain a huge cost saving because you would have to do a lot of the co-ordinating that naturally happens accross the services yourself, and you could end up with it not being clear whose responsiblity different things are when they stop working. I would find it easier to justify a move based on the suitablity of the service rather than on cost alone because you cannot really compare like for like easily.
I’m also interested as the cost of upgrading to 100mb is rather high and they have said they can not supply anything in between its either 10mb or 100mb. I’m sure somewhere I once saw a price and virgin were offering gig connections for the same price as link2icts 100mb links. But it is a rather large can of worm to open when you start looking at the implications!
10mb is just about ok for us at the moment but if we wanted to use offsite backup for more than admin data it wouldn’t be up to the job (a restore would take days). My current concern is that if we move to an online MIS system such as Progresso will it cope?
1. I’m not aware of any.
2. Probably but they would need to send data out to the web and connect through your new firewall which unless your ISP provide you need to do yourself.
3. Unless it has changed certain parts of the BGFL network are only available if you are connected directly. Parts of the old link2ict website were not available outside the BGFL network because they had recommended supplier info etc I don’t know if this is still the case. Other things that would need testing include the HR Portal, Finance portal, remote backup (if you use it). Their Video conferencing solution (although they only gave that to secondary schools) wouldn’t work. Their VPN solution wouldn’t work. I don’t think the admin page for Zimbra works. The ebriefing system would need testing. The admin software they use to transfer data to the LEA (can’t remember what it’s called off the top of my head). I’m sure there are a lot more…
Obviously they could allow external access to some / most of these services but it’s more of a case of will they or will they say it’s a security risk?
I’m not sure if the charges for Sophos and Policy central are part of the broadband fee or are separate. I don’t think the policy central interface can be used outside the BGFL network so you might have to purchase that and host it in house as well.
It sounds like you need to speak us at CP ltd.
Darren is currently looking after schools and colleges who are having exactly the same problems and I am amazed at how many of you there are. This can be with or without filtering as required.
Give him a call on 0845 249 1779 or if you would prefer you can email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.
In most instances what you currently have running will continue to work, but you may just need to take care of a few of the "pieces" of the puzzle yourself.
The content filtering is probably the starting point. You will need to decide if you want the ISP to do it centrally, with you having full control, or if you want to install and manage it locally, for example by installing a Smoothwall. You may need to sort out your local Anti Virus solution as well, but there are lots of cost effective solutions out there.
You will need some sort of firewall that you can allow remote access in to your network and of course a few static external IP addresses that you can use for this.
In most instances I think people are moving away from Local Authority provided solutions, either due to the cost and or combined with getting the true speed of connection they are paying for. In many instances we see schools that are on a 100Mb/s connection and only get 20Mb/s. You may not need to go straight to a 100Mb/s connection, but somewhere around 30Mb/s You can always upgrade it (check with your ISP) any time during the contract.
Just my take on things, from what I have seen over the last few years.
You can't access some services outside of this connection due to restrictions by ip ranges firewalls etc... If you change ISP you will need to contact link2ict or a birmingham school that has already left the fold so to speak. It might be that they are willing to allow access to services such as the zimbra admin console to additional ip ranges but they might not...
Fluid data have just started to offer a Netsweeper filtered Internet service.
capita offer openhive ISP which has a range of optional extras including filtering.
Also if you would like to organise your own line and filtering off site there is a Edu focused netsweeper portal / proxy that is now in service. I believe all of these options can offer filtering at a user level and reporting etc.
PM me for relevant contact details if it is something that you wish to look into.
However the essential services you need to retain from BGFL is something that I believe you need to be very careful about, I've seen a number of complaints about being locked out from them very quickly after you don't sign up to the contract for the coming year. this is not necessarily in BGFL however it concerns me that this can happen quickly. therefore being up on what you need from them and what you need as the basics of compliance and security is important but also understanding the resources you COULD end up without and tracking down viable alternatives I think is essential.
Here is the kick in the behind for you, don't expect to save money year 1. Howver can you increase connectivity and get a better SLA for the same cost? More than likely. Cost savings seem to be year 2 and 3 onwards depending on penalties for leaving if there are any? I have seen recently a £2K penalty which was written into the contract years ago in very obvious and large print indeed...... Actually it was microscopic but there none the less.
My 10 pence worth.
OpenDNS has filtering in the cloud. So you simply change your DNS servers in your DHCP scope and no software/hardware onsite. This has to be the lowest maintenance way forward.
However it isn't that cheap. Really needs group buying with other schools.
We investigated alternative i/net connection in Sandwell and we found the best option (price and speed) was to stay with current provider and wait for FTTC outside the school.
I've been looking at this last Friday and although it appears tricky, there are ways to get the cost down according to other schools. I'm hoping this doesn't break any forum rules but on recommendation from another school, I've been talking to a Birmingham based company called icomm about ISPs.
Before that though, take a look at what other LA's are paying for ISP subscriptions. If you search hard enough on the web you'll find it and bar Solihull, I think almost all other local authorities are paying less.
Birmingham (the biggest local authority in Europe by the way) should have the best buying power of all Authorites but sadly it doesn't seem to work out that way.
WE ARE PAYING TOO MUCH! DON'T BE SCARED to look elsewhere! and don't be put off by potential issues!
stevenlong1985 (19th March 2012)
But gone will be the days of phoning up and saying "Here is my IP address, come have a look".
With all the stumbling blocks associated with changing ISP, There are ways around everything. In another school, Link2ict were forced to setup a VPN to collect data and provide support and such like after an ISP change. It's up to schools whether the inconvenience of other things is worth the saving. If you have a good ICT support in school, there's really not much need to contact them. I certainly don't day to day.
I'm not saying don't go with Link2ICT at as there's some parts of the subscription that are great value fo money.
The important fact is that schools shouldn't feel like there's no choice. Remember, Link2ICT are a limited company and as a result, have to turn a profit like every other comapny. Budgets have been cut, sacrifices have to made.
This looks tempting on paper and we worked out there was a cost saving - but remember there are potential ongoing costs, as well as setting someone up (probably yourself) as the liaison for reconnecting to all the council services (and don't forget local authority links for the heating system etc if you're a state school) and the possible legal agreements for the same. Then there's the person that deals with the fallout for the internet going down (again, do you want to do that job?), and also the responsibility for the web filtering. Do you want to be the person in charge of all that? Not to mention the money it now costs in someone's time to manage all these new responsibilites. I bet that isn't factored into the costs. Or....do you leave everything as is and realise the few hundred or thousand a year is actually worth all of the above?
The school based ISP's we've looked at all have filtering built into the cost. The best part about it is that the school has the option to control it or use the companies own support desk. The connection is monitored and according to schools who are currently trialling it, it's not gone down so far.
Also remember it's up to the city to collect data from you. NOT for the school to send it. As i said earlier, there are ways round any problems that crop up. I'm going to ask one of the schools if I can mention them in future posts. I'm sure they won't mind me saying they saved HALF the price for a better connection.
I will go through what I have recently done with regards to moving away from an LEA - not BGFL though.
1. We got comparitive quotes from various Leased line vendors - Global AXS(M247 LTD), Talk Talk, BT, Easynet Connect (who are the backbone for Sky's broadband). We went with Global AXS as lots of people recommened and they where very competitive on price.
2. We looked at the filtering solutions available - Smoothwall was the winner (i didn't really look at others having used smoothwall before )
3. We then looked into the other SLA's etc we where signed up to with the LEA and what services they provided. The only other one apart from the SMTP filtering was Anti-virus. We then looked into this and compared various products and in the End went with Avast Profession Site Licensed for 3 years.
Our Line has just gone live and so far its brilliant!
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