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School network support - who maintains your ICT network?

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Started by Rebecca Ronald 01 Aug 2013 8:47pm () Replies (12)

Hi all,

I'm wondering whether you use an external organisation for ICT network support at your school, what company you use, and what level of support they provide? I'm looking investigating options for a network upgrade at my current school.

Rebecca

Replies

  • Fastpaddy (View all users posts) 01 Aug 2013 10:49pm ()

    Hi Rebecca

    We used to have a full time IT technician employed at the school. When he left we decided to look at an external organisation for IT support. We decided to go with New Era IT. We now have a technician for 30 hours a week. At the same time we went with New Era, we got them to source and install a new server and transfer all our records files etc over to the new server. While the technician employed by the school was very smart with computers, everything he did was non-standard. Unfortunately he was a barrier to learning rather than a support as he tightly controlled access. This has changed with having an external provider who have a service focus rather than an employee protecting his patch focus. The organisation also has access to expert advice and years of experience with school IT systems which helps as quite often they have seen it all before.

    Hope this helps

    Conor (St John's College)

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 02 Aug 2013 9:35am ()

    We use internal expertise (me, the geeky DP) for daily stuff and "ask a kid" is good too, for quick stuff. I can usually work out why the server has gone down and restart.  I used to be just an e_learning girl but have learned to trouble shoot and get my hands dirty under the bonnet! Our aim is that more teachers will become confident to do the same; at the moment we still have problems which could be fixed by:

    1. Restarting the machine

    2. Checking your wireless is connected

    3. Did you remember to login?

    For the rest, I have an SBS Tech come in once a week for a day, and we work well together.  He and i work out priority needs and noone is meant to approach him without going through me (to avoid the "Did you try switching it on?" issues).

    He also can deal with a lot of issues by remote access so can fix things when he's offsite.

    Where are you? It pays to find out from local schools who the best techs are.  My advice is to use people who are involved with schools as they understand the needs and problems.  Interview them first.  You don't want to be talked into doing something where you lose control. $60-$80 seems to be the usual hourly rate. (We are in the wrong job.)

    I agree with Conor's opinion of onsite techs.  They don't always know what other schools are doing, aren't often aware of teacher and student needs and can be gatekeepers, who everyone listens to and are often scared to approach.

  • Peter Eaton (View all users posts) 02 Aug 2013 7:31pm ()

    ...

    $60-$80 seems to be the usual hourly rate. (We are in the wrong job.)

    ...

    Just regarding this: I used to (and still do from time to time) work in the ICT industry.

    $60/hr is about the same as you pay for a plumber to change the washer in a tap at your school, an electrician to replace a fluorescent tube, or your qualified mechanic to change your oil.   You are contracting a company and not paying an individual.

    In ICT, it may get you someone suitably proficient to resolving day to day issues, but this is not the same as someone qualified and experienced enough to advise you on things more complicated like network architecture design.  When making larger ICT decisions or changes, you will likely need to spend more than this to get someone suitable.  You need to think about how large (maybe in dollar terms) and how important (e.g risk) the project is to help you to decide an appropriate cost.

    The best balance is to find someone you trust to take your $60/hr and do the things they can do and know better than you (this is really important for schools to understand - these people can do things way faster than even 'techie' teachers and free them to focus on the stuff they are good at: teaching), who is then prepared to say when you should pay someone else $180/hr when they are the appropriate person for the job.

    My 2c.  (That's my charge out rate in edu normally)

    Pete



  • Rebecca Ronald (View all users posts) 03 Aug 2013 10:15am ()

    Awesome responses - thanks people. I've worked with New Era before and found them great. I don't want to choose them immediately just because I know them (although would be an easy option!), without exploring all the options first - am dealing with lots of other people's money! Who are SBS? We're in Auckland.

    RR

  • Josie Woon (View all users posts) 03 Aug 2013 4:01pm ()

    We were dealing with edtec and they came out when we ru with issues wh in ending up costing is a lot of money.  So we are now with Inhouse computers ( palm north) not sure of the interact cost but now we write any issues we have they book and once a fortnight a technician comes out to sort through them.  If we have the system go down, he has shown us some things to do first and of these don't work we ring and if they can't talk us through then they come down.  It means all issues are sorted without delay and the little things get seen to as well.  Seems to work better and I'm sure doesn't cost half as much.

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 04 Aug 2013 11:53pm ()

    SBS are Rotorua based - so look locally!

  • Warren Grieve (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 7:46am ()

    Having been a "outside expert" and now a school ICT Director I reckon that it is vital that the outside technicians show understanding to technology. A crew of ICT tech angels is a great idea (my page on our ict crew here). This comes from setting parameters with either the onsite or offsite people so that objectives are clear. One should be towards constantly empowering students and teachers.... have a teacher or child alongside the tech every now and then. I always try to see the teachers and students as our "clients" to keep happy and try not to make tech support an "expert" thing.

  • Heather Harper (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 11:31am ()

    We have had Edtech (now TTS) as our outside technicians. I have always found them extremely easy to talk to, they speak in laymans language that you can understand and they have always tried to help us find solutions to improve the digital environment for our staff and students. It is really important for us as a school to build this two way relationship of trust as if we really have minimal technical expertise ourselves.

    Having a strategically placed bowl of lollies gives that feel good factor as well.

  • Deidre Senior (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 12:18pm ()

    We used to have a local technician who spent half a day a week with us.  In the meantime I was used to 'fill the gaps' - however even though I have a strong ICT drive I have always maintained that 'I am a Teachie - not a Techie'.  My school don't pay me to be fixing the IT equipment - I'm not expected (and nor do I have the skills) to fix the plumbing so why should someone who has been trained to teach (and then manage) be expected to 'tinker' (and that is all that it ever was!!)?

    3 1/2 years ago we got New ERA IT in to complete an audit of our system.  They did this and their expertise, skills, openness (to my 'Teachie' questions) has meant that we have gone from strength to strength with our IT infrastructure.  Conor is quite right - a local techie does become a barrier protecting their own interest and they are often limited in product knowledge.

    With New ERA we have the remote desktop support for when our technician isn't onsite and then we have him here for 1/2 day per week (we are a school of 300).  He knows so much more than our 'local, self taught with an interest in IT, pay peanuts get monkeys' technician - and if there is something that he isn't sure about he goes back to our network engineer (who designed the infrastructure) or someone else in the Technical team.  

    Before we went with having a New ERA techie on site I gave our BOT some figures - while we were going to be paying about $2000 more a year to have him - we now had 60 more devices than when our previous techie had come on board. I felt that this was a very good investment!

    The other great thing about New ERA  (you can probably tell from the way I am ranting that I am a fan!!) is that you can lease through EQUICO or Telecom.  Every three years they just update our server and things get faster (and cheaper) and it is all well maintained - without me having to upskill or take my time away from my core job of supporting teachers and students to be the best teachers and learners that they can be.  Too often in today's political climate teachers are trying to be everything to everyone.  We need to remember what our role is and school leaders need to make sure that schools have the best people supporting their teachers.

    I'm the 'Teachie' - I let them be the 'Techie'.  

  • Jamie De La Haye (View all users posts) 23 Oct 2016 5:54pm ()

    Hi 

    I know this is an old thread  - however am keen to know of some uptodate thoughts/opinions on support in school.

    We have 450 ish students on site, 120 ipads, 30 staff + their laptops, chromebooks 45 (and growing) our local IT support is 2.5 days a week.

    He looks after out network, solves IT issues that come up from staff etc.

    What are school doing currently for IT support, I've have heard some school similar to our size only have a person on site once as week. 

  • Rebecca Ronald (View all users posts) 23 Oct 2016 7:06pm ()

    Since I first posted on this thread 3 years ago we have been with two providers - one was a small company and although the price was good, they weren't up to supporting our network the way we needed - we were  often waiting a long time to have simple issues resolved and their staff were inexperienced. For the past two years we've been with New Era and I'm very happy with them - we pay a lot but get good support and a knowledgeable team. The onsite tech is with us full-time (we have 750 students) and keeps up with most tasks. My only complaint is that they gave us a relatively inexperienced technician which meant that sometimes we needed to run around in circles explaining issues that a more experienced tech would have recognised immediately - he was backed up by a more experienced team leader offsite but he always tried to fix things himself first, leading to a time delay. Their staff turnover seems to be quite high. 

    But - overall - we're very happy with them.

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