A summer of work

Published by Matt Setchell on

Traditionally the summer holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for education IT teams, not because we have users to support (although the numbers using technology and requiring support throughout the summer continues to grow) – but because we get a unique opportunity to carry out works.

This summer saw the team I manage to carry out their biggest ever workload and making a huge difference.

The big project

Firstly, our MAC merged with another MAC, bringing together 12 schools – our key focus this summer was ensuring by September 21, these schools were on the same Office365 tenancy, and to rebuild 7 of the networks to join our central AD structure and cloud solutions. The 5 primary schools who joined us are all now cloud-only, intune managed schools – which brought around a challenge of software deployment and config to ensure that all the traditional elements managed by local servers continued to work.

At a new secondary that joined us, and an existing secondary within the MAC we rebuilt their networks to our hybrid secondary model – with domain-joined PCs in communal areas for speed and management, and cloud-managed mobile devices.

Throughout our new MAC, all data is in the cloud, easily accessible anywhere, anytime and any device which was our aim, and the smooth adoption of Office365 in the same tenancy from all schools will significantly benefit the collaboration opportunities as the schools come together within the MAC

Additionally, we oversaw and supported the rollout of Bromcom to 12 schools. When our CSEL joined us in January, a clear aim was to continue the move to the cloud, and away from SIMs, and Bromcom was the chosen solution. Members of my team have worked hard to support schools as they have migrated to the new platform, going fully live in September. On the whole, the migration has gone smoothly, and Bromcom is so much easier to use than SIMs, with information being contextual to end-users, allowing it to mould to their roles.

There have been significant issues with some third parties, however, particularly Parent Pay, who don’t see, it seems, that making life harder for Bromcom customers could well lead to them just using the built-in payment tools within their system. For what should be a very simple transfer of data, we have spent a lot of time getting it right.

We have also ‘enjoyed’ working with previous support providers as usual, when migrating from closed shared tenancies to get data out.

Windows 10 upgrades & Migration to Edge

We have reimaged devices at some 13 schools this summer, that’s all devices with the latest versions of Windows 10, updates and Microsoft Apps. Our networks only have Office in the zero-touch WDT/MDS deployments we use – everything else is managed by GPO deployments, so rebuilds can happen pretty fast.

We also migrated many schools to Edge from Google Chrome, because of the ease of them syncing information outside of profiles, and how we can manage them within our cloud and domain systems.

Wifi Upgrades

In many of our schools we continue to see the need to improve connectivity, and whilst many of our schools benefit from our broadband that is handling their needs by not going for cheaper, slower connectivity – we still have a lot of work to do in our schools to support them investing in appropriate Wifi, and updating it as needs grow. This summer we rolled out at least 3 new wifi networks, which will make a significant difference.

Cloud migrations

We have also completed a lot of cloud migrations, I am not sure how much data we have transferred but it would be tens of terabytes. We completed this within the scope of our SLAs for schools and used a range of tools from Microsoft (SPMT and Mover.io) to achieve it, with IMAP migrations for email where appropriate.

Hardware Upgrades

It was actually a quiet year for hardware, I think we deployed a couple of hundred new devices this summer – primarily win books – which allow fast, cheap access to a fully managed environment. We also had fun getting Chromebooks to play nice with our Windows environments and now manage iPads and Android devices via intune, saving schools money on MDMs

The September return

September started earlier this year – we noticed at about weeks 3 and 4 some users come back and requests start coming in for changes and support. Whether that’s because our user base has grown significantly or just because of the weird year, I am not sure.

But it’s safe to say it’s been a very busy couple of weeks since people started to come back properly. And, given the scale of the changes, the support requests have been very varied – and touch wood on the whole systems are working well.

You can see from the graph below, that September is already over the 2000 ticket mark, and some schools have only just been back with students for a few days.

Graph showing ticket loads, blue is recieved tickets, green resolved and yellow unresolved.

We are also seeing schools log tickets from 5 am right through to 10 pm, and so the flow never stops. One of the things about having such a responsive team, is that it is immediately noticed when things get busier, but I am pleased that we have still managed to hit our resolution SLA target of 94% – in fact, we have been higher until the end of this week when it becomes harder to work with colleagues as they return to the classroom.

Of particular note is the return of our first contact resolution to just over 70% – which had dropped during covid, as obviously we couldn’t get to people at home, and there was a lot more back and forth. But it shows the power of face to face support in my mind.

A team like no other

The team I work with constantly impress me by their dedication to doing the best they can to support schools. They constantly go above and beyond. They have had a hellish year like most, IT teams across the country went from covid lockdown 2 into summer planning, which has increased due to the huge uptake in IT. They then went into Summer without a break, and straight into the September silly season.

IT support in education is not the best paid, nor the best regarded of roles. And whilst, there are many benefits, there are times when our teams are treated as second class.

I cannot overstate my admiration for those working in IT in education on the whole, and especially within my team. I am incredibly proud to work with individuals who do what they do for a greater purpose than the money.

Categories: Blog