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Do you need a new IT partner for your school?

Maybe you don’t, but maybe you just don’t realise that you do as you are coping OK, but coping isn’t managing, it is more a survival rather than a preparation; read through our guide below, it will help you ask questions and get the most out of your IT support, either the company you are with, or the one that you will choose.  

How did you, historically, select your IT Partner?

Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay“>Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay

So – How did you? Did you ask at the school gates, to see if a mum or a dad could help you out; Did you choose the person who supports the other small businesses in the village or in the high street, hoping they would get how a school works; Did you do a little research first, but are still not happy?

However you chose in the past, maybe this year, you can look at it a little differently.  Use our guide below, so you can whittle out the ‘Half Job Harry’s’ or the’ Know it All, Do Little Albert’s’ or the ‘Promise the World – but can’t fit you in Wilbur’s’.  Find someone who understands how a school works; Who can work with legacy equipment; Who knows that a classroom can’t get by unless that interactive screen is doing all it can to support the teacher; Who understands that SIMS isn’t just a computer game about virtual people…

A general IT Support Partner may have a good grasp on how a business operates, and how a computer is built and maintained, and for an office environment would be second to none, but for a school you need an IT Support Partner – Plus.  They need to understand how the school works – what happens at 9am and 3.15 and why being available through those hours is the most important part of the service you provide.   

Preparation is key – Start looking well before your renewal date is up (if you are in a contract), give yourself time.

Strategise

Set up a strategy if you haven’t already.  It can be a year’s plan, a 5-year plan, or even longer if you want.  This should work alongside your school business plan – where will you be next year, are your staff and pupils all going to be back in the school, are you working on a contingency in case your pupils have to work from home again?

Whatever your needs, make sure you look at what is working well now, and what isn’t, have a look at all the changes that had to be made during the Pandemic.  Are you now able to transition from office/school base to home bases without worrying? How did your telephony system work when we all had to work from home – or didn’t it?  Could the teachers and TA’s get things printed when they needed to?  Ask your staffthey know what they struggle with, and what would make their daily working routine work better in the school or at home.

So, what are the top 8 reasons that people want to make the switch?

1. Are you seeing tangible, understandable results?

Return on investment is everything. Especially right now. You need to be able to see at a glance exactly how hard your IT partner is working for you. And what benefit that work is bringing to your school.

Tech talk can be tricky, but your support service should be able to make sure you understand what they are talking about without using every abbreviation under the sun – your specialism is teaching our young people. Ours is to keep that teaching machine running!

Everything presented should be relevant to your school, should be reflected in your plan and be easy to understand.  You should be able to see what has happened throughout the year in relation to your IT support, be it regular site visits, back up checks, ticket times, etc.

2. Do you have good communication with your IT Partner?

When you are working with an IT Support Partner, they will be able to help you identify the right hardware and software to help the school operate. They will make recommendations based on the way you work, and the vision that you have for the school’s future.

How do they communicate with you? Are you receiving regular emails giving you information about potential security issues, about products going end of life that will need to be scheduled in, do they give you notice of when your maintenance is due?  Are you receiving communications about new innovations, about things that will make your day easier? 

Do you know who works for you, do you know the names of the support team?  What would you improve with a new team? Make sure you put it into your plan.

3. Do they take data security seriously – are they training you to keep your school safe?

OK, so we’re not expecting your IT support partner to teach you their job. You don’t need to be an expert in IT – that’s what you’re paying someone to do for you. However, there should be a certain element of learning when you partner with an IT company.

For example, you need to learn about cyber-security; how to avoid scams; and how to protect your data.  Your support team needs to educate you on the ways you can reduce the school’s vulnerability to external attack.

Today, data security is of the utmost importance, since Covid, hackers and chancers are trying to look for more ways into systems, to cause havoc, or to tie up a school so that they have to pay a ransom to release the data.  If your IT Support Company does not see this as a priority, they will not be able to ensure your data is safe

The National Cyber Security centre’s website gives good support for schools 1 – so when you ask your IT provider how they ensure your data is held safe, and if it is in compliance with the NCSC’s guidance, you can ask this with confidence and knowledge.

Research from Marsh, Wavestone and law firm CMS2, highlights the number of cyber insurance claims growing 83% by 2020.  Whilst this report is all industry wide, the threat to schools is increasing, we, just this year, know of three separate attacks that have crippled local education providers. (see Ref. list for citations3).

4. Do you sometimes need support ‘outside’ of your contract?

A reputable IT Support Partner for schools will never shy away from something that is outside of their agreed business, that is not to say that they should be walked over, however, they should be flexible, have a clear pricing strategy, and be able to manage the odd deviance to contract.  

“Sorry, we don’t cover that.”

Ever heard that from your IT support provider? Lots of schools do.

“We don’t cover that” suggests a real lack of concern for your school’s operation. And that is not what a partner is about.

Being a partner for a school, means that you need a lot of hats to cover a lot of IT roles.  A school needs their IT equipment to last – you need to be able to fix it if you can.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

‘A partner actively spends time looking at new ways to improve your network; your data security; and your infrastructure. They won’t be working rigidly to a one-size fits all contract.’

5. Are you kept in the loop?

Understandably, many IT problems can’t always be fixed immediately. Some issues take a while to get to the bottom of. Other problems are rare and may take a little more diagnostic work.  However, whatever happens, you should always be kept in the loop. 

Being left in a void is frustrating and can cause mistrust. So ensure that there is a way to communicate with your IT Support Partner to follow up items awaiting resolution.

6. Taking ownership

How many times have you been told by your IT company that it was a third parties’ device that has caused the problem and you need to contact them to resolve the issue – Stop right there… The device is related to the IT? Then your IT company need to help resolve it for you.

Whilst it is imperative to make sure Warranties are valid (and this needs to be done by the school if they have purchased the tech), your IT Support Company should be able to help sort out the dismantling, sending off and re-instating when returns. 

7. Do we really need new hardware?

It’s nice to have the very latest technology in your school, but it’s certainly not vital. There are lots of other things to consider before upgrading equipment and devices. Especially today when value for money and return on investment are critical.

Most schools will have plenty of legacy tech, setting up a rolling renewal will ensure that new tech is constantly coming in as old tech reaches end of life, ensuring that the children can learn off the same operating systems and using the same updated software.   By rolling your renewal of kit, you are not looking at a huge spend to replace, but a more planned approach which is easier to manage.

For most schools it is important to get the infrastructure right before considering additional hardware.  Do a stock take of what you currently have and see if it is all used/useable, redistribute, recycle or re-purpose items that are no longer need, and then set up a schedule to replace.

A good IT Support Partner will help you to create an IT roadmap, which should detail at which points in the years ahead you need to budget for upgrades or additional devices.

8. Have you outgrown your IT Company?

Now, this last one isn’t necessarily a bad reason to switch IT support partners.

Sometimes, your school has simply grown too big for a smaller IT company to deal with, a school may have joined with an academy group, so need an IT support company that can aid multiple sites over a larger geographic area.

The difficult part can be knowing when to make the switch.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you’ve noticed you need more support, your IT support partner has probably noticed too. In fact, if they’re good partners, they may even discuss this with you first. Trust me when I say there will be no hard feelings. No company wants to be out of its depth with clients. If you’ve ever felt any of these gripes, perhaps now is the right time for you to make the switch too?

When you place your technology at the heart of your School’s growth strategy, you see why it is important to have a partner you can trust.

 
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