SECAT Multi Academy Trust Case Study
SECAT

“If there are issues Coconnect generally sees them before we do due to the pro-active monitoring.”

SECAT Is a Multi Academy trust in Southend on Sea including 5 primary schools a secondary school and a central office. Terry Dignam is the ICT manager for the trust and an Association of Network Managers in Education (ANME) ambassador.  We spoke with Terry about the journey from a collection of individual school broadband provision to a high-performance broadband system with inter school WAN and Cloud services to each school, all during Covid.

Starting Point

Terry joined to form a central ICT team one month before Covid hit. Quite a challenging moment! The trust primary schools have previously been supported in a variety of different ways by the local authority and the secondary school by their in-house team. The Trust now have a complete suite of Broadband, WAN, Smoothwall filtering, Barracuda backup and 3CX VoIP telephony, all supplied and supported by Coconnect.

Transitioning During Covid

Covid was an interesting time, enabling remote learning, migrating to Microsoft Exchange Online, Teams plus moving onsite document share and storage to SharePoint. All fast tracked together with the provision of remote access and learning facilities, transitioning from simple video calls into full remote teaching.

As Terry says, “IT change before Covid had been slow, but the pandemic forced the adoption of a new working model much more quickly than had been planned”. Laptop availability for students was initially an issue, but 2 years in it all works well.

Systems and Choices

Terry knew that he needed fast lines to each school (1Gbps or above) and that the MAT needed to work with someone who really understood broadband provision to schools and WAN provision, not just the supply of individual broadband lines.  SECAT also needed a centrally managed filtering and a quick response from his provider when system changes were necessary.

To find suppliers, Terry researched the best systems for MATS and got 3 detailed quotes; but also looked beyond headline price and took careful references from other schools to help his selection.  “Every potential supplier had broadband and Smoothwall, but they also needed to understand central organisation and MATS, a lot of providers did just broadband but didn’t get MATS and how to link them; Coconnect has specialism in schools so really got it”.

The current SECAT solution includes 1Gbps links to every school, an MPLS WAN across the trust schools, and Smoothwall filtering all hosted by Coconnect. It’s managed by SECAT locally with Coconnect support.

Setup and installation were carefully planned, working closely with Coconnect’s Technical Manager Matt. Additional Openreach infrastructure was required for some sites which took a little time and needed a temporary backup line but everything came together well at the end.

Current Performance and System Growth

“The system works well, it’s fast and the minimal outages are very short if they happen. If there are issues Coconnect generally sees them before we do due to the pro-active monitoring. We‘ve just added Cloud controlled Wi-Fi for central management too and are moving fully to the Cloud with Barracuda backup. Removing the on prem servers”.

In Terry’s view, “The Cloud journey is going well, simple things like easy access to everything everywhere, plus you can teach anywhere now.”

Summary

As a MAT IT manager, Terry does perhaps look at things a little differently to a single school requiring broadband provision. The solution needs to perform across several sites and incorporate central monitoring functions.

Would Terry have done anything differently?

“Aside from starting before the Covid lockdown, no!”  We really like the proactive support, and only need to speak with Coconnect if something needs to be set up in an odd way to elevate unusual issues. Keeping everything with a single supplier has really worked well”

Coconnect is a specialist in Schools Broadband and cloud services. We offer tailored solutions for your School and Trusts exact need if you like to get in touch or book a call to have an honest discussion around your broadband and cloud needs.

 

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