CET Case Study

Cumbria Education Trust

We spoke with Martin Robson, IT services manager at Cumbria Education Trust (CET), who has been in Education IT since 1995, about his experiences with Coconnect.

CET is a trust of 12 schools in the Cumbria region, including primary, secondary and 6th form. The trust is 7 years old and growing. The trust schools are vary varied in location and size, from 1341 pupils to a 47-pupil primary school in a remote village.

CET

Background

Historically, individual CET schools were provisioned initially by the local authority and then as part of the local University network.

The trust needed to have easy growth in their network performance, connectivity and services. Good access at a range of speeds, flexibility and the ability to centrally manage whilst providing a consistent experience to all pupils and members of staff.  

Martin felt it was important to move to a supplier who was a genuine education specialist but who also took a commercial view of service standards and facilities and acted in a commercial way.

Systems

CET Started working with Coconnect 4 years ago.

Coconnect implemented and deployed a centralised MPLS network for all schools across a mixture of leased line and EoFTTC connectivity, with centralised Smoothwall school internet filtering and security, providing the trust with a central management system and allowing for overall trust filtering policies with the ability for each school site to have their own per site filtering where required.

As the trust continued to grow and after a tendering process, the trust committed to another 3 years with Coconnect. All connectivity is now a mixture of leased lines for each site up to 1Gb/1Gb plus a rural school broadband supported FTTP. Synchronous and reliable speeds were hugely important to support remote education during the pandemic and continued migration to cloud services such as Office 365.

All schools get equivalent services via the central IT team and the Trust has taken the route of coming fully Microsoft based, using separate domains for each school with a single Office 365 tenancy managed centrally.

The final step was to move to a WAN with Centralised services (Filtering, WIFI, access control) run from a Coconnect cloud-based server; plus, Coconnect backup with 2 different primary locations and a separate Cloud backup provider. Set up just before the pandemic this allowed 2000 government supplied devices to be added on a 24-hour turnround for pupils. 

During their contract renewal CET also changed from Smoothwall to Netsweeper filtering, where this worked better for the trust with users roaming between sites multiple times a day, and provided a more robust remote filtering solution than their previous deployed filtering system. Coconnect have provided CET with their own dedicated Netsweeper and Fortigate firewall systems which they manage day to day working with Coconnect if necessary for broader support and proactive monitoring.

Almost all internal communication now takes place via Teams. In this environment telephony is really only for external access and is managed school by school using Coconnect and other VoIP systems.

“Coconnect are very focussed on making it work properly plus having effective filtering.” CET

Martin speaks highly of the support he’s received from Coconnect.

“Friendly, approachable with an education focus and all about the pupils. Coconnect are very focussed on making it work properly plus having effective filtering. They never left us on our own, even if the problem was ours. Even installing a temporary installation of a 4G access point when a line went down 2 days before the start of term and supporting us through a DDOS attack. Couldn’t fault the support we got”.

“Coconnect supply big company products and services but are genuinely approachable and flexible, doing training days for our technicians for example. We feel we have a genuine personal relationship with the guys”.

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