ICT Hints & Tips
Some quick ICT Hints and Tips for Schools…..
We can’t teach like this!
Growth is the big issue in Schools. I am sure it was not that long ago that you had an area within the school where you had 1 or 2 PC’s for general use only, now you have PC’s everywhere. This is the governments drive for teaching with ICT. This is a good thing, but this rapid demand coupled with School’s limited ICT experience has led to many Schools having dated equipment and a network that cannot deliver reliable speeds to enable Teachers to conduct a class effectively. This then creates an anti-ICT attitude.
Unfortunately there are no quick fixes if you are in this situation but what you must do without delay is seek sound advice from a reputable ICT company who can provide you with a business case for sound ICT investment. We would advise you gain quotations and advice from a company that do deal with Colleges and Upper Schools as they will be able to deal with your network re-structure. In addition any medium sized organisation should be able to offer better payment terms or finance options (Always seek references or ask for case studies)
In the short term stop what you are doing, save your money and put it toward a forward thinking goal.
Beware of Sporadic Funding & Panic Spending
Many Schools are finding themselves in a network mess partly due to how they are funded. As budgets are restricted each year and removed if not used within the set timescales, those Schools with limited internal ICT knowledge find that this very concept presents a pitfall – as it encourages schools to spend valuable funds on quick, short-term fixes.
The very best advise we can give you is to get yourself a network roadmap and ensure this roadmap is addressed each year. Find an ICT provider you trust who can work with you to paint this picture so any sporadic funds are spent towards your greater end goals. Be forward thinking and remember how quickly ICT is evolving.
Quick and Easy Advice without the Technical Jargon…..
Think about your Network Foundations
In the age of “Bling” it is very easy to get carried away with spending valuable financial resource on new PC’s and associated hardware. In many cases Schools avoid investing in their cabling infrastructure – which is the very foundation that all ICT applications and hardware sits and relies upon. It is this very platform that ensures your ICT requirements get delivered in a reliable manner. We know people can’t see it, we know it doesn’t offer the ‘Wow Factor’, however, well advised financial investment into a cabling infrastructure that is fully tested, labelled and documented will pay you back with peace of mind to enable you to push forward with your ICT vision without looking back.
A simple comparison is your house. You would not build the ground floor or the 1st floor at the beginning of the build you would ensure your foundations are firm and secure. If they creak and begin to fail, all those floors above will eventually come crashing down.
What type of cabling should you have?
The type of cabling you should be looking to have installed is called “Structured Cabling” as it will offer a single platform to support all your network delivery needs. This cabling platform can typically support data traffic, voice, CCTV, access control, digital signage, and much more. It was designed to support a wealth of IP applications over one single cabling platform to enable your building to support many services without the need for huge quantities of bespoke cabling.
There are currently 3 ratified structured cabling standards Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6A. All are excellent cabling platforms if installed by an authorised installer who tests, labels and documents the installation. In our opinion this is what they offer.
Cat5e Cabling – Tried and tested, can support gigabit ‘1000mbps’ to remote devices. Very durable and highly recommended. If people say this cable is dated, ignore them – it is still the best selling cabling platform to date.
Cat6 Cabling – This cable has now been around sometime and as costs begin to be more competitive it is being installed more and more. This cable again will deliver gigabit ‘1000mbps’ to remote devices. The main difference between Cat6 and Cat5e is the increased bandwidth available which does have it advantages with all the media hungry applications looking to transcend upon us in the years to come. Have this cabling if you can afford it and in the right circumstance.
Cat6A Cabling – The new kid on the block and set to roll over the 2 above in the years to come as it offers something different. This cable will deliver 10 Gigabit to the remote devices. We may say “that’s ridiculous who will need that sort of performance?”, however if you are looking to keep your cabling platform for the lifetime of its warranty (25 Years) I would edge my bets you will be wanting this sort of performance well before then!
Downsides are it is hugely expensive and hardware to leverage such performance is also unreachable for most Schools and Colleges.
As with everything, get what’s fit for purpose. However for most School environments cat5e will meet all your expectations.
Ask for Test Results
There are many companies out there that are selling and installing cabling without the necessary knowledge to design, install and more importantly test and document your new cabling platform. As it is low voltage many people think it’s easy.
To separate the men from the boys always insist on ‘Full digital test results’ for each and every point of your new cabling installation. Those who are playing at being network cabling installers will run a mile as test equipment is very expensive and only those who install it regularly would invest in these testers.
Ask for Plans
Whoever is quoting for your new cabling requirements should design your installation properly by ensuring you have the correct amount of points for your existing devices. Also they should cable for you predicted growth.
Always insist you want digital floor plans highlighting all outlet locations and associated numbering. These are a great source of record for you and coupled with your test results will give your confidence your installation has been deployed to a good standard.
Be forward thinking with cabling
What costs the money with cabling is not the materials it’s the man power to install it. With that in mind be forward thinking when having cabling work done although having that extra point in now may cost a bit more money it should save you hugely in the future.
What Price should you pay per point?
This is a myth. As stated above the cost of installing cabling is mostly in man power so any serious cabling company should insist on a site survey and should price the job on an estimate of time and materials. Any company quoting you a price per point without undertaking and completing a site survey is in our opinion not worth considering.
You get what you pay for
Don’t always go for the cheapest. Look at the content of the quotation and listen to the person performing the site survey. Look at the caveats in the quotation as you do not want to be caught for additional costs if the job does not going smoothly.
They should come up with ideas and be knowledgeable of installing in the educational sector. Attention to detail on the quotation and support documents supplied is a good sign and look to seek references if possible.
Get a Product Warranty
If you are having a new installation – insist on a product warranty. At present you can receive 25 year product warranties on network cabling installations. This will ensure your cabling and components are from the same manufacturer and that the manufacturer and installer are confident in the products reliability.