What should a school be looking for with its broadband service? It clearly depends on several factors. Broadband is not just broadband, just because it says 100 MBPS, doesn’t mean that what one provider delivers is the same as another.
Broadband is not a commodity thing where you can just get the cheapest deal, plug it in and off you go. Buyers must beware, an Apple phone is different to an Android phone but they both make phone calls. An OLED TV is different to a plasma TV but they both allow you to watch your favourite programmes. It’s exactly the same with broadband!
What are your school’s digital ambitions?
Schools that are transforming their pedagogy and learning environments are harnessing cloud platforms, streaming 4k content into laptops, increasing the number of internet connected devices in school, making use of virtual reality in the classroom and streaming their security cameras to cloud based storage. If your school has digital ambition, then you need fibre services and not copper. With fibre you have much more scalability with typical speeds up to 1 GBPS rather than copper connections which typically top out at 80 MBPS or less than 1/10th the speed.
Total cost of ownership and value for money
Cost is a key consideration for schools and the offerings between service providers are very different in this regard. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s good. Some providers, for example, will offer schools a very cheap connection and then make much more profit selling you additional services like virus protection, filtering, email migration, network support and monitoring tools at a significant additional cost. Often these charges come with labour and configuration costs that can amount to several hundred pounds a day.
The tech requirements
100 MBPS is 100 MBPS right?! Well not exactly. Some of the providers in the market provide 100 MBPS in total as the connection speed. That 100 MBPS could be 80 MBPS upload and 20 MBPS download. This is called an asynchronous connection. Others provide a total of 200 MBPS for the price of 100 MBPS so the school receives 100 MBPS upstream and 100 MBPS downstream. This is called a synchronous connection. Schools that have big digital ambitions need to seriously consider synchronous connections.
Some providers will connect schools directly to the internet which, whilst cheap and functional, means that schools are exposed to potential threats such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Mitigating DDoS can be done later but it is very expensive for schools to put such countermeasures in place themselves. Other providers deliver their internet using JANET where these facilities are built in and therefore schools don’t have to buy expensive solutions.
Increasingly schools are using the internet for voice and video streaming. If these services are required, then your school will need access to a connection where traffic can be prioritised over the internet using quality of service and where there is minimal contention with other network provider traffic.
Multi–academy trusts are increasingly seeking to create shared data centres, share applications and common infrastructure to save money and standardise processes. Rather than spending vast amounts of money building bespoke wide area networks, your broadband provider should be able to support the creation of virtual networks between your schools to enable data sharing.
London Grid for Learning are working in partnership with YPO to offer a broadband solution for schools. The details for this framework will be coming soon.
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more like it, view our Everything Curriculum magazine. The latest issue (issue 6) is entirely focused on using technology in schools, but previous issues focus on health and well-being and outdoor learning in educational environments.