How to choose the right Internet Service Provider for MATs

Shopping for best value

When looking at any type of contract, it’s always a great idea to shop around, compare the market and be confident you are getting best value. But when everyone presents their services differently, it’s not that easy to compare like for like. It’s important to work out what’s really included, and where there are hidden expenses that might end up costing you more, further down the line.

As more and more schools come together to form Federations and Multi Academy Trusts, it’s true to say there are significant cost and time savings to be made when switching to one Internet Service Provider (ISP), and it’s worth looking at what’s the best service for your group of schools.

IPs vs ISPs

With internet delivery being so crucial to the day-to-day operation of a school, from running the office to delivering teaching and learning in the classroom, there are several things to consider. From the standard of service you want to the safety of the children utilising that service; and that’s before we even mention new privacy issues brought about by GDPR.

Many Internet Providers will be just that, an internet provider, and not an Internet Service Provider. And it’s this SERVICE that makes all the difference. Check the SLA (Service Level Agreement) of the connection you are getting:

  • Who is the onus on to report a fault?
  • How quickly will they fix that fault?
  • Is it monitored 24/7?

It’s important to make sure that you invest in an ISP tailored for Education settings.

Why even have a single Internet Service Provider?

By having a single internet supplier you should be able to implement MAT-wide filtering policies and connect all the sites via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN interconnects all the schools within the MAT together, allowing users to move around the MAT network and access each other’s information, regardless of where they are based. 

With a SWGfL service, sites are connected within the internal core network, meaning that inter-site traffic does not even reach the internet, making it safer, faster and more secure. SWGFL firewalls and filtering are hosted in the cloud, which means no hardware is required on site. This reduces the time required to manage individual devices, as well as the power to supply them. It also reduces the risk of a single point of failure by removing individual devices. This provides you with greater control over the MAT as a whole, allowing you to set filtering policies and reporting centrally, again, not having to make changes at each device locally. It also means you have control over your firewall centrally.

RM, who manage the network, receive more than 8,000 change requests a year and target these to be completed within 24 hours. If you have a firewall device per site, you will need to cost in the support and time to make changes on each device. Not to mention admin time and cost to manage filtering policies and reporting.

What to look out for

Avoid internet providers that require you to have filtering and firewall devices on site, as each device will need to be paid for separately, require support, management and warranties and are potential additional points of failure. Avoid any SLA’s that require YOU to log a fault before they begin to start fixing it.

If you are buying a service compiled of multiple components, here are a few questions to ask beforehand:

  • Who is going to provide the service wrap?
  • Do their costs include EVERYTHING? i.e. Change requests on every device, managing firewalls and filtering changes on each device.
  •  Has the time to implement individual change requests been factored in? 
  • If not could this start to increase the cost of your support contract? 
  • If a device goes down on site, how quickly can it be repaired and what are the contingencies in place to ensure children are still safe online?
  • Are you replacing servers unnecessarily, paying for expensive maintenance contracts, housing and power? Could you be saving yourself thousands by moving to the cloud?

Why is SWGfL different?

SWGfL is a charitable, not for profit trust.  We use our aggregated purchasing power to buy connections from the major telecoms providers and pass the savings on to you. We work on schools’ behalf to get the best possible solutions.

SWGfL provides a fully managed service, representing excellent value for money, from connectivity to firewalls, filtering to IP addresses. Everything is hosted on your behalf making it safer, more secure and more cost effective. 

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