A guide to upgrading your school's IT on a budget
It’s no secret that schools in the UK are struggling against budget cuts and reductions in government funding at the moment. As we embark on a new school year, we know many schools will be looking at what they can reduce spending on, and cut back, rather than what they can spend more on.
But the reality is this - in order to drive higher standards, better Ofsted performance, and ultimately a greater learning experience and journey for students, schools have to continually look for more creative ways to drive things forward. One area they often find themselves having to do this in is technology. Legacy devices and struggling systems which have long been neglected due to tight budgets are starting to fall over, no longer fit for purpose. The IT manager is tearing his or her hair out, students and teachers are complaining, but the business manager is maintaining a firm “no” on any investment.
What are you to do?
Working with what you’ve got
There’s a strong chance, unless things are really bad, that your current device estate was deployed under 5 years ago. This is good news - you’ve still got some potential to work with. We’ve helped many of our customers breathe new life into their devices by retrofitting them with brand spanking new components to help boost performance.
Swapping out tired old mechanical hard drives for SSDs is an effective way to boost performance while keeping costs down - we’re talking around £30 plus installation costs for an SSD vs. £300 for a brand new device.
- Versus hard drives, SSDs deliver:
- More power efficiency - on average, SSDs drain on average 2-3 watts from the battery, compared to 6-7 watts a hard drive takes, giving you around an extra 30+ minutes of battery life on a laptop
- Faster boot up times - they can boot up around 3 times faster
- Less heat produced - the lower power draw and lack of mechanical components means they produce less heat - you could save on air conditioning costs!
- Faster file copy and write speed - above 200 Mb/s for most SSDs, with hard drives maxing out at around 120Mb/s
- Faster file opening speeds - up to 30% faster than hard drives
Another relatively inexpensive component to upgrade is memory. With laptops or smaller desktop devices, you may be able to perform a swap out, of say 4GB for 8GB. If you have desktop devices with extra memory slots, you can double up on memory to give it a boost. Obviously there’s a caveat here around compatibility and the capacity of your devices - always worth checking what you can actually swap out and what you can upgrade to before you start down this road. For an idea of comparison in terms of performance, there’s a great test here on various applications and tasks and how long they take 4GB vs 8GB vs 16GB of RAM. Once again, it’s worth noting that the performance boost you’ll see on your devices when upgrading memory also depends on processor, graphics card, storage and operating system - but you’ll almost certainly see a difference in performance at a fraction of the cost of upgrading to a whole new suite of devices.
A slightly more “transformational” project than those mentioned above in terms of technology and process - but worth considering for the efficiency boost. If you have the infrastructure to support it, you can utilise your aging technology estate by turning them into virtual devices - or “thin clients”. Give all the processing power to your central server and storage appliances, and simply run your devices as end user clients. By logging in to and running applications from your central repository, you use less of the device’s actual processing power. This can be a good option if you’re struggling to run process-heavy software on your devices. As mentioned, this is as much as a “culture” and process shift as it is a technology one - it’s worth considering your overall strategy if you’re thinking of this as an approach.
Educational content is getting more and more visual - there is now a wealth of 4K content on YouTube and other platforms. Even if your PC performance is holding up and standing the test of time, your monitors could be holding you back. Screen technology is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was even 2 years ago, so it might be a good time to invest in a new suite of monitors for your IT estate. Provided you have HDMI ports, an influx of new full HD or 4K monitors could add a real wow factor into your lessons! There’s other advantages too - newer monitors come with auto filters for reducing blue light (notorious for exacerbating eye strain and messing up our circadian rhythms) and are much more energy efficient.
We can help
Whether it’s retrofitting existing devices with new components or helping you move to a virtual approach, we can help. Contact us to discuss your needs and challenges and we can work together to design a solution that’s right for you.