School budgets are tight. Money is rightly prioritised towards staffing and the needs of teaching and learning, while more and more bursars and business managers try to extend the life of their ageing IT hardware. On the face of it, this is a sensible move, but in practice we regularly see the results of this strategy manifest themselves in IT failures and a rising tide of lesson disruption and frustrated staff and students. Having pushed resources into teaching and learning, the return is devalued by a loss of progress in the classroom.
The answer? A well-planned refresh strategy.
How many of us budget to replace our home computers three years from purchase? Not many. Yet we know that putting money aside each year means we can replace it before it breaks or becomes incompatible with new technology. In the same way, school IT investment should be forecast and planned year on year, not only to prevent failures and sudden loss of critical files and data, but also to benefit from new technology that the school will need in order to improve its work.
Without strategic planning, schools risk having to replace a large chunk of their IT estate at once. For example, if all the classroom projectors and whiteboards were purchased together through a capital injection (e.g. a new build project), those funds are unlikely to be available again when those projectors need to be replaced.
Likewise, IT infrastructure (such as CCTV, network switches and servers) has a recommended replacement schedule that can be planned over time to keep performance and security constant for all users. Pumping life into ageing infrastructure for longer periods is possible, but schools need to be checking the expiry dates for support and warranties on this equipment to avoid being hit with a large, unexpected bill or a serious breach of security.
What goes into a budget plan - and why?
A typical plan will, as a minimum, list all devices and infrastructure components, along with their age, replacement costs, warranty cost & expiry, along with the timescale for replacement, weighed against the risk to the school of that item failing. Schools that have done this successfully are now saving money on their infrastructure and servers in the medium to long term, as well as being able to move on-premise file storage over to cloud services, such as Microsoft Office 365, to make further gains in productivity and reduced running costs. Needless to say, they are also enjoying a stable, consistent and secure user experience.
9ine Consulting works as a trusted partner to schools to provide advice and guidance on IT strategy and budgetary planning that saves them money over time. Contact us for a no-obligation discussion on how we could do the same for you.