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Standard User Animatraz
(newbie) Sat 28-Jun-14 00:26:15
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Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

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Hello all.

I know there are a couple of threads roughly on this topic already, but they are years old (people going 'OOOOOH!' over 7Mbps...)

Our local primary school has just received the latest contract from the county's usual school 'Grid' provider. The service they provide is up to a theoretical 50Mbps speed and the rest of the service is essentially safety filters which are, of course, vitally important. That's all good and well, but the cost of this is just shy of £3k per annum. And they insist we're tied in for 3 years...

Now, I know we can get our own fibre connection and have it running for about £35 per month with perhaps around £750 initial setup costs, so that would represent a massive saving each year, money that we seriously could do with using elsewhere. We also have a very knowledgeable parent who could set most of this up for us, and he's talking about setting up our own filters using 'black' and 'white'-listed websites, and further filtering of words and content too if required.

I'm here looking hopefully for people's experience in this field - does anyone know of any primary schools that have taken this DIYing route? Any pointers from anyone?

Many thanks.
Standard User Rhole
(newbie) Sat 28-Jun-14 04:15:28
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
While not a Primary School... I am involved with an Adult learning Charity and initiative in South Yorkshire. People down on their luck or just interested in learning (anything from Computing and Technology to crafts and dancing lessons), all of which is free to anyone.

We have 3 large IT suites and we rent the rooms out to the local College for some classes. We also have young classes of primary school then secondary school age ranges.

Because of this we didn't want to mess around with special apps on computers which we would have to keep on top of or that students could find way around. SO we had TalkTalk Business installed. It has something called Worksafe which filters at the network level. We find it perfect for us and have no fears of child safety while online.

While I cannot offer any information other than take a look at TalkTalk Business with their Worksafe which because it works at the network level is transparent accross computers and applies to anything on the connection.

It is fully customiseable at any time. Screenshot 1 and Screenshot 2. Worksafe explination

So this does custom lists for allow and block. This removes the need for 3rd party apps to be installed on computers. That can crash/break/be bypassed.

Hope you get some good information from people with experience in schools though!

EDIT: TalkTalk Business has the following advantages to the hell of home TalkTalk...
- UK Based support. I've rang them many times... Always answer in a couple of rings. Tech support is 24/7 by phone. Live chat on normal working hours. They don't fob you off and get things sorted.

You won't be ringing India and problems get investigated properly. As an example they sent an engineer out to us within 24 hours just to reset the DLM in the cabinet.

- Priority over residential connections as well as lower contention. But that should be standard for any connection for a school etc..

Edited by Rhole (Sat 28-Jun-14 04:23:54)

Standard User Drew_M
(regular) Sat 28-Jun-14 08:39:33
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]

You are not comparing apples and apples. Your school is likely to have a symmetric 50Mb/s service, also known as a leased line. That being the case, £3k a year sounds like a decent price.

The choice you have is do you need an uncontended, symmetric service with SLAs or could you downgrade to say an 80:20 FTTC connection, which would be contended at exchange level (In some way shape or form at some points of the day)? It will depend on the size of the school and how many people are on line at the same time.

I would also suggest if you wanted to go down that route, buy your selves a suitable SonicWall firewall with content filtering built in. You will have more control locally, it's easy enough for your in house IT support to manage and you can set different filter levels based on user login (So teachers can go to sites that the pupils can't).

If you want to chat through some options, I'll be happy to help.


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Standard User Animatraz
(newbie) Sat 28-Jun-14 11:07:17
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Drew_M] [link to this post]
Thank you for your replies.

I believe that is what we have, Drew - a leased line.

£3k pa might well be a reasonable price for this service - I don't know - but when we compare what their service actually provides us against what - in theory - we could do for ourselves, we find it hard to see the justification for their cost. (That is not to say it isn't justified, of course - I don't have enough knowledge in this area.)

I shall pass on the thoughts and opinions of both of you, and see where that leads us.

Many thanks!
Standard User Animatraz
(newbie) Sat 28-Jun-14 12:12:55
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
Just had a good look through all your links, Rhole - that's certainly food for thought.

Many thanks for that smile
Standard User Adam3k
(knowledge is power) Sat 28-Jun-14 14:26:57
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
Where about is the Primary School?

We deal with the over 150 primary schools and provide all there connectivity with filtering via a independent LEA IT partner.

We might be able to help you. Drop me a PM if you want.

StructuredCommunications Bonded FTTC 74.5Mbps Download & 22.4Mbps Upload.
Standard User nemeth782
(regular) Sat 28-Jun-14 14:28:13
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
There are various UTM products - Cyberroam is one aimed at schools etc - that will provide you with filtering. Cyberroam can also be quite cheap.

I'd strongly recommend against using manually maintained black/white lists, as they won't ever get updated enough, it simply isn't feasible.

People are correct that you will be looking at a leased line with likely 50mbits symmetric, and that at £3k a year that's actually quite cheap.

People are further correct that a standard FTTC 80/20 (assuming you are close enough to the cab to get a decent speed) will be contented etc, but, being honest, with most of the big providers, you won't feel it. I know I have downloaded 3TB in a little over a week with BT FTTC (no, not piracy, I downloaded all my steam games to a new PC) and the download speed didn't drop at any point.

However, crucially for your environment, you have very little in the way of SLAs with such a service. Cab hit by a car? Offline for a week. Sync dropped through the floor? Tough. These sorts of things could be crucial.

You will also find it harder to get an "unlimited" service at a non-residential address from one of the big providers. £250 a month to this leased line provider doesn't compare to Infinity 2 from BT at £34.99+VAT inc line rental, because you'd actually be stuck with Business Infinity 2, which as well as being more expensive, has a 100GB cap, which when shared for a whole school you will quite possibly hit.

Some providers do offer unlimited to businesses, but it costs more. You are probably looking at ~£65+VAT plus line rental. Factor in the cost of a UTM license annually, and the saving isn't as massive as you'd think, and you still have little or no reliability guarantee.

The other option is Office::1 from AAISP. A bit more expensive, does offer a 20mbit unlimited option, this is the best non-leased line option as you have redundancy, as well as more speed if you decide to set it up as bonded/load balanced lines.

Thing is, this is barely cheaper than your leased line option.
Standard User vivaciti
(knowledge is power) Sat 28-Jun-14 17:11:34
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
With a leased line (and I agree 3k is not a bad price) you have some SLA's so if the line drops out you have guaranteed fix times compensation etc if you have an FTTC service even from us or someone else on a business service you just wont have the same SLAs and for something that is production and mission critical price is not the first place to start I am afraid.
Vivaciti Broadband
0800 0911797

Standard User Animatraz
(newbie) Sat 28-Jun-14 20:22:08
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: vivaciti] [link to this post]
Many thanks for all the new comments.

Our school is in North Devon.

Reassuring to hear that our current service cost is considered reasonable. However, it does leave the big Q as far as we're concerned - what exactly are we getting for £3k per annum that we cannot obtain ourselves for - ooh - less than £700? Less than a quarter of the price.

We are a medium-sized primary school and, believe me, over £2k pa saving can make a difference. The £3k pa outlay gives protection against line drop-outs? A guaranteed repair time?

I have to confess that much of what was talked about above goes way over my head (tho' I'm passing this on to a fellow who does understand...), so - in layman's terms, please - why shouldn't we DIY?

Really appreciate your thoughts on this.
Standard User iand
(fountain of knowledge) Sat 28-Jun-14 20:49:34
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Re: Sorting our own provider for a Primary School

[re: Animatraz] [link to this post]
the question would be to ask, if you did not re-sign the contract is there any cancellation fee?. Then if for whatever reason, you decided to go back to the original provider, what would be the installation fee?.

You mentioned a techie parent. Will this person be available for a few years, e.g. having a techie parent in year 6 may not help, but in year 3, you have the person to help for say 3 years.

As to the ADSL service. I assume for the school you can get FTTC. Have you checked this using a telephone number in school or a house next door?

I would have through that for a medium primary school, the this type of service would work without too much of a problem. Most traffic for a school is still pulled down from the Internet and not pushed up, so a 40/10 or 80/20 would work.

A lot of service providers now have filter technology or you can subscribe using a £250 type router for another £60. So you are correct for about £1000 you could get all of the same internet service to work for the school.

My only question would be around the schools email type service used by teachers etc. Do you get that via the current ISP, and can this be subscribed to separately?

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