Managed services

7th January 2000 at 00:00
Managed Services are a good idea waiting to happen - one of those issues that you ought to have a view on. They work on the idea that the IT installation in a school should be managed professionally; it is not really the job of a teacher.

Interest in the Government's Managed Service initiative launched in July by the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA)has been slow to gather pace. It is hoped that the BETT show will change that. BECTA has evaluated the offerings of companies, discovered how well they meet certain criteria and given them certified status if they are successful.

A basic managed service will supply computers, networked Internet access, operational software, installation, testing and certification of readiness for use, servicing and technical support plus initial training and commissioning. All within certain parameters and within a price range. It is all about value for money and readying schools for the time when the ICT infrastructure will be crucial to the learning process.

People can often be surprised by the cost of a managed service when they compare it with going round the corner to buy from "PC Cheap". The true cost of running a computer has been calculated as three times the purchase price per annum, this brings in the background costs: training, maintenance and repair, upgrades, depreciation, software, connection costs, running costs, down times, staff costs.

One of the rarely mentioned advantages of managed services is that it can take some of the risk out of innovation. Real innovation can often be risky and inappropriate for schools with a small budget. An important part of the BECTA scheme will be to kitemark innovation. So far, only two companies have been kitemarked to supply wireless networking: Apple Xemplar with Apples and XMA to supply PCs.

XMA one of the leading suppliers of computers and peripherals has already installed a wireless network into Dorrington Primary School and the benefits are obvious. Dorrington is larger than most with 650 pupils and has an awkward site with six temporary classrooms that are difficult and expensive to cable. Ken Holmes the ICT co-ordinator realises that he is pioneering and he enthusiastically ticks off the benefits: any room can be as well resourced as a network room; children with portable computers can be on the network in any part of the school; the network can be easily upgraded: the network was installed with a minimum of disruption; portable computers are flexible. The system is based around Toshiba laptops with Aironet cards and works at 11Mbps. When you see it working, you know you are looking at the future.

Akhter Computers Stand: C40www.ngfl.akhter.comApple Xemplar Education Stand: Stand: D70 Information Systems Stand: Centerprise International Stand: Reed Consultants Stand: C38www.cliftonreed.combectaindex.htmEIS Kent Stand: Symons Group Stand: IBM Stand: RM Stand: D50E50www.rm.commanagedservicesXMA Stand

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