Charteris Microsoft technologies case study

The Edinburgh Academy may be nearly 200 years old, but its use of technology is completely up-to-date. With support from Charteris, this prestigious independent school for boys and girls has implemented the latest Microsoft desktop and server operating systems. This leading edge ICT infrastructure is enriching the learning experience for pupils, while also reducing costs and improving efficiency.

Edinburgh Academy faced two distinct challenges. Firstly, the school needed to update its aging IT infrastructure, to enable it to offer the very best facilities for its current and future pupils. “The independent schools market is very competitive on the IT front,” explains William Paris, head of information technology at Edinburgh Academy. “Families are attracted to schools that can offer excellence in ICT. It is therefore very important for us to offer modern and current technologies that capture the interest and imaginations of pupils and give them the desire to learn.”

Secondly, the school wanted to relieve the workload on its internal IT team. At the time, there were over 1,000 pupils and 175 members of staff, spread across two separate campuses, and the IT department of three and a half people was struggling to support these IT users. Paris explains: “There were a lot of manual processes that completely consumed our time. We were just treading water.”

To address both these challenges, the school decided to migrate to current technologies for its operating server platform and its desktop operating system. This move, it believed, would then pave the way for it to bring in some of the brand new applications that teachers and pupils would benefit from using. At the same time, it would provide an opportunity for the IT department to eliminate as many manual processes as possible and improve its efficiency.

Because its IT team was already working at full capacity, Edinburgh Academy decided to bring in a firm of external consultants for the project. It evaluated three different organisations before selecting Charteris. “I wanted a firm that I could trust and that would offer value for money,” says Paris. “Charteris stood out from the other firms I met because of the strength and breadth of its Microsoft technical skills.”

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Delivered on schedule

At the time, Edinburgh Academy was using Microsoft Windows XP as its desktop operating system, and its server platform was primarily based on Microsoft Windows Server 2003. Every system had its own physical server, so consequently the school had more servers than was absolutely necessary.

Paris decided to migrate to a virtualised environment and asked Charteris to review and validate the architecture that he had designed. Charteris also helped him to create a high-level technology plan that covered the entire school estate, and this then provided the framework for the whole project, as well as other future IT initiatives.

Next, Charteris implemented Microsoft HyperV Server 2008 R2 as the base platform for the school’s new IT infrastructure. The consultants then layered on Microsoft Windows 7 to provide a new desktop operating system, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for database management and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R3 for systems management. Throughout this process, the consultants demonstrated their expert understanding and experience of working with Microsoft technology.

The entire IT project was carried out by Charteris during the school summer holidays to minimise disruption to pupils and teaching staff. “The project went live on schedule,” recalls Paris. “The Charteris consultants worked very well with everyone in the IT team and were good at passing on their Microsoft knowledge to us. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Charteris has the ability to go direct to Microsoft with any queries, and this was hugely advantageous to us.”


A complete transformation

The IT upgrade that Charteris undertook has completely transformed the ICT environment at Edinburgh Academy. The school can now boast that its systems are thoroughly up-to-date and provide its pupils with access to the very best IT facilities in support of their studies. “Our new ICT infrastructure has put us in a position to be able to leap-frog some of the other independent schools in terms of technology,” Paris says.

With its new IT platform, Edinburgh Academy can now, very easily, introduce any new applications that teachers believe will add value to pupils’ education. “It is now very easy to add additional new technologies that will keep us in the game,” Paris says. “The systems that Charteris have helped to set up are 100% scalable – and will continue to meet our needs into the future.”

The deployment of Microsoft SCCM has given the IT team greater control of its network and desktops and eliminated almost all manual processes. Now, the IT team can deal with user issues and reload desktops remotely, without having to visit individual offices and classrooms, which has freed up, on average, 10-15 hours of IT team time per week. “We are able to do 90% of our work from our desks,” Paris says. “I can even allow staff in the IT team to work from home in adverse weather conditions, and in a school environment that’s pretty much unheard of.”

By migrating to a virtualised IT environment, Edinburgh Academy has been able to reduce the number of servers in the school by 50% from sixteen to eight. “This helps me reduce my power bills and improves my ‘green’ credentials greatly,” notes Paris.

Since the project went live, the Charteris consultants have contacted Edinburgh Academy regularly to make sure that the system is continuing to perform as expected. Paris concludes, “The follow-up has been spectacular.”

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