Part five of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.

Every time we release a new version of our software, and you upgrade to it, it is well worth doing a review of what extra features it includes that may be able to save you money. Typically I find more and more facilities in Office that mean I need less third party software.

One example for me is that I found that I could use PowerPoint to create a picture with text, images and gradients, and then save it as a jpeg (just Group the items, and right click for “Save As Picture”). It means that I don’t use Photoshop anymore, because that was the main use I had for it. The previous version of the header graphic for this blog was created in Photoshop, this one was created in PowerPoint.

Remote Access to your school network

The example that I used at BETT was the capabilities built into the latest release of Windows – Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – which allow you to improve secure remote access to your network from outside of the school. Although remote access used to be something that was only used by big businesses, it has become increasingly common for secondary schools to need secure access to the school network for staff working from home, or when they are at meetings at the local authority. In fact Becta’s advice for schools in Keeping data secure, safe and legal now stipulates that staff should not have copies of sensitive pupil data on their own laptops even when off-site, but always connect securely to the school network to get access (eg for SIMS access).

Traditionally, this has been done by use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which means a combination of special hardware on your network, and special software installed on your computers. But if you’re updating to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 you can do away with all of this additional software and hardware, and use the in-built capabilities of Windows, called DirectAccess, to create a secure and seamless connection. The potential money saving here is not just in hardware and software costs, but also in the support costs that VPNs require, and the additional management time needed to maintain another system in your school.

You can find out more about DirectAccess on this blog post

Removing the need for other software licences – and saving up to £25,000

imageDean Close School, in Cheltenham, were one of the early adopters of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and since they have been using it, they’ve found a number of ways it can save them money – including using DirectAccess above. They also have their eye on their Citrix software, which is used for staff and students to get remote access to their software. By using DirectAccess, the school will rely less on the Citrix software it currently uses to manage information and access. Nyall Monkton, the school’s IT Manager expects to save £15,000-£25,000 a year by switching to using Direct Access instead of Citrix.

You can read more about what Dean Close School have done in their case study, which was done with their Microsoft partner, Bechtle.