South West Communications Group provides a leased line wide area network to link all five of Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust’s sites to our data centre to provide centralised internet access, web filtering, server hosting, cyber security and voice services.
The Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust was established in 2010 with the aim of creating an outstanding educational experience for Exeter’s children. It now comprises of five schools - West Exe School, St James School, Isca Academy, Cranbrook Education Campus and Exwick Heights Primary School - and is responsible for the education of more than 3,000 children aged between two and 16.
swcomms first saw this multi-academy trust (MAT) when three of the schools needed to be linked via a wide area network. As the MAT has developed, so has our solution, using our data centre to provide central services to all their member schools. Rather than each site purchasing separate internet, hosting, web filtering, cyber-security and SIP services, these are now supplied from our data centre.
We linked each site to our data centre using Cisco switches and 100Mbps point to point leased lines. These dedicated connections are not shared by any other business, so the bandwidth is guaranteed. They also come with appropriate service level agreements with response and carrier fix times that minimise downtime.
These leased lines provide the MAT with their internet access, care of a 400Mbps leased line out of our data centre. They also connected the schools to a central Smoothwall web filtering solution hosted in a half-cabinet.
The Smoothwall solution is an education-focused product that provides schools with the web and content filtering they need while also giving them flexible control, so pupils and staff can still enjoy creative and productive internet use in a secure environment.
Filters can be applied on a who, what, when and where basis, i.e. they can be set and lifted by the in-house IT team by year group, subject matter, time of day or location of classroom. Previously, this kind of flexibility would not have been available through incumbent council-backed services. The MAT has different policies for each of its sites.
Online content is reviewed dynamically and the central Smoothwall blacklist is being constantly updated in line with the speed new web pages are being created. Social media, file sharing, instant messaging and other potential distractions can be blocked completely or managed effectively. Crucially, the IT team can check and download detailed reports on pupil and staff web use to meet the demands of the Prevent Duty Guidance.
We also moved the MAT’s central servers from the Cranbrook Education Campus to our data centre and we protect these and the rest of their network with a firewall to prevent any malicious intrusion. This protection meant staff could access the central servers remotely via VPN clients.
The leased lines were also used to deliver modern-day cost-effective SIP voice services. With the PSTN and ISDN switch-off looming, the MAT is ahead of the curve in using their data connections to support their telephone systems. Leased lines provide the perfect infrastructure for SIP as their resilience means voice-quality is assured and downtime is very unlikely.
This solution had to be project managed very carefully during school holidays. All the configuration and testing work was carried out in our workshops before being installed.
Ted Wragg Trust now has a truly centralised solution that can be expanded when required. As the MAT grows, additional schools can be linked to our data centre to benefit from the existing services. This example serves as a communications infrastructure blueprint for other MATs. Download the full case study here.