We provided an infrastructure refresh to the Countryside Education Trust, a charity that operates two sites on the Montagu estate in Beaulieu. The charity’s mission is to ‘Connect People with the Countryside’, and in doing so, provide day trips, residential visits and other facilities to young people and adults.
In approaching Verstech the Chief Executive was looking to build an IT platform that supported growth, fitted in with their ability to undertake capital expenditure and was also cost effective to maintain. As well as this, the Charity wished to review its telephone systems to ensure best value for money.
We designed an Active Directory on Azure solution, utilising the fact that charity can receive $5,000 of Azure credits per year. We also migrated them to Office 365 from a range of different email providers; whilst including Office licensing at a much-reduced cost, this also allowed the charity to provide volunteers with enterprise class email at no cost.
Power consumption, the carbon footprint and the mobility of users to work from multiple places were also driving factors for the charity. By moving to Azure, Office 365 and a range of mobile and fixed devices, we were able to deliver the charity’s requirements on budget.
New Computers & Infrastructure
Based on user’s requirements, we provided several desktops and laptops with docking stations and external screens. We also reviewed the existing switching, routing and wireless network and provided new switching (TP-Link) & routing (Netgate) equipment and added to the existing wireless network. Using Ubiquiti UniFi, we were able to provide a segregated wireless network, ensuring that residential guests were able to access the internet whilst being prevented from having access to the main business network. During discovery, we also became aware that a link between two single story buildings, separated by a roadway was required. Whilst wireless bridging had been attempted, the lack of height meant that lorries or coaches using this roadway had previously blocked the signal. As the building is in the National Park, any attempt to put up higher aerials would require full planning permission.
We, however, became aware that internal telephone cabling existed between the two locations. Using StarTech VDSL Modems, we were able to provide an up-to 100Mbps link between the two buildings, providing the bandwidth needed at a fraction of the cost of tunnelling under the roadway.
The charity had historically leased telephones over a lengthy period on ISDN circuits. This was a very normal way of providing telephone systems – the equipment, the phone lines, maintenance agreement etc are all rolled into a finance agreement, which is then paid over several years. At the end of the period, the system is replaced with a new finance agreement. The downside is of course, a lack of flexibility – the need for 10 phones has suddenly become 12 – which requires a new system, but there is still £thousands left outstanding on the old lease and can either be refinanced into a new agreement [raising monthly costs] or paid off [a big cash drain].
We provided, and continue to provide, Verstech Cloud Voice. For this client, because of the mobility need, a mixture of Yealink T42 and Yealink W52 handsets were used, to provide 12 extensions across the 2 sites. On top of this, both sites are now part of a single phone system, meaning calls can be transferred between them.
The nature of the Office 365, Sharepoint Online & Azure platform means manual intervention and upgrades are few and far between. Most of our ongoing support for the charity is changes, as they want to expand what they want to do with technology.
We provide ongoing timebank support to the charity; and we’ve been pleased as well to volunteer our time at several events for them. Whilst we like to like to say IT Support is a necessity, not a luxury, for many charities, 1st support can be dealt with inhouse, with us providing backup in the event that a problem is more complicated or involved the central infrastructure.