Bedales School Overcomes an Aging Network - and Rodents! - to Improve Network Resiliency and Enable BYOD

Bedales School prides itself on developing inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought.

Focusing on its founder’s ethos of educating the whole person, Bedales teaches self-discipline, a care for others and collaboration, all cultivated in an informal atmosphere where mutual respect is earned. Students can concentrate on the complex business of learning, developing and becoming their own person which is encapsulated by The Bedales Difference: “Head, Hand and Heart”.

This creative and liberating environment, 124 years on, is described in the Tatler Schools Guide as “a bohemian idyll with bite”.

With an aging wired network, an even older switch infrastructure and a crucial objective to integrate school BYOD into the day-to-day learning experience, Bedales collaborated with LAN3 to bring its IT infrastructure across its historic rural Hampshire campus into the 21st century.

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State of IT in Education

How Bedales Improved Efficiency and Network Resiliency

Bedales' Head of ICT, Reece Percival, was the first to admit the IT infrastructure at the school, when he arrived three years ago, was "pretty challenging!” Reece continued, "the teaching staff didn't like using it, it wasn't particularly customer friendly and generally the IT team were spending much of their time fixing things rather than enhancing IT around the school”. And of course, being a rural site, rodent visits were frequent, resulting in the occasional chewed network cable!

Over the past three years, Reece and his team have embarked on an IT revolution, enhancing every aspect of the IT estate including a new Windows Active Directory domain, redundant internet links, seventy classroom screens, a site-wide wireless network, over one hundred new printers and photocopiers, hundreds of new PCs and laptops together with two new audio visual theatres.

Realising the network infrastructure was critical to further improving the teaching and learning experience for students, the working lives of teachers and support staff and enabling future ICT strategic developments, Reece and his team’s ICT upgrade program culminated in a major network upgrade project in summer 2017.

The existing Cisco network was a 'star topology' that had evolved over many years with zero redundancy built in. A single link connected Bedales senior school with its two sister schools, Dunhurst and Dunannie, meaning should a critical failure occur the schools would experience downtime affecting hundreds of pupils and teachers.

LAN3’s recommended solution was to utilise Dell EMC's networking portfolio, which would integrate with the existing Aerohive wireless network. Reece briefed LAN3, "We already use Dell EMC around the school, and it has proven reliable. We replaced a Windows Active Directory domain, and as part of that we bought one-or-two Dell EMC switches, which we evaluated alongside our existing Cisco network. The reliability and simplicity of using the Dell EMC kit was one of the key factors in deciding to pursue the LAN3 solution."

“Key was LAN3's enthusiasm and ability to dive into the detail early in the process. They took time to understand our problems, and to learn the complexities of our network."

"Bedales is a complicated rural site, with the associated challenges this brings. Becoming familiar with the site, asking the right questions and giving the right answers gave me the confidence that LAN3 could deliver on this complicated project." 

Reece Percival

Head of ICT, Bedales School

How LAN3's Solution Helped

"To measure success, you have to look back at how the project was delivered. Although we faced some unexpected challenges along the way, by working together we achieved a fully functioning network for the start of term. All the switches were replaced, and cabling completed in the very narrow window of opportunity, during the summer break.” Reece added.

Redundant links were also added to all network cabinets around the school, meaning in the event of a single failure the network traffic would automatically re-route through the backup link, thus avoiding the downtime inherent in the previous network design.

Managing the network has become considerably easier, Reece said. "Previously every network switch was managed independently. If we needed to make a configuration change to one of the switches we had to manually replicate that change across the network estate. With Dell EMC's management platform, that challenge has been alleviated."

"I want ICT to provide outstanding customer service at all times. ICT is at its best when it's integral, but silent. I want it to be an enhancer, help the school operate more efficiently, as well as be integral to teaching and learning."

With the new network in place, Reece's thoughts have now turned to the future. "We're looking to introduce an official BYOD policy next September, meaning pupils' personal devices can be utilised in the classroom. The new network is integral to facilitate this development.
The integration between Dell EMC and Aerohive was a key factor in our decision making. It will ease management and bring everything together in one place."

With the ability to manage the entire Bedales wired and wireless network via one platform, the project to enable BYOD is one step closer. "We'll be able to identify the traffic routing across the two networks, and as a result better support the BYOD policy. Accessing the wired and wireless networks from one user interface will save time and will enhance performance through the benefit of new statistics and analysis at our disposal."