Ormiston College is an independent, co-educational, non-denominational Christian K-12 preparatory school on the east coast of Australia. The seven-person IT staff supports approximately 1,300 students and more than 150 faculty and staff.
The seven-member IT staff of Ormiston College focuses on keeping the most current technology up and running for the students, faculty, and staff at their school. In the past, the IT department’s classroom focus sometimes meant sacrificing best IT management practices to keep their internal customers happy. However, as the rate of change increased, the team felt the pressure of balancing stellar service in the classroom with maintaining their IT environment.
“Previously you could set up a standard operating environment and know that you shouldn’t have to do more because the next version of Windows isn’t coming for three years,” says Solomon Box, Manager of Information Communications Technology Services at Ormiston College.
“Now the functionality is improving all the time. Every six months there are new features,” Box says. “I’ll have staff asking me for the latest Windows and Office updates, as they want to take advantage of them.’”
Playing well with others
Ormiston College had staffed and budgeted time for major updates to Windows and Office software every three years. They realised that they had to be more agile. At first, they tried to do it alone. “When we were doing it alone, we weren’t doing it according to best practice. We were just trying to get it out quickly,” Box says. This often resulted in compatibility issues, which in turn caused more students to contact the help desk. Ormiston College quickly realised to better serve their students and staff, they needed to find a solution for staying up-to-date.
“I’ve always committed to the teaching staff that the classroom is their time – the technology should just work.” Box continues. “The device should be operational, with teachers spending their time with students to meaningfully improve outcomes, rather than troubleshooting with a device that’s not 100 percent working.”
Ormiston College began looking for a partner that could handle deployment of updates from Microsoft so they could provide an excellent service to their school from a customer and best practice point of view.
Data#3 has done its homework
With more than 40 years’ experience delivering IT solutions and services, Data#3 was used to hearing from customers, such as Ormiston College, that they needed help with implementing the latest release of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. Like others, Ormiston College also needed a predictable process for managing costs and resources. Data#3 helped Ormiston College to provide the required updates, lowering the cost of IT management, increasing the IT team’s productivity, while reducing end user disruption.
The solution Data#3 provides includes both professional and managed services, according to Scott Gosling, Data#3 National Practice Manager for Microsoft Solutions. Data#3 uses a services rings approach with Ormiston College and largely automates how Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus is updated in their environment.
“Each ring, or group, falls into a particular deployment schedule,” says Gosling. “This reduces risk by deploying feature updates gradually within a department. Typically, Microsoft releases monthly security patches and feature updates every six months. When releases are ready, they are put through a standard process for the pilot deployment and subsequent phases of deployment. This approach creates efficiency, reduces deployment time and lowers costs because it removes the need to test all the applications in the customer environment.”
Fewer hall passes to the IT office
Since partnering with Data#3, Ormiston College’s end users and IT department have greatly benefited. Working alongside a vastly experienced Microsoft partner lets IT stay abreast of new features without disrupting their staff with multi-week training. Both now have more time to focus on the classroom-approach that Ormiston College strives for.
“Throughout the college we are seeing a productivity gain because there’s less need to sign in to multiple systems and devices, as they now just automatically and securely log users in,” Box says. “Data#3 come in, perform a health check, and bring us up to speed on best practice. Then they pass the knowledge on to us so that we can keep the operational side going. They’ve been able to lift us up and make sure that our backend is using the most up-to-date Microsoft operating system and productivity tools.”
In addition, security for personal data has greatly improved. “Prior to Data#3’s involvement, it would have been impossible for me to remotely lockdown a lost machine,” Box says. Although the situation has never arisen, he now has confidence in the resolution if it does. “Because it’s Azure-based cloud, I can confidently know that wherever that device may end up in the world, as soon as it connects to the Internet, we’ve got control.”
A great first day of school
As Ormiston College plans for the start of its next school year, Box predicts a much smoother IT process. During laptop induction, not only will students spend less time manually onboarding their devices, but the IT team can spend more time with students upskilling them on how to use Microsoft software such as OneNote, Outlook, OneDrive, and other Office 365 products.
“They do a single sign-on at the beginning, when they first open their device, put their Office 365 credentials in, and then everything automatically happens in the background,” Box says.
“As we reflect the modern workplace, our College continues to innovate, therefore we have to be more agile, and it’s not just the IT departments that must respond, it’s teaching staff, it’s everyone. Teachers often complete work off campus. Students work at home doing homework or in groups on assignments. All needing their information tools, their Microsoft 365 enabled device for longer and longer hours. Through Data#3, providing best practice support to the IT department, we are able to meet the college IT requirements.”