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Tuesday, 07 February 2017 16:47

The Dean Trust migrates to the cloud with Stone Group Multi-Academy Trust centralises ICT with Stone Unity

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The Dean Trust has partnered with Stone Group, the UK-based ICT services provider specifically for the public sector,

to create a hybrid cloud using Stone’s brand new Unity cloud and digital transformation solution specifically for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs).

Designed to enable MATS to migrate their ICT to the cloud at a pace that works for them, Unity allows academies to deliver consistent, scaleable services across their schools. Trusts can provide each school with access to the same applications, data and resources, while maintaining a simple converged appliance on site to provide local storage until they are ready to fully embrace the cloud.

The Dean Trust currently operates in three Local Authorities: Manchester, Trafford and Knowsley. By the end of January 2017 it will comprise of eight schools and academies in both the primary and secondary sectors, with immediate plans to grow to ten schools and beyond.

The Dean Trust’s IT Director, Mike Ward, explains, “One centralised IT solution that provides for the needs of all of our schools was a no-brainer as it means we can make far better use of our resources and deliver the same high-quality services across each of our academies. Stone’s Unity solution also provides a much stronger foundation for growth – as well as enabling us to harmonise and optimise the services we provide. With Unity we can bring on new schools a lot faster because we know we can get them up and running in a fraction of the time.”

The Dean Trust is one of very few MATs to be creating its own hybrid cloud on rather than going with a pay-as-you-go public cloud model.

Mike Ward commented, “This model offers us a one-off capital cost that we’re in control of. With our current number of schools, our requirements are a known entity, and as we grow we have the option of plugging in public cloud services from the Microsoft Azure platform to get the best of both worlds.

“The National Funding Formula is changing, there’s less money available, and IT is a significant expense. It’s true that not many schools are looking into their own data centres at the moment, but if you look at industry, centralising and rationalising services is standard practice. There’s no reason schools shouldn’t do the same.”

Simon Harbridge, CEO of Stone Group, commented, “The Stone Unity solution helps fast-growing and forward-looking MATs like The Dean Trust address the challenge of inherited inconsistent ICT across the schools and academies they take on board. Schools within an MAT will likely have diverse legacy ICT infrastructures and will be at different points in their IT investment cycle.  With Unity, all members can access the same services and benefits regardless of the legacy infrastructure currently in place.”

“Stone was our clear choice for a number of reasons,” continued Mike Ward.  Firstly, they offered the most cost-effective solution, which is crucial in the current environment. Secondly, the team spent a lot of time with us to make sure they understood our specific needs. When you combine that with their unparalleled understanding of the technology, it was clear that they were the best supplier for the job. At the end of the day, the children attending our schools are the most important part of what we do, and the Stone team gets that.”

The project will be carried out in stages, with phase one taking place around the February half term and phase two set for early March. These initial stages will put the core infrastructure in place, with plans for much more, including provision of cloud collaboration tools, to follow.

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