Every election time, politicians always stress their commitment to education funding and how, “…this government, “is spending more than the last on education”.
Yet, when we talk to our customers across academia, they point out that for the past decade they have been going through a programme of digital transformation and today, they have doubled or even tripled the amount of computing, storage and data centre capacity than a decade earlier. Even though budgets for teachers may be protected, many IT managers in education report that IT budgets have effectively been near frozen and only projects that can show a clear return on investment are getting a green light.
A BETTer Way
This was reinforced to us when the Data-Shield Team went to the BETT Show (formerly known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show) at Excel London. Amongst the stands and presentations for new technology, we also bumped into several old contacts. A common theme we heard was looking at ways to make budgets go further and, of course, the conversations turned to maintenance contracts.
There is also the issue of end-of-support equipment. Although several vendors offer educational discounts when you buy the kit, none that we could name offer a similar deal for the ongoing contracts. Worse still, the extended support contracts can become cripplingly high as support is withdrawn. While having a chat over coffee with an IT manager from a well-known college, we worked out using just the back of a napkin, that moving its current maintenance contracts to Data-Shield would save the equivalent of the starting salary of a newly qualified teacher.
Can’t Get The Staff
Although cost is a major issue, the other topic that we heard time and time again was around staffing. Most IT departments within academia tend to have skilled but overworked staff that know their kit inside out. Yet, many are struggling to fill junior posts as IT staff are lured away by the more lucrative promise of the private sector. This has a huge impact when it comes to support, making changes or even upgrading older systems.
Although we may chuckle at the obscure knowledge retained by some of our more grey-bearded Data-Shield staff, almost every week, we will get a phone call about an obscure system that a customer has unearthed that none of its internal staff knows anything about. As senior staff leave, it is becoming harder to find replacements that can work on older networking and storage technologies.
In an ideal world, education funding would grow to consider the need for expanded technology. But as realists, we recognise that finding savings and filling the skills gap is the more pressing concern. So potentially engaging a company like Data-Shield could unlock a tidy sum to supplement budgets or at the very least, provide a better level of support than incumbent vendors. If you want to find out more, Data-Shield also offers a free system audit for the education sector that can help you assess where you can make savings as well as the life expectancy of technology systems – and options for lower cost upgrades.