The project started with a requirement to replace the on-premise solution for redundancy and disaster recovery requirement – without building another data centre. The school was using VEEAM for backup and restore on-site but didn’t have a full Disaster Recovery solution in place.
Even though the school is situated in a large building so space wasn’t an issue, building a second data-centre would have meant doubling costs, for rackspace, hardware, air conditioning etc.
David Lane, Godstowe’s IT Manager, was aware of Azure and started by taking a look at the sizing and pricing calculator on the Microsoft website. A conversation with a Microsoft adviser led to David being recommended to work with an expert partner. David chose to work with Compete366, as his initial experience with their technical consultant was really positive.
As David explains:
“Compete366’s consultant was great at explaining things, I found him very helpful. The other attraction of Compete366 is that they were willing to support Godstowe School through the initial set up but didn’t want to take over all of the ongoing management, which we wish to continue to do in-house. We were keen to keep up our knowledge in house and be able to benefit from the free Azure mentoring service provided by Compete366”
The first step on the journey was to provide a Disaster Recovery (DR) solution for the key on-premise servers. The school was using 2 Domain Controlers, 2 SQL servers, a print server and multiple application servers , along with an RDS servers – making a total of 20 servers.
The Disaster Recovery solution was achieved by replicating the servers to Azure using Azure Site Recovery (ASR). This neat solution takes snapshots of the servers which are then regularly replicated to Azure (loading only the changes since the last snapshot). If the on-premise servers fail, the school can create Azure Virtual Machines from these snapshots and then run their workloads on there instead.
This is a very cost-effective service as the school doesn’t have to pay for any Virtual Machines until they need them in the event of a disaster. So, they are only paying for the Azure Site Recovery service and the storage for the snapshots – both of which are relatively inexpensive.
Due to the Covid outbreak, as schools were closed down but needed to continue teaching online, there was an immediate need to give staff remote access. This remote working was facilitated by setting up a Site to Site VPN between the on-premise network and the Azure Virtual Network and deploying another Domain Controller on an Azure VM to provide extra resilience for the on-premises Domain Controller.
In addition, the staff have been making good use of their Microsoft Teams application for holding live online meetings, And during the last term, the school has been offering virtual classroom online teaching, also using MS Teams.
The school is now looking towards a proof of concept of using Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (AzureWVD). This will allow the school to set up a scalable and flexible environment for its staff and students. Using Azure WVD will deliver a full and highly secure desktop virtualization environment on Azure to allow teachers and pupils to access the school systems from wherever they are.
Although the school is in the early stages of moving its full infrastructure to Azure there are plans to review this and migrate more over during the next hardware replacement cycle.
The initial steps taken by Godstowe, supported by Compete366 have provided a firm foundation for a gradual migration to Azure of different elements of the school’s IT infrastructure, if apropriate. Regular reviews with Compete366 have allowed David to receive the guidance that he needs just at the right moment.
Godstowe is a thriving preparatory school for girls aged 7 to 13, approximately a third of whom are boarders. There is also a lively Pre-Prep and Nursery for girls and boys aged 3 to 7. The school has 450 pupils and 150 staff.
The IT infrastructure of the school consists of a mix of MS Windows desktops and laptops and some Chromebooks, with a traditional windows environment, using O356 and Active Directory (AD).
If you’d like to find out how we can help you migrate to Azure and M365, simply get in touch. We’ll be pleased to help.