Within the education sector, there’s a growing trend for outsourcing service areas that fall outside the education service itself. Over the last decade we’ve seen an increase in outsourcing catering, facilities management and IT management, among others. But is outsourcing right for your school and how do you choose a suitable provider?

At the end of the day, you want to know you’ve got IT support that supports staff to perform at their best and enables your school or college to deliver the educational experience students and parents expect. Whether that’s with an in-house or an outsourced team, it’s about being sure you are getting the best from your investment and approaching your IT strategically rather than fire-fighting.

Based on our experience of working with schools and colleges on IT infrastructure and services, we’ve put together 5 questions to help you determine whether in-house or outsourced support will serve you best.

Do you need permanent staff on-site?

One of the first things to come to mind when you think about outsourcing anything is no longer having dedicated staff on-site. For a larger institution, there is certainly a good argument for having permanent IT staff on site so they’re available for support during lessons and can act quickly if any part of the IT system needs attention.

Outsourcing has moved on, however, and it doesn’t have to mean no on-site staff.

The benefits of having in-house staff are that your school or college will have complete control over the recruitment and management of those staff.

On the other hand, with outsourced staffing the burden (and costs) of recruitment, HR and management of your IT staff will be taken care of by specialists in the field, without losing the upsides of having permanent IT staff who are approachable and really get to know your systems and your staff.

Teacher and pupil at a computer screen

How do you cover sickness or leave for IT staff?

Staff sickness is a headache no matter when or in which department it occurs. In a small, specialist department like IT, one member of staff on sick leave can create a lot of stress very quickly. Managing planned annual leave can also become a headache and, for example, can make scheduling upgrades or big projects that need to happen during the school holidays a challenge.

If you have enough IT staff to cover sickness and ensure annual leave is adequately covered, then sticking with your in-house team makes sense.

If you outsource, your supplier will manage cover for sickness and annual leave. This benefits you by saving managers or the HR department time, effort and stress. At Heliocentrix, for example, it’s our business to maintain a full team of IT experts. That means there’s always a suitably qualified professional for you to rely on even at short notice.

How easily can you scale up your team for specific projects?

As you already know, IT includes much more than just day to day running of the hardware, software and network. Your IT roadmap will include upgrades to your systems and infrastructure, training for staff on using equipment and software and the occasional project that calls for unusual expertise.

With an in-house team, to hire for all the person-power you need throughout the year may mean you spend more on salaries than you need to for large periods of time. Alternatively, you may choose to invest in extra support from freelancers or consultants as needed. This gives you a lot of flexibility and access to the skills you need when you need them.

With an outsourcing partner you can scale up your IT team as and when needed for a one-off project. You only pay for the staff time you need, without needing to identify and source the exact expertise needed. With an experienced partner you’ll also benefit from their familiarity with your systems and how you work, rather than having to start from scratch with freelancers or consultants.

Room with computer workstations

What’s your plan for IT staff development?

As part of employing and managing an in-house IT team, you’ll have a plan for staff development. The main benefit of this is having complete control over staff training and development.

To get the best from your IT and for your IT people, you’ll want to stay on top of:

  • The latest in computing power and what’s needed to run software you want to use
  • Security for your network, especially for remote working and mobile devices
  • Updates and new features for Microsoft 365
  • Opportunities and efficiencies opened up by AI and machine learning

When you partner with an outsourced IT provider you can let them take care of staff development. A specialist IT provider will have an excellent view of the latest advances across multiple sectors and will ensure their people are up to date with the latest knowledge and training.

With their stronger staff development programmes, specialist IT providers will tend to attract and retain better performing IT employees than many schools and colleges. They can also maintain a pool of staff covering many more IT skills than a typical education institution.

What’s your ambition for IT: Fix it or Fly with it?

We appreciate that for most schools and colleges it isn’t a priority to be at the cutting-edge of IT infrastructure and management and we understand that learning and teaching comes first. There’s a whole world of difference between a school and a big-tech business and there’s no sense in using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

That said, in our experience working in educational settings, we often see ways our clients can be far better supported to achieve their educational goals with a smarter, more strategically-led IT set-up. Once you are supported to move away from fire-fighting and simply fixing IT from day to day it becomes possible to invest your budget more effectively. IT stops being a headache and becomes a partner in realising the full potential of the school, for your people and your students.

In a recent case study on our work with Sydenham School in Lewisham, the school outlined the benefits they noticed as a result of our work.

  • IT set up is more robust and secure
  • Students can log into laptops quicker, so less time is lost during classes
  • Remote working is easier for staff and students
  • Fewer support tickets are raised, saving time and improving student experience
  • Issues are dealt with more quickly and easily
  • IT is no longer seen as a barrier to the school’s ambitions, but a way to achieve them

Students working on computers

Maybe your IT is okay for the here and now, but what is your capacity for evolving it to truly enhance the staff and student experience? Or to respond to unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic? Without this, your IT is not supporting you as well as it could.

Because we work with many different clients we have IT engineers working in law firm IT, schools IT, data centre IT, haulage IT and many other business sectors. We use these skills and expertise to inform the work we do with all our clients, meaning that when we work with public organisations like schools, you benefit from the latest innovations in business and a far broader range of expertise, both of which create more optimal solutions for your specific situation.

Contact Heliocentrix to talk through your needs: we provide IT support for schools in Kent and throughout the South East. We can help you identify and fill the gaps between your current IT set-up and where you want to be.

If you have a Samsung phone, you might have noticed recently that you’ve been given the option of backing up to OneDrive.

This is thanks to a new deal between Samsung and Microsoft, which is leading to a reduction in the services offered through Samsung Cloud.

When is Samsung Cloud being discontinued?

Key dates

  • 1st April 2021 – Gallery and Drive features will be discontinued in the UK.
  • 30th June 2021 – UK users will no longer be able to access photos and documents stored in Samsung Cloud.

Note: In some areas of the world this is happening slightly later.

The Samsung and Microsoft partnership

The Samsung and Microsoft partnership formed in 2019, with the intention of bridging the gap between phones and PCs, extending Microsoft’s “anywhere, anytime, any device” ethos. Since then, Samsung phones have been shipping with Microsoft Office pre-installed.

Last year further developments in the partnership included greater integration between phone and PC apps, and the capability to use mobile apps on Microsoft gaming platforms.

But now it seems that the two tech giants are tightening their relationship still further, by replacing Samsung Cloud with the Microsoft OneDrive cloud services.

Is this paving the way to the end of Samsung Cloud?

What is the Samsung Cloud?

Samsung Cloud is Samsung’s proprietary cloud storage and back up system, which is similar to Apple’s iCloud.

If you have a Samsung phone then it’s quite likely that your contacts, calendars, notes, documents, photos and settings are stored or backed up in Samsung Cloud.

Is Samsung Cloud ending?

Technically, no. However, some of the cloud services are.

Specifically, you will not longer be able to store or back up documents and photos in Samsung Cloud.

You can continue to use Samsung Cloud to store, backup and restore Contacts, Calendars and Notes. Samsung Cloud Gallery photo storage and Drive document storage is not included in new devices produced since October 2020.

When is the Samsung Cloud change happening?

In the UK, from the 1st April 2021 the Gallery and Drive features will be discontinued. You will not be able to store or back up data to Samsung Cloud, plus support to migrate to OneDrive will cease. Users will have until June 2021 to save their photos and documents elsewhere. From the 30th June 2021, you will no longer be able to access photos and documents stored in Samsung Cloud. Ultimately, they will be deleted. In some areas of the world this is happening slightly later. Full details can be found on the Samsung website.

Will my Samsung Cloud files be deleted?

Yes, if you’re in the UK, your Gallery and Drive files will become unavailable on the 30th June 2021 (later in some regions).

What if I paid for premium Samsung Cloud storage?

On the 1st April 2021 your subscription will automatically cancel. Samsung will refund your last payment and transfer you to OneDrive with the same amount of storage, free of charge for the first year. This will be particularly handy if you use a lot of storage space in Samsung Cloud.

How do I transfer my files out of Samsung Cloud?

Firstly, you need to choose a cloud storage system to use. Obviously, Samsung would like you to choose the Microsoft OneDrive option. For many users this will be the simplest route, however if you don’t already have a OneDrive subscription then it won’t be free (although they are offering the equivalent storage to your current Samsung Cloud storage free of charge for the first year). Other cloud storage options include Dropbox and Amazon Drive.

How do I transfer my files from Samsung Cloud to Microsoft OneDrive?

The simplest way is via the Samsung Gallery:
  1. Tap on the Gallery icon:
  1. A new window should slide in, giving you the option to Start syncing with OneDrive:
Alternatively, you can manually download your data:
  1. Open your phone and tap on the Settings icon:
  1. The tap on the Cloud and accounts option:
  1. Select Samsung Cloud and tap the three dots at the top right of the screen:
Here you will find the option to Download your data.
  1. Once you tap on Download your data, a warning will appear. Tap Continue and select Download my data and Confirm.
  2. Your data will be downloaded onto the phone’s internal storage or SD card. Note that your Samsung Cloud backup will cease once your data has been downloaded and your data will be deleted 90 days later.

Is your business impacted by this change?

We support small to medium sized organisations across all aspects of their IT services, including Microsoft 365 for business. If your business uses Samsung phones and could be impacted by the termination of Samsung Cloud, please contact us on 01732 600 170 for assistance in communicating and supporting your teams to make the necessary changes.

Many of us have opened a document we have saved as a PDF, having lost the original Word document, and thought “Ah, I wish I could edit this PDF!”. Traditionally PDF documents have required expensive software to edit. Adobe Acrobat (Standard or Professional), a popular choice, is over £150 per year.

Is there another way?

Microsoft Word part of Office 365 has long supported opening PDFs, so that you can work on and edit the documents. Unfortunately though in the past, this results have been less than ideal and document formatting is often ruined while opening the document. It has never been as reliable and seamless as other software.

Microsoft Word part of Office 365 has long supported opening PDFs, so that you can work on and edit the documents. Unfortunately though in the past, this results have been less than ideal and document formatting is often ruined while opening the document. It has never been as reliable and seamless as other software.

How do I open a PDF in Microsoft Word?

Opening a PDF in Word is remarkably easy. Open Word, and go to File>Open and find your PDF.

Word will prompt you that it will now convert the PDF into an editable Word document. This may take a short while depending on the size of the document, for a 2-3 page PDF this will only take 5-10 seconds. If you have a PDF with a lot of images and many pages, it may take a little while longer. If you don’t want to see this message again, tick the box, and click OK.

Your document will now open in Word document format. It should look identical to the PDF, and you can now edit the document as you wish!

How do I save this document so that it is a PDF again?

Once you are done, you can save this document as a Word document, or save the document as a PDF by going to File> Save As> and selecting PDF from the File Type dropdown.

Do you often find yourself dosing off in the morning waiting for Windows to finish installing updates? Stop! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Active Hours

While we of course encourage everyone to install Windows Updates, they are important for security & reliability, Windows 10 offers a feature called Active Hours. Active Hours allows you to set the hours where you will be using your PC ensuring updates do not disrupt your productivity.

Sounds brilliant, how do I turn this on?
Active Hours is enabled on Windows 10 by default, however it is set to automatically adjust your active hours based on when you use your PC/Laptop. This can be very useful, but if you want to avoid Windows Updates during that weekly 6am meeting, Windows may not adjust your active hours to suit.

I start a meeting every week at 6:30, and when checked my active hours were set to 8:00-20:00.

You can change your Active Hours by going to Start, Settings.

Once in Settings, Click on Update & Security.

Now, click on Change Active Hours. You should now be able to see Microsoft’s recommendation for your active hours. If you do not agree with the automatically set active hours, you can edit these by clicking on Change.

Once you are happy with the hours set, click Save and your settings are all done. Windows should now stop installing updates when you’re trying to work.

Update Management

We offer patch management as part of our IT Support packages, so we can not only stop updates from being installed at awkward times, but also ensure your devices are up to date in a suitable timeframe and ensure no updates get installed that could cause you issues.

Have you taken time to consider that email signatures tools could add value to your business?

In 2019 on average, 40 emails were sent by individuals per day for business purposes. Emails from your employees have the potential to reach a vast, targeted set of customers. As well as business contacts and potential clients. Therefore, email signatures really are a simple tool that can benefit your business.

Here are the top four reasons adding a consistent business signature to all your company’s emails, regardless of device, could add value: 

1. Increases Brand Awareness

It takes 5-7 impressions for people to remember a brand. Having a business signature helps make your brand recognisable. By including your company’s logo in your email signature, you can increase cohesion across your company’s channels and ensure that every email sent out is helping clients and contacts to familiarise themselves with your logo and your brand. 

2. Makes Contact Details Accessible

Your email signature acts as a digital business card. It’s an easy and accessible way to send your details and indicates that you are open to communicating. This could be especially useful for businesses. Research has found that 66% of business communication occurs over emails – so it may well be worthwhile considering email signatures for your business. The details that you should include in your email signature are: 

  • Name
  • Position
  • Company
  • Telephone number
  • Company logo
  • Website link
  • Social Media icon links

3. Image-based Signatures Can Support Engagement

Including your logo in your email signature can be a useful way to help boost engagement. Images are up to 650% more effective at encouraging engagement than plain text. Including something simple like your logo or an image is an effective way to draw more attention to your business.

4. Provides a Quick Link to Other Useful Information

Your email signature is an easy way to include links to your website or social media. Data has shown that linking your email signature to your social media can improve your email response rate. Including a link to Instagram resulted in a 23.4% increase in response rate, and LinkedIn resulted in an 11.5% increase. 

These are just a few of the benefits that email signatures can have on your business. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to get more out of your email signatures, Heliocentrix can help.

These are just a few of the benefits that email signatures can have on your business. If you’re interested in finding out how to get more out of your email signatures, Heliocentrix can help. By utilising a low cost service such as Exclaimer, you can have centrally managed signatures integrated into Office 365 for your staff regardless of what device they use. This will enhance your branding and bring more awareness to your business. Contact us or email us at [email protected]