Case Study:

Comprehensive readiness analysis first step on the road to enhanced learning opportunities


The Riverston Group owns and operates two independent schools in the UK, Riverston School in London and Beech Hall School in Macclesfield focus on providing non-selective, co-educational opportunities for children of different abilities.

It has developed an innovative Early Years Framework that enables Nursery practitioners to identify development gaps in young learners. Its specialist staff also deliver both therapeutic and educational intervention for children with a range of Speech, Language and Communication needs in the Riverston Group’s integrated and inclusive mainstream school environments.

Independent schools group

Provide co-education opportunities

Educational intervention for pupils with SEN

The Challenge

Office 365 is fast becoming the standard suite of productivity and connectivity tools used by the education sector and businesses across the world. Providing access to these technologies equips learners with essential skills and ensures familiarity with the tools they will need once they enter the world of work.

Riverston Group have been using an on-premise version of Microsoft Office for some time. Stakeholders within the organisation wanted to migrate to the latest cloud-based version. Matthew Thomas, Network Manager at Riverston Schools UK, said, “We had been exploring how best to migrate away from our on-premise Microsoft Exchange solution at some stage in the future. Factors earlier in the year brought the issue to the fore and highlighted a need to look at alternative solutions.”

“We took the decision to bring the migration of our Microsoft Exchange function forward to minimise the risk of further issues. My problem was understanding what was the best way to approach the switch. Were we ready to make such a big change? Could we do it with minimal disruption to ongoing services? And, what would be the timeline in which we could achieve it? So, I got in touch with our Softcat Account Manager, Tyler Furne.”

“We have worked on a number of projects with the Riverston Group over recent years, providing a range of software, hardware and licensing solutions,” said Tyler. “We can also tap into a wealth of knowledge within Softcat’s Public Sector specialist teams, about how migration projects can be smoothly implemented and provide the benefits and capabilities required by the education sector. We were more than happy to help.”

Critical Success Factors

· Assess readiness for O365 migration

· Manage migration of Exchange function to cloud

· Identify a clear roadmap for future cloud migration

The Solution

In light of the severe disruption caused to the school year by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated school closures, Riverston School was keen to get the migration project completed in time for the return of pupils in September 2020. Pupils have faced huge disruption to the curriculum during this most challenging of years, so the migration needed to be completed without any downtime during teaching hours.

The analysis was completed remotely by the Softcat team. Over two days, it examined Riverston School’s specific requirements, existing provision and developed a clear roadmap to enable it to get to where it wanted to be as smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

“Softcat’s Technical Consultant, Nicholas Jenkin came on board and produced a bespoke readiness assessment,” said Matt. “It ensured we knew what we needed to do to complete the initial Microsoft Exchange migration, the individual steps needed to achieve it, how long it would take and how it could be done with minimal disruption to our Business-as-usual activities. That information gave us the confidence to launch the project.

“One thing that became clear from the readiness assessment was how difficult it would be to implement the solution in-house. Softcat’s recommendation was for an initial migration of the exchange function, which would be the ideal preparation for a subsequent full migration to O365 at a later date. Softcat managed the whole migration, creating an O365 tenant and installing AAD Connect and Synchronisation to Azure AD. It also installed and configured Exchange 2016, with Exchange Hybrid and managed the migration of mailboxes during the decommissioning of the on-premise Exchange 2013 server.

 Solution Highlights

· Remote analysis of specific client needs

· Comprehensive timeline produced for migration project

· Exchange server decommissioning and fully managed Cloud migration

The Benefits

Now that the Exchange migration is complete, Matt believes that Riverston Group, and most importantly its learners, will see a range of benefits in the future. “With the successful decommissioning of our on-premise Exchange servers and migration to a cloud-based version now complete, we have a much more robust and functional system in place,” he said. “It has hugely simplified my job. Troubleshooting is now a breeze, it works well, looks great and has even enabled a degree of software rationalisation that is helping to bring down ongoing costs.

“The embedded anti-spam feature within the O365 suite has eliminated the need for other security solutions and the project has placed us in the ideal position for a full migration to a complete O365 suite in the near future. Once that full migration is complete, we will have access to a range of enhanced productivity tools, including video conferencing and Microsoft Teams, that will enrich the learning potential of our pupils and help to support mobile working where it’s required. O365 is intuitive to use and can be particularly useful for our learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The future looks bright!”

Benefits at a glance

· Robust, simple to manage Exchange solution implemented

· Cost savings through software rationalisation

· Platform established for enhanced future productivit

Why Softcat?

“There are many reasons why we work so closely with Softcat,” said Matt. “The service and support it provides, its impressive sectoral knowledge and its understanding of what we need as an organisation is critical. Our account manager always makes the effort to understand the start, middle and end of a project and has experience of what works within education. When projects become complicated, specialists are always very willing to provide further support and guidance.

“Softcat’s overall approach gives us confidence that we’re making the right decisions, sourcing the right technologies to enhance our pupil’s learning experience and getting superb value. Yes, we could get a Microsoft solution from a range of other providers, but the value add that Softcat delivers makes all the difference to Riverston School”

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