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Q&A Series – Overcoming common IT challenges for schools – Darren Elsby

Darren is an integral member of the education team at Somerville. As Hybrid IT Consultant, Darren works with schools and educational institutions throughout Australia to provide fit-for-purpose hybrid solutions. With a career in IT spanning more than two decades working in technical, senior management and sales consultancy roles, Darren’s breadth of knowledge covers every aspect of the modern IT environment, including cloud, managed services, and network infrastructure solutions.

Q: Hi Darren, tell us a bit about your background and what your role at Somerville entails.

Darren: I joined the team at Somerville about 18 months ago after moving on from my role as Partner Business Manager at HPE. Joining Somerville was almost like coming back home in a way, because I’d worked with the team in the past when I was working for a different integrator prior to HPE.

What compelled me to join Somerville wasn’t just the people, the technology or the infrastructure, but also the fact that I can confidently put my hand on my heart and offer schools a true end-to-end solution. We have a model of shared responsibility and collaborate with every customer to address what they want to achieve, rather than just selling prepackaged solutions. That ultimately allows us to deliver the business outcomes that our education partners are seeking.

Q: What is front of mind for decision-makers in the education sector at the moment?

Darren: The core business of any school is to educate. But with compromised security and data breaches being a very real threat these days and students relying heavily on technology, schools are recognising the need for better, more secure IT solutions. IT requirements – both from a legal and operational standpoint – are becoming harder to manage internally, so there’s a move to adopting IT partners.

A few years ago, we were mainly dealing with IT managers, but in more recent times there’s been a pronounced difference in how schools are using IT – particularly hybrid IT – and it’s now being treated as critical to school outcomes. There also tends to be more stakeholders involved these days – in part because of the high level of complexity of a typical school IT environment.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges affecting schools when it comes to IT?

Darren: Security requirements for schools and businesses alike are increasing, and so educational institutions are going through a phase of “battening down the hatches” so to speak. For many, a primary concern is ensuring all their obligations are met when it comes to data protection and recovery in particular, because a breach would be detrimental to their reputation.

Most Schools typically don’t have the same level of corporate governance that you might see at a company, but nonetheless, they are very large enterprises and often underestimated in the market. Some have upwards of 2000 people on the ground, all with multiple devices that require connectivity. Then there’s the pressure of being available 24/7: parents want to be able to log in and see how their child is progressing, and the demand for apps mean schools need to be “always on”.

On top of that, most schools are generally required to have an audit of their IT systems every year, corporate responsibilities, so they also have compliance to think about.

Q: How does working with Somerville help address those pain points and drive better outcomes for schools?

Darren: At Somerville, we ease the burden on schools by establishing an ongoing partnership where we manage critical IT tasks so internal teams don’t have to, and we provide invaluable support. We don’t just push products; we encourage a dialogue to gauge what position a school is in, and cater an approach that works for that particular school. We typically recommend a hybrid model using the private cloud because of its reliable data recovery and business continuity aspects – but it depends on the situation.

The best outcome for any client – be it a school or some other organisation – is to have a strong partnership, so you can lean on someone you trust and have faith in their ability to resolve issues quickly.

Contact Darren today to learn more about how Somerville can help your school streamline IT operations, so you can focus on enhancing teaching and learning for better learning outcomes.

The best outcome for any client – be it a school or some other organisation – is to have a strong partnership, so you can lean on someone you trust and have faith in their ability to resolve issues quickly.