Wednesday 13th February 2008 by C. Freeman
Two members of staff have clocked up an impressive decade of service at Brooke Weston and they have overseen massive changes in the IT department. Mr Matt Robbins and Mr Stuart McGown both started on the same day in January 1998 as IT technicians.
Since then Mr Robbins has become network manager, running the department and juggling budgets while Mr McGown has an all-encompassing role ranging from software developer, database and systems administrator to technical support and software trainer. The pair work closely together on projects throughout the College and, looking back over a decade of change, both agree that two key factors have made the biggest difference; a rolling replacement programme of equipment and installing a new network to make internet access fast and effective.
Mr Robbins said: 'We've upgraded the network to make it much more effective, with faster log-ins and enough bandwidth to ensure that everyone can get the access they needed.'
Over the decade the use of the internet has risen massively with the College upgrading its previous 2Mb bandwidth capability with a new 10Mb one. Even so, just a couple of years after the upgrade it's now running at about 70 per cent of that capacity which represents a massive growth in internet traffic over the years.
Mr Robbins said: 'The students are using computers in different ways because every advance that you bring in offers new ways of working. A major difference with this College as opposed to a lot of other schools is that every machine can access the internet.'
Mr Robbins and Mr McGown also introduced a wireless system throughout the building which means that students can access the College systems from virtually every classroom without being physically plugged in to a wall connection. This gives them the freedom to browse the web from anywhere in the building.
As well as bigger projects that need a lot of planning and implementation there are also daily troubleshooting tasks to deal with. Staff may be called out to fix problems with laptops, replenish printer supplies or overcome system glitches to make sure that everything at Brooke Weston is running smoothly.
Recent innovations that Mr Robbins and Mr McGown have worked on include the plasma information screens around the College and they are also looking at installing Thin Client technology. This allows students to work on their College assignments from a home computer.
Mr Robbins said: 'Students can just go home and work on the application they were using at College. Although they're at home the information is stored on a server at College, safely contained and backed up.'
Mr McGown is currently working on a new College web site which should be launched in the near future. It is more user friendly and database driven, with more cross-referencing and a contemporary layout.
The past decade has seen a lot of technological advances and new ways of using the computing power and this looks set to continue with Mr Robbins predicting that staff and students will make more use of IPTV technology which will allow them to access television and movies directly from a catalogue of options contained on College servers.
However the IT department develops in the future, it always has the needs of students and staff in mind. Mr Robbins said: 'What we try to do well here is tie the IT to what people need. There are lots of bells and whistles and all sorts of things that we could do but if someone identifies a need then we try to implement it.'