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Case Study: The Portsmouth Grammar School

“Having seen the work carried out by Medhurst’s education team and seeing the benefits that its services had afforded another school’s IT management system, we decided to employ Medhurst to help with The Portsmouth Grammar School’s virtualisation issues. Medhurst proved very quickly that not only did they know what they were doing, but provided very favourable project costs and benefits.”

Tim Howlett, IT Manager, The Portsmouth Grammar School

Customer Profile

The Portsmouth Grammar School relies heavily on Information Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance learning, improve the quality of teaching and ensure reliable disaster recovery and data protection. Medhurst was employed to provide consultancy and engineering services to design, implement and migrate the school’s existing physical server estate to Vmware’s vSphere platform. An estimated three-year projection suggests the school will make savings of over £21,000 with the system installed by Medhurst.

Business Needs

The school’s physical server count was steadily growing to cope with IT needs and had an obvious effect on the amount of administration required in all areas, as well as a knock on effect on the environmental issue of power consumption.

Tim Howlett explained:

“The main problem that the school needed to address was that over a period of years we had got ourselves into the habit of buying a new physical server virtually every time we needed to run a new application. As a result of this, the school was running nearly thirty different servers on a variety of hardware platforms. Although we were starting to standardise with HP Proliants, we were still faced with the increasing problems of managing the individual servers to ensure they were all backed up and running all the latest service packs and fixes.”


The solution delivered to The Portsmouth Grammar School has been built on Hewlett Packard’s BladeSystem technology with MSA Fibre Channel SAN technology, providing multipath accessible storage. Additional MSA Fibre Channel SAN storage was provisioned to provide redundant backup storage for the school and has been located in a different area of the campus to the server infrastructure to ensure protection in the event of a building fire.

Symantec System Recovery has been implemented to protect the file servers at a granular level, enabling system administrators to restore pupils’ work from several different daily checkpoints. The retention of this backup solution allows the restoration of any server and/or data from the last month. Additional retention is provided by tape backup, which is stored off-site.


Based on the difference between the physical server count pre-installation and post installation, the infrastructure now uses around six to eight amps of power, compared to over thirty.  In the long run, it will produce power cost savings and lead to a more efficient IT department. It will also be flexible to enable the speedy restoration of virtual servers, as well as scalable to allow the quick addition of disk space and server hardware to support future growth. In the short term, it has already improved the resilience and performance of the school’s applications.

Charlie Baynes, Managing Director of Medhurst Communications, said:

“In our experience, the IT infrastructure needs of schools are comparable to many medium sized commercial businesses. The benefits that businesses enjoy through virtualisation also keenly fit the school ICT environment. Portsmouth Grammar, like many other local schools, has been able to dramatically reduce its IT investment and costs with VMware vSphere.”