5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Hosting Service

You’re about to invest thousands in some new software that’s going to make your life and those of it’s users so much easier. You’ve put together a tender, sat through countless mind-numbing presentations of what life will be like. You’ve presented it to the board and made your decision. It was pretty much a no-brainer!

Where is this impressive software going to be installed though? Can you do it or, do you sign up to a hosting company. When it comes to hosting; make sure you ask yourself these 5 important questions before signing up and always get at least three quotes; just like you did when tendering for the software!

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  1. Can I host it myself? Does my in-house team have the technical expertise as this will be the cheapest and easiest route; always!

    Third party hosting is the obvious solution if you don’t have the technical expertise in house to maintain domains/firewalls/VPN’s/tunnels. A hosted solution gets around all of this by installing your software on a remote server and then giving all users access to this server to allow you to access your data anywhere.

  2.  If something goes wrong, who can fix it for me? If I chose a hosting company am I restricted to them, to resolve any issues?

    If you decide to host it in house and have limited resources to maintain the service, what happens if your in house expert isn't available if something goes wrong? Hosting will generally be maintained constantly by a team of people that should be on hand to assist should something go awry technically.

  3.  If I want to do something out of the ordinary or install other software; will my hosting company let me?

    When the software is loaded on your servers, you have the flexibility to do what you wish with it (as long as your finances and expertise allow you to!) With hosting companies there are often restrictions to your access. For example, if a third-party organisation has some software that you wish to add, or you have a consultant who needs access to the data tables to be able to update your system “behind-the-scenes”, access may prevented by the hosting company.

    Make sure this is a question that you ask, check that you can add software and get access to all tools to enable you to maintain the software yourself. It can cause additional costs if the hosting company restrict access and then charge you for changes and maintenance.

  4.  I’m still unsure, can I get it written in to the contract that I can be an admin user for the background applications that run the software.

    This is always a good option. It is always worth ensuring that the hosting company specifically write into your contract that you can have access to all applications loaded on the hosting platform.

    For example, a lot of software is written in SQL so insuring you can have access to the SQL Server Management Studio allows you to maintain and interrogate data easier. This is a standard application that should only be used by people who are trained to use it but, it is a key tool for any system administrator.

  5.  If it doesn’t work out, am I signing up to a contract that I can’t get out of?

    Don’t sign up for too long. Many people often chose a hosting company as they are led to believe it will fix issues they may be having only to find it hasn't resolved the problem. The landscape in education often changes with Trusts merging or growing and you may wish to reconsider your hosting options or, as your Trust grows and your in house expertise expands, you may wish to host the software on your own servers. These are just two examples where you don't want to find yourself in a contract of three or more years, where you cannot cancel without paying a significant cancellation charge, in some cases, until the end of the contracted term.

EduFin are experts in software hosting. We began offering this service in 2015 and it has grown steadily ever since. We don’t limit your access and we don’t sign you up to long term contracts. We want you to be able to use our service just like you would if it was on your on PC.


Say hello to our new Apprentice Consultant

Here at EduFin, we are delighted to announce the arrival of our first Apprentice Consultant - Emma Djemal. Emma joined EduFin in January after finishing college.

Since joining, Emma has worked for many different schools and trusts covering vacancies within the purchase to pay teams and assisting the finance officers with bank reconciliations.

Her ability to pick up new skills and learn has been outstanding, so much so that she is already fully booked with clients who have been impressed with her work.

Purchase to Pay Manager at Girls Learning Trust said “Emma is enormously helpful and will turn her hand to any request we ask without hesitation and with a smile. She is very thorough and a delight to have around.” 

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On becoming an addition to the team, Emma said “I have been eager to work in finance for as long as I can remember so when EduFin made me their apprentice I was ecstatic! Due to my love for numbers any task I take on I thoroughly enjoy (which isn’t hard when you have directors and a manager as lovely as mine).”

She went on to say “University has never appealed to me and I have always had a strong desire to learn while working. However I do want to gain accounting qualifications such as the AAT, which I am now studying for, so an apprenticeship was the perfect route for me.”

Emma celebrated her 18th recently and we look forward to having her with us to celebrate many more. Welcome to the team!

If you’d like to hear more about how Emma and the EduFin team could help your academy or trust, then why not have a nose at the services we offer.

EduFin Takes on The London to Brighton Bike Ride

At EduFin, we have chosen to do something for a worthwhile cause and we’ve decided to do it together. Director, Ian Gough, who has already taken part in the London to Brighton bike ride suggested that this would be a perfect challenge for the team, although at 54 miles it’s going to be tough! It is also for a cause that resonates personally with many of us in the team - The British Heart Foundation.  

We can’t deny that as a team we aren’t the fittest of specimens but we are more than ready to give it a good shot! We've all got off to varying starts. Some of us have reached the half way point and cycled half the distance while others are yet to buy their their bikes! But we are committed to making it to the finish line. 

With this said, we’ve decided we should spread the joy (or the pain) and invite our clients to join us in this great opportunity to raise funds for a good cause and get fit at the same time. We are so dedicated to the cause that we have decided to pay the entry fee for the first 10 clients who get in touch and say they want to embark on the London to Brighton bike ride with us. This event is for cyclists of all experiences and levels so whoever you are – you could make the difference!

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Your entry includes:

  • Access to the Beach Village post race celebratory party

  • Traffic free and closed road sections on the route, including extended sections within London

  • Free water stops

  • Fully supported route including medical support and mechanical support

  • Exclusive London to Brighton Bike Ride medal

  • Pre event support for training and fundraising

  • Regular updates, including a welcome and rider pack, crammed with event information and fundraising support.


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When: 16 June 2019

What to expect: London to Brighton Bike Ride is the British Heart Foundation's flagship event covering 54 miles from the crowds at Clapham Common to the buzz at Brighton beach.

Sign up to this world class event that takes you from city to coast, passing through beautiful Sussex countryside. Riding over the finish line to cheers, you'll continue the celebrations at our very own Beach village. Share the triumph of conquering the London to Brighton Bike Ride with your friends, family and fellow riders. 

So, if you want to join us in conquering the London to Brighton bike ride just contact us on info@edufin.co.uk or drop us a message here. The more the merrier! Remember, your pedalling could help power life saving research and beat heartbreak.  

Meet Abdul - EduFin's Junior Consultant

Better late than never to introduce another of our fantastic Junior Consultants – Abdul Juned. Having joined EduFin just over a year ago, Abdul has enjoyed working with an array of different schools and trusts.

Before joining EduFin, Abdul was a finance assistant for a seven-school trust and was quickly promoted to Finance Manager within a year. His passion for school finance swiftly led him to consulting for a large range of schools with diverse needs alongside EduFin. From covering for Finance Managers to providing one-on-one training for PS Financials, Abdul has assisted numerous academies with essential support.

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Business Manager at Weald of Kent Grammar School saidAbdul has worked with the Finance Team at Weald for a number of months.  Not only has his knowledge and experience added value to the Team but his delivery of training and guidance has been given in an exceptionally sensitive and supportive manner.” She went on to say Abdul has “introduced new and more efficient practices whilst fully supporting the Team through this transition.”

Moving forward with just one final exam before completing his AAT, Abdul is now gearing up to start his ACCA qualification. Having now prepared Management Accounts, processed Year End and completed internal audits for a range of clients, Abdul has become skilled in meeting each academies bespoke needs.  Speaking about his greatest objective, Abdul says “It really is all about supporting clients everyday with a guarantee that they’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Abdul’s knowledge and experience of school finance ensures that we have total confidence in his work with the Trust.
— Business Manager, OAT

Happy client, Michelle Smith,  Business Manager at OAT said “Abdul is extremely patient especially when training staff on the use of both PSF and accounting procedures relating to education processes. His knowledge and experience of school finance ensures that we have total confidence in his work with the Trust.” She says “On a personal note he is always smiling and happy –nothing is ever too much trouble.” 

If Abdul sounds like the kind of consultant that could suit your current needs then please do get in touch to learn more about what he can do for your school. 

Time to Start your 18/19 Budget

If you haven’t already started, now is the time to begin.

I’ve always been a big advocate of a decent three-year budget plan and of the importance of completing revised budgets once or twice a year but completing your new year’s budget early gives time to review and revise where necessary.

You may be asking: why to go to the effort of completing my 18/19 budget early,  if I already have a 3 year budget plan? But the truth is, most schools and academies have some form of budget tool that automatically extrapolates the data across 3 years, unfortunately, in many cases, the subsequent years may get some cursory attention that is focused on the bottom line but not much more. Many academies don’t start looking to complete the next year’s budget until they must - often because there is a looming ESFA deadline.
 

So, A quick and dirty guide to completing your 18/19 budget:

  1. Roll forward your 1718 data

  2. Update your pupil numbers with your October Census data

  3. If you do not have a budget tool that does it for you, update your funding streams to reflect the October Census data (assuming you’re lagged funded)

  4. Update your staffing with your current structure – ensure you’ve done a full payroll reconciliation by staff member

  5. Include all potential increments

  6. Go through all non-staff expenditure line by line

  7. Add or remove the cost of one off expenditure/projects

  8. Review all additional income streams

  9. Update your pension rates (if they’ve changed)

  10. Try not to go into shock in the middle of the office when you see the bottom line! 

  11. Book time with the Principal and relevant stakeholders to go through your initial draft budget

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Getting the foundations right are critical in having a strong and financially stable organisation and this is never more prevalent than in a Trust. With so many financial challenges facing the Education Sector and many Trusts pooling reserves or looking to do so, having next year’s budget much earlier, provides plenty of time to review both the individual budgets and the collated position. It gives time to direct the resources to support those schools where they have been unable to complete a balanced in year budget, to review why and put measures in place, if necessary, to ensure they do. It allows the Trust to strategically plan where reserves may be required and best utilised.

A Trust that doesn’t start looking at the 1819 budgets until the Summer term is left with little to no time to make an impact and can quickly find that their reserves dwindle to nothing or worse. In short, it forces them to be proactive rather than reactive.

So, once you have year end in your rearview mirror and the auditors are no more than a memory, dust off your budgeting skills and get to it, a new year awaits.

 

Author: Director, Tracy Dawson