Slow response times for LD5 schools

The response times for LD5 schools temporarily shot up. We believe normal service has resumed and Updata are investigating.


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Office 365 app through the 172 network

We have received reports that users cannot get the Office 365 app working, for devices connected to the 172.* network. The reason for this is because the firewall is blocking access between HICS and Microsoft. The obvious answer is to permit traffic through the firewall allowing the necessary connections out. However, it is not that simple. For Updata to allow access, we need a clear firewall instruction from Microsoft, consisting of their IP addresses so we can lock the firewall rule down.

Updata already have plenty of firewall rules in place to facilitate communication between HICS and Microsoft, but clearly something still is missing. We have contacted Microsoft but they have not been able to provide the requested information. Updata have spent a lot of time monitoring live sessions from helpful schools to try and get this working, but the Microsoft IP address is constantly changing. So I am afraid, it’s limited as to what we can do.

Two things worth pointing out:

1) This works through the transparent proxy as this network has a direct connection to the internet. All connections using HTTP and HTTPS will be able to get out to the required destination, assuming it is permitted through the HICS filtering platform. So schools can deploy the transparent proxy as their Wi-Fi solution to get this working..Granted, if you are happy with your Wi-Fi solution on the 172.* network, then this is a fair bit of work to do, to get one particular app to work, but there are other benefits to the transparent proxy service. The transparent proxy provides a filtered connection without users having to type in proxy settings and I would always encourage schools to deploy this.

2) Rather then providing us with the required IP addresses, Microsoft did supply a domain that Updata could set the firewall rule up to. However, the existing HICS firewall does not allow us to do this. The HICS contract with Updata runs out in September 2017 and for the next contract (with Updata or someone else) we will be putting this technology down as a requirement. This means that from the not too distant future HICS will hopefully be able to work around these types of scenarios.

I hope this all makes sense – if you have any queries on the above, please get in touch.



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HICS update

With half term approaching, I thought an update on HICS may be a good idea:

Bandwidth upgrade for primary schools

Most primary schools on the HICS network currently receive their internet through a 8mbps copper connection. The HICS’ broadband provider, Updata, carried out some analysis and believe they can deliver faster connections to many primary schools as a result of BT’s rollout of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC). Connections through FTTC will offer greater bandwidth access for these schools at no additional cost, as the cost of moving to this type of delivery will be borne by Updata.

Schools continue to be migrated over to FTTC and we now have 60 primary schools enjoying download speeds of up to 80mbps. For a primary school to upgrade to FTTC, their local BT exchange will require a specific type of router. When the local BT exchange has this deployed, schools will then typically require two visits to switch them over to the new connection. The first appointment will be BT coming out to configure one of the existing copper pairs (lines) to make it ready for the new service. Then shortly after this visit, Updata will despatch one of their engineers to complete the migration by installing the required router. Only the second visit will incur downtime and Updata will work closely with the schools to make sure this is as convenient as possible.

Please note that the availability and speed is entirely dependent on BT Infinity’s local presence. We would love to be able to roll this out to all schools but Updata’s analysis on FTTC availability has indicated that, for the time being at least, BT’s FTTC is not available for 66 primary schools. HfL are committed to delivering the best possible service to all schools and we are exploring alternative methods of improving school’s internet speeds. HfL senior management have agreed to fund BT site surveys for all the 66 primary schools at approximately £400 per school to determine the cost of upgrading them to fibre circuits (in line with all secondary and ‘difficult to connect’ schools). These site surveys are ongoing but most have been completed. When we upload our procurement documentation, we will provide accurate upgrade costs to all tenderers. We will have to see what comes out of the procurement process and we can then advise schools on what options they have.

Price reduction

When the HICS network was developed 5+ years ago it was agreed that the setup costs were to be spread out over the first five years. This was to prevent schools from paying a lump sum in the first year. The setup costs were paid off at the end of the last financial year (31st March 2016)  and from 1st April, schools are seeing a 25% saving to their HICS charge.

Procurement update

The existing contract with Updata runs out in September 2017. Shortly, HfL will be commencing the procurement process and we will be going out to the market to see what provider we will work with going forward – this could be Updata or another company altogether. We hope to be able to communicate with schools what the provision and cost will be this autumn and we naturally hope that as many schools as possible continue to partner HfL going forward.

If anyone has any queries on any of the above, please get in touch on this email address:

Kevin Crawley

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High response times through LD4 this morning

This morning there was an increase in response times for schools connected to the LD4 data centre. Located in LD4 and LD5 is a server is constantly connecting to 20 popular websites (BBC, Google etc) and the response times are monitored. Updata are contracted to make sure these stay below 1 second (1k). As you can clearly see from the below, the user experience graph reports that the it was taking over 2 seconds for approximately 30 minutes this morning. This is currently under investigation but please do contact me if you have any queries. Thanks, Kevin Crawley


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LD4 slow internet

Schools connected to the LD4 data centre may be experiencing a slow internet performance. Updata are investigating. Thanks

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