Greenhouse School Websites:
Helping schools teach throughout
the pandemic

Fasthosts ensures that Greenhouse School Websites has one less thing to worry about as its grown and then grappled with a huge surge in demand for online learning.

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Greenhouse School Websites has one of the most enviable office views in London. Its HQ sits on the banks of the Thames next to the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich. As you look out towards Canary Wharf, past the muddy shore, you're struck by the magnificence of the city.

Yet the team isn't distracted by the surroundings. In fact, they can't be, because they're responsible for over 2,500 school websites in the UK. That's nearly a tenth of the 32,000 schools across the country. It's hard to believe that this team of just 15 is responsible for huge swathes of the education system's online presence. Not to mention the websites they manage in Ireland and globally, including one in Azerbaijan.

It's clearly a huge responsibility, but one that it's director and co-founder, Graham Miles, takes in his stride. It's all about schools for us, he says. We often work with headteachers and school business managers, helping them get the best from their websites. We're focussed on their needs, which means we need to know our servers are always going to be available, without any hitches.

With Fasthosts, we get immediate help. If we can see an issue developing – even at 3 am – we know someone will be there to sort it out.
- Graham Miles, Director & Co-founder

This is where Fasthosts comes in. Graham started designing websites in the mid-90s and was probably one of the first customers Fasthosts had. He and his co-founder started Greenhouse School Websites a decade or so later, in 2008, and used Fasthosts from the start.

We went with what was clearly the best deal at the time and Fasthosts has been with us as we've grown. We've worked with other suppliers when we've taken over websites, but we just don't get the same service, says Graham.

We knew that we needed the best servers and technology from the start. There was no point in cutting corners and, as we've grown, Fasthosts has allowed us to scale. We now have dedicated servers, virtual private servers, databases, and thousands of domains.

The real challenge for Greenhouse came recently with the pandemic. Schools in the UK closed on 20th March 2020. Overnight, their websites had to become learning platforms rather than simple online brochures. Many of the schools we work with are primaries, explains Graham. They don't often need complex websites. But as lockdown hit, they required a simple way to make lessons and resources accessible to families at home.

The volume of traffic these websites experienced went from a trickle to a torrent. The whole country was shifting to online learning and we were at the heart of that. We knew there would be a huge growth in web visits, but we weren't worried, because we'd invested properly with Fasthosts.

The team certainly found the pandemic busy. The number of enquiries we had to deal with was huge. Teachers, who had never needed to manage the website before, were all expected to upload work to their class pages. They needed help. We were able to provide that without any headaches about website functionality.

Graham makes the point that he didn't need to call upon Fasthosts to change a thing during lockdown. The servers lived up to expectations when tested to extremes. The bandwidth and capacity didn't falter.

However, it's not just the reliability that's kept Graham sane throughout one of the most testing times of his career. It's the support he's received – throughout the pandemic and previously. Getting good service from a web hosting company can be a challenge. On the rare occasion, we've worked with others, we've waited days for responses. With Fasthosts, we get immediate help. If we can see an issue developing – even at 3 am – we know someone will be there to sort it out.

Every school in the UK must have its data stored in British data centres.
We can tick that vital box because we know all the servers we use are all here.
- Graham Miles, Director & Co-founder

This service includes responding to requests and new ideas. I asked for more control of the DNS editor in the past. It was a long time ago now, but I remember Fasthosts acting speedily. Soon after the request, the service became available. It's things like this that make us stay with them. The prices across the industry are fairly similar so service and adaptability are really important.

Graham also believes Fasthosts has been instrumental in helping him comply with GDPR requests. Every school in the UK must have its data stored in British data centres, he explains. We can tick that vital box because we know all the servers we use are all here. It might not matter to some businesses, but for schools, it's an absolute must. Other providers just can't offer that along with the great service we get.

As Graham and the Greenhouse team gear up for further growth, it's in the knowledge that they can rely on Fasthosts. In Graham's words, it's one less thing to worry about. And in a pandemic, that's exactly what we all need.

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