Saturday 9 June 2018

Is your schools IT about to fall off a cliff?

This might be a UK phenomenon but about this time each year school IT admins start to give some thought to the summer IT upgrade.

This task is often approached with a degree of fear and trepidation and with good reason. In just under two decades IT has moved from being an interesting novelty to a core function for both administration and teaching. I’m not sure when the decision was made to compel schools to maintain an on-premise datacenter with a support network that wouldn’t shame a medium size business, but that's where we find ourselves today.

Finding the right skill set to support this complex on-premise setup is difficult. The level of technology found in schools is similar to what you would find in the commercial sector and includes server virtualization, shared storage, directory systems, wireless, tape backup and client management. Therefore education competes in the same salary space as businesses that are better placed to offer attractive deals to qualified support staff. A common response is to share resource or enter into a support contract with an external party but it’s often the case that this ongoing cost wasn’t allowed for when the shiny new boxes were first installed.

The other problem is that the “shiny new boxes” are no longer shiny or new. In fact they are now over five years old a replacement program is now on the agenda. Even if they’re still providing a reliable service they are likely to be out-of-support and warranty. If they go wrong who are you going to call. Ghostbusters are not going to help you here.  Extended support contracts can be a option but the costs are often in the the same ballpark as a replacement program.

The problem is often compounded by the fact that the equipment was purchased as part of the same initial investment  program and therefore all the hardware has come to the end of support at the same time. Servers are one problem but you may have a networked storage, tape backup systems and networking that are all facing the same issue.

Let's face it, your schools IT system is about to fall off a cliff.

There’s no simple answer to this problem. The short term solution might be to find the money to paper over the cracks but in a another five years time you’ll have same problem - nothing has changed.

The sustainable approach is to make use of Software and a Service (SaaS) and start to decommission local server and storage hardware. This is no longer a complex technical problem. There are plenty of  toolsets and partners who can help you out and the task is probably no more onerous than replacing core systems.

The major sticking point is the fact that the school will have to change the way uses IT and this will impact teaching. 

Software that has been part of the curriculum for the last 15 years will have to reassessed and alternatives found. Familiar desktop systems may have to be upgraded to modern mobile friendly versions. Workflows and lesson plans based on email attachments, local storage and printed worksheets will need to be reevaluated in light of a system that encourages, and in some respect requires collaborative practices.

This is the hard bit but can it be any harder than emptying the coffers to pay for on-premise system whose only promise is to deliver the same service as five years ago but with added cost and complexity.

No comments:

Post a Comment