Storage infrastructure is, probably, the least of your concerns, if you’re a teacher. On a day to day basis, most people in schools may not realise that the problems which occur with devices in the classroom are likely to be caused by inefficient, or insufficient behind the scenes infrastructure – not the devices themselves. But, I guarantee the network manager or ICT technicians are permanently concerned with the health of their storage and server estate.
A typical school infrastructure comprises three parts:
- Servers, which run a school’s applications, its email exchange, etc.
- Storage, which holds all its data, from pupil records to videos.
- Networking equipment – switches and cabling which knit the entire solution together.
Also typically, these three things won’t be from the same manufacturer, or bought at the same time. They won’t be the same age, and will be supported by different companies for maintenance.
Many schools are running on very outdated, and in some cases obsolete infrastructures, which are being kept alive by their very brilliant ICT technicians and the support from each manufacturer. As you will know, budgets to replace it all are few and far between. At Stone, we often work with schools to find a solution to one, or two of those three parts that can be replaced without ‘starting again’.
However, starting again with storage and infrastructure can often be the most liberating, cost-effective and simple way forward. In the same way as the greenscreened trolley PC and tower has no place in the corner of the classroom any more, because it doesn’t fulfill the requirements of modern education, the three-part back office infrastructure is looking increasingly unlikely to be able to support a digitally forward-thinking school with big BYOD or multi-media plans for the next few years.
Infrastructure investment is, arguably more essential than end-user device investment, in terms of the long-term benefits of technology in the classroom.
Reducing the size of both footprint and power consumption and increasing the support and security of your infrastructure can be achieved by purchasing a ‘box’ which contains all three of the traditional components that I mentioned. Then, you can get to work in making it into the beating heart of your entire solution by adding software which becomes your systems infrastructure, or virtual desktop capabilities to enable BYOD or remote access for all.
When you deploy a solution like this (Stone’s is called the Integrum), you eradicate any concerns about single points of failure, because they contain two computing nodes and two power supplies to ensure availability and security.
Fit for purpose
The all in one infrastructure automatically tidies up the decades of data you have, by de-duplicating and compressing files and making them accessible at a speed of your choice, relative to frequency of use. For example – current classroom projects remain on the faster SSD storage, and last term’s move onto the spinning disk storage, so they are still at hand, but not taking up valuable speed space. Everything moves faster with better storage infrastructure. Lessons get smoother. Jobs get easier.
Data compliance and storage of sensitive information is becoming a very important part of a school’s Ofsted checklist. Elderly servers and inaccessible files are vulnerable to intrusion, or worse still, complete data loss. The devices in the hands of pupils and teachers can be safeguarded from misuse by a better infrastructure, which can enable essential secure features such as cloud storage; so no data stored on any device.
If you’re planning to introduce a BYOD or one-to-one device scheme, start with a thorough investigation into the infrastructure needed to run a successful one. Without thought in this area, even an iPad can be as useless as that old PC on the trolley.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Killick is Enterprise Sales Director at Stone Group (www.stonegroup.co.uk)