What We Can Learn from IT in Education

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Among the vertical industries most impacted by technological change in the past three to five years is K-12 education. This is often overlooked, but the move to becoming digital is truly changing the game for school districts. Changes wrought by extensive device use, distance learning, and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality require that K-12 schools dramatically overhaul their approach to IT. In many ways, the IT need at schools has similar or greater demands for availability, reliability, and scalability to support new applications than what is seen in other industries. However, the rapid rate of change that has occurred in K-12 is exceptional. There are some important lessons that we can learn from the “high speed” that IT professionals and administrators are responding to.

Perhaps the most important impact of rapid technology adoption on K-12 organizations is that downtime and outages are no longer acceptable. Like many other businesses, becoming digital has caused school districts to rely on the digital infrastructure that enables many of the new educational technologies. As the use of services and centralized applications increases, the problem has moved from devices being unresponsive to the infrastructure being unavailable. The need for very high levels of reliability and availability is driving a top-to-bottom review of potential causes of downtime. Perhaps the most common culprit in K-12, as well as in many commercial organizations, is the physical infrastructure (racks, power distribution, cooling, and power backup) to support servers, storage, and network hardware. In many cases, the infrastructure is outdated and not able to support high availability. Based on recent research, power and cooling loss can be the most common reason for downtime.

Another important change for K-12 is that they need to dramatically improve the flexibility and agility for adding new hardware into their environment. New applications and new services often require additional hardware to provide acceptable service levels. Many K-12 organizations have found they could not easily deploy new hardware without major problems in the server room or data center. As a result, they had to upgrade the physical infrastructure to support the agility and flexibility needed to incorporate new technologies.

The final bit of learning for K-12 school districts was the need to improve the efficiency—and lower the cost—of operating this equipment. Many found that their legacy server room or data center used too much power and had high operating costs. Faced with tight budgets, they needed to reduce expenses. This is also a requirement for commercial organizations. Using the latest and most efficient data center infrastructure can substantially reduce operating expenses, while providing a better IT environment for a digital business.

A good example of a school district that faced these challenges and met them head on is the Moreno Valley School District (MVUSD). They chose a highly innovative solution that utilized a prefabricated data center that was installed in a fraction of the normal time and provided far greater availability.

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