Summer Fix

Making the most of your endpoints (and summer).  

GUEST COLUMN | by Ron Falkoff

CREDIT Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day SchoolAs one of the nation’s leaders in independent education, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) makes the most of its technology investments to fuel educational innovations through customizable and personalized learning environments. Our rigorous curriculum is driven by modern advancements and—in keeping with the history of our school—leverages the latest technologies to boost learning as well as differentiate and individualize instruction.

Systems management is not just managing devices—it’s about optimizing your entire environment.

At MICDS, our 1,200 students use technology as part of their learning experience. Our Junior Kindergarten (JK) to fourth-grade students use Macs, then in fifth through twelfth grade, they are assigned personal laptops or tablet PCs. Students rely on these devices for classroom projects and collaborations, including creating multimedia presentations, writing blogs and producing podcasts.

Additionally, approximately 180 faculty and staff have access to a variety of tools, including five computer labs, educational apps, SmartBoards, interactive projectors as well as tablets and PCs with access to Mac OS X Leopard and Microsoft® Windows 7 operating systems. Supporting the technology needs of faculty, staff and students, along with their growing collection of mobile devices, can be challenging, especially because student-assigned laptops and tablets are wiped and re-imaged each summer in preparation for the upcoming school year. Additionally, ensuring all systems are updated with the latest software is essential to achieving the highest levels of performance while minimizing exposure to viruses, malware or other risks.

Saving Time on Re-imaging and Migrations

Each summer, the task of re-imaging up to 1,700 machines is intensified because we manage up to 12 active images on PCs and another four to five on Mac endpoints. Each tablet or PC houses a variety of educational applications—so it’s not just about adding MS Office and anti-virus anymore.

Once labor intensive and burdensome, re-imaging time has been slashed from months to weeks, thanks to Dell Software’s endpoint systems management solutions. In particular, the Dell KACE K1000 Management Appliance and Dell KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance enable us to re-image machines more efficiently while improving inventory asset management and service desk operations.

The addition of advanced multicasting capabilities with the new KACE K2000 v3.6 is going to throw everything we do with re-imaging into overdrive. We predict it will shave about 25 percent off the time to re-image faculty and student tablets and laptops.

Unlike institutions that are scrambling to move off Windows XP before April’s end-of-support deadline, we migrated from Windows XP to Windows 7 early on and are well underway with a Windows 8.1 pilot project as being up-to-date with the latest software versions has always been a priority. The new task engine in our Dell KACE K2000 “Swiss Army knife” should prove useful by quickly finding and fixing install errors. In fact, we’ve increased the performance of a particular install by 10 percent using the task engine to simplify troubleshooting and speed deployments.

Streamlining Service Desk Operations

In addition to software updates and OS migrations, MICDS relies on Dell Software to improve overall help desk efficiency. Using the Dell KACE K1000 management appliance, we’ve reduced service calls, which is especially helpful at the beginning of each school year when there’s an influx of requests as everyone comes back online.

Further efficiencies and IT agility are possible by taking advantage of the Dell KACE GO app for Android and iOS, which we’re using to view trouble tickets remotely. Knowing I can check my phone or tablet anytime, anywhere to see open tickets lets me resolve some issues or provide fixes before I even get to school.

Asset Inventory and Proactive Management

At MICDS, we believe education extends beyond the classroom, so eligible students can take their devices off-campus. While fifth grade students’ laptops must stay on campus until mid-year, sixth graders and above can take theirs home. With such an approach, it’s imperative that we protect our students’ devices and their data while keeping a current inventory of everything on our network.

We give our solution provider high marks for helping us better manage not just our inventories but our entire systems lifecycles. Moreover, their systems management appliances give us unprecedented visibility into all aspects of our environment, so we can see what’s happening and follow trends more closely. We’re now capturing and recording 90 percent of all incidents, which is a significant improvement.

Systems management is not just managing devices—it’s about optimizing your entire environment. With just two KACE appliances, we’ve made a quantum leap in patching systems and workflow tracking to achieve major increases in IT efficiency as well as faculty and student productivity. With an ever-growing IT inventory as well as students and faculty with a hearty appetite for the latest in technology, the right tools will help us do our jobs faster and more effectively. After all, educating America’s youth depends on it.

Ron Falkoff is a systems analyst in the Department of Technology Services at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School. Write to: rfalkoff@micds.org

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