If you think a virtual server is a waiter who fails to return once he takes your order or NComputing is something that comes after MComputer, get in line.
For many adults, at least those of a certain age, the technology bus has left the station and they feel good just to be on board, even if they are sitting in the back.
In this little scenario, Ryan Axman, USD 428 technology coordinator, serves as the bus driver. It is his job to carefully navigate all of the technology advancements and plan a course for the school district, which is an especially precarious journey in these tough economic times.
“We want to be on the leading edge of technology, but not the bleeding edge,” Axman said, explaining that the district does not want to jump into new things too quickly, but neither does it want to be behind the educational opportunities.
After watching the ever-changing technology landscape for a couple of years, Axman recently decided it was time for the district to become part of the change. He proposed two ideas to the board of education that not only improve the function of his department and the education of students, but also saves money.
At a meeting earlier this month, school board members approved the plan to add NComputing and virtual servers at an overall cost savings of $61,719 this year. The improvements will also use about 70 percent less electricity.
“The first change is the use of a device called NComputing,” Axman explained. “It allows us to use one computer to run up to 10 monitors and keyboards at a time.”
“This reduces the amount of replacement desktop computers that are in our normal rotation cycle,” he said, noting that the palm-size devices fit on the back of monitors and connect computers to a single hard drive. When students are working from the Internet or other less-complicated programs, the system works well.
“The devices are not a good fit for all of our applications, but they will save us from having to purchase 60 desktop computers this year,” Axman said. “We’ll save even more in the future.”
He said the second change will be to use virtual servers, which “will allow us to run multiple servers on one physical server.”
Eisenhower, Jefferson and Lincoln schools will run on one virtual server and Park and Riley schools will run on another. The physical server will be maintained at the high school, so that problems can be addressed from a central location rather than individual schools. Each virtual server has a back up and can be moved to other servers to keep everyone up and running, Axman said.
He added that the district’s current rotation of technology hardware and software and the advances in virtualization coincided to benefit everyone.
Instead of buying five servers, only two virtual ones are needed. And instead of buying 45 pieces of equipment to back up the nine hard drives on each of the five servers, only two pieces of equipment are required. One back up is at that high school and a redundant one is at the District Education Center.
“The virtual server program that allows this to work is free,” Axman added. “The computer department only had to learn how to install and support it.”
“The proficiency of our IT department is tremendous,” said Dan Brungardt, business manager. “We are good servants of the taxpayers’ money. Not only are we saving money, we are enhancing the technology that the students use.”
Additionally, the school district will save more money by leasing Microsoft software upgrades instead of buying it. Previously, it cost $17, 534.25 to upgrade 20 percent of the software each year. With contract changes and a three-year lease, all of the software can be updated yearly for $13,716. Over a five-year period, that is a savings of about $19,000.
Axman agreed that technology changes quickly and he must change with it.
“With more programs running from the Internet, we are seeing a shift in how computer networks and programs are supported,” he said. “Increased need for wireless networking, more hardware in our student’s hands and additional Internet access will provide for challenges ahead.”