Adapting to a new digital world with the same resource constraints
When it comes to updating aging technology and embracing a new digital world, educational institutions are faced with the same pressures as commercial businesses to modernize operations, embrace cloud models and support key initiatives such as implementing online and remote learning. Educational institutions, however, often lack the same resources as their commercial counterparts, thus forcing IT teams to be adept at doing more with less.
Modernization of current infrastructure for education decision-makers means improving the end-user experience of students and staff to increase productivity and satisfaction, according to a survey of more than 150 K-12 and higher education IT decision-makers conducted by Spiceworks in association with Dell Technologies and VMware.
Modernization efforts are usually spurred by budget availability. But the research shows they have been accelerated by remote learning needs in response to COVID-19. Top modernization goals are:
- Improving performance and security.
- Reducing costs and complexity.
- Implementing and supporting online and remote learning.
Top areas in need of modernization are security/data protection; storage/data management; cloud solutions and services; and networks. The biggest infrastructure challenges in achieving these goals are meeting the needs of end users, cited by 42% of respondents to the Spiceworks survey; limited IT staff/resources (40%); and limited budgets/high costs (35%).
Modernizing IT can help educational institutions overcome challenges
Given these challenges, IT leaders in the education field need to take a more calculated and less disruptive approach to IT modernization. They play a vital role in ensuring that their institutions modernize learning environments to better prepare students for the future.
The good news is that embracing new technologies can help address these issues, despite the limitations on staff and resources. Modernizing IT can reduce costs through improving efficiencies. For example, software-defined solutions that utilize automation to minimize manual processes can help reduce pressure on IT staff by making it easier to support users as well as reduce ongoing operating expenses.
Another example is using hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to deploy a specific application or use case, such as virtual desktop infrastructure. This accelerates deployment, simplifies management and reduces both operational and capital expenditures. With the right solution, HCI can be a simple path to hybrid cloud, seamlessly integrating with the rest of your infrastructure.
Educational institutions paving the way for IT modernization
Texas A&M University-San Antonio. A&M-SA is the newest campus in the A&M system, operating as a stand-alone institution since 2009. When the technology infrastructure approached its end of life, the university seized upon an opportunity to improve data center operations and IT services. It modernized with HCI, data protection appliances and scale-out network-attached storage. The new infrastructure has been transformative in serving the needs of students and simplifying IT. Among the key benefits:
- High availability with six nines or higher uptime, even during upgrade and maintenance activities.
- A doubling of the virtual machine environment, enabling the university to take on larger projects and explore new use cases such as virtual desktop infrastructure and e-sports.
- Excellent system performance and improved user experiences, with time savings and new efficiencies in IT management.
Touro College of Dental Medicine. One of the key goals of the Touro College of Dental Medicine in Valhalla, N.Y., is to use the latest advances in digital technology to train the next generation of dentists. The college’s infrastructure supports more than 670 individual users, using HCI to enable students and faculty to use 3D imagery and advanced software to teach and practice with digital models. With HCI and virtual desktop infrastructure, the college has been able to achieve key breakthroughs in digital learning and teaching. For example:
- Students see more than 200 patients a day using best-in-class 3D CAD/CAM modeling applications.
- Digital technologies allow students and teachers to assess patients’ conditions, plan treatment and create tooth replacements with precision.
- The college saved nearly $1 million a year in reduced staffing costs compared with costs using more conventional technology solutions.
Henrico County Public Schools. With more than 51,000 students in 72 schools, Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia wanted to continue the innovative transformation of its instructional model so its teachers and curriculum could help students become more life-ready with skills in communication, character, citizenship and creative thinking. To meet its modernization goals, the district conducted a complete data center refresh, upgraded data protection and enacted a 1:1 initiative to provide all students with their own laptops. The district also engaged Education Strategists and Professional Learning consultants from Dell Technologies to create a student-centered model for learning and support. Key benefits of the transformation have been:
- Strengthened student-directed learning and teachers’ technical competencies.
- Improved infrastructure reliability and resiliency, including a 67% reduction in repair rates of devices, critical for today’s remote learning environment.
- Virtualized 99% of workloads, saving time and simplifying operations through HCI and software-defined solutions.
IT decision-makers in the education space can’t afford to take a complacent approach to IT modernization and digital transformation because of higher expectations across the board—parents, teachers, administrators and especially students.