Pine Cove Pulse

Wyoming Boosts Internet Infrastructure, Investing $16 Million

Posted by Tyler Wantulok


For our rural Wyoming community, many school districts have struggled with internet outages and complicated wiring to their capitol city, Cheyenne, in order to give schools internet access. The old infrastructure made students take online tests in turns, and only held 2 gigabits of capacity. And if any connection was lost in Cheyenne, all buildings lost access. Sometimes it would take days, even weeks, to get the connection going and schools could resume teaching.
Until now.

The state is investing $15.8 million to boost infrastructure- increasing Wyoming’s capacity to 100 gigabits (enough to store a library floor’s worth of thick books), and using a basic backbone with 3 loops throughout the state. These loops move through northern Wyoming, southern Wyoming, and another between Laramie and Cheyenne. The loops bring the internet to hubs, and these hubs provide spokes to run to every school throughout the state, using local internet providers.
Wyoming internet providers are required to upgrade equipment and expand their connections to the small communities. Without the budget, providers weren’t able to financially reach these small areas on their own.

Schools also have off-site servers that store their information, so that grades and important documents won’t be lost with another power outage. Smaller districts that have the least bandwidth are the first focus and are receiving attention they need with the new investment. Once equipment is offered, internet providers will be able to better provide services at more affordable prices for businesses, schools, and eventually residents.

Pine Cove and Our Clients
The core equipment for Wyoming’s infrastructure that was put in by the state is 10 to 12 years old, and in our fast-paced technology world, the devices are so ancient that nobody even sells it anymore. With Wyoming’s infrastructure so far behind, it will take time to get every area up to speed. But with a budget this big and help to get equipment replaced, they are in the right direction to having structure that allows for much faster upgrades in the future.

At Pine Cove, our goal is to provide equipment and installations that you can trust, and deliver satisfaction among our clients. This includes the success of not only the technology services we help with, but also the success of the students in your schools. High speed internet and online classes will allow schools to make their own choices about what they want to offer, which makes us very excited for our Wyoming clients.

Besides the obvious benefit of faster connections, no more lost time because of Cheyenne’s power outages, and more bandwidth, these schools have a lot more room to move with their network.

And even better, it makes it easier for us to help our Wyoming customers. Without a sturdy backbone and difficult connections, it makes it harder for schools to get optimum networking help.

Now with an upgrade, students both ahead and behind will get the tools they need to either catch up or excel; businesses will have the ability to expand and operate much faster; and schools will be able to develop and grow in their technological advances. We say Wyoming legislature deserves a big pat on the back, and a congratulations to Wyoming education and businesses!

Topics: networking

Room to grow: HP Networking portfolio for rural school districts

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

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With the state of Montana having a handful of increasingly populated towns and hundreds of smaller towns spread throughout, the difference in technological advances is vast. Small, eastern Montana towns often have a hard time enabling fast, quality networks and staying on top of the fast-paced evolution of technology. This is why Pine Cove Consulting (PCC) has a main focus on servicing small-town schools with innovative and affordable networking, so teachers and students don’t fall between the cracks when it comes to modern technology.

Pine Cove recently worked with two small-town schools, Colstrip and Sidney Public Schools. Both schools have issues with unpredictable enrollment, with Colstrip having a large energy industry and Sidney being a rich location for oil drilling and hydro fracturing. But often these towns see boom and bust enrollment figures that go along with the spikes and crashes of the oil and energy industries.

“Over the past couple of years, it’s been common for us to get between 70 and 100 new students per year, but by the end of the year, we’ll also lose between 70 and 100,” says Steve Yockim, technology director for Sydney Public Schools.

The volatility in enrollment makes it difficult for the two districts to rapidly build housing and services for new residents, let alone stay on top of offering a quality education to a rising and falling student population.

Work in Colstrip Public Schools
With a combination of coal and electricity as the main source of Colstrip’s wealth, energy trends make the town an unpredictable place to live. IT leaders at Colstrip Public Schools have struggled with finding ways to keep technology modernized, but not spend money on oversupplying students. Unfortunately, this is a reality that they couldn’t seem to get away from. The district’s network wasn’t designed to deliver the flexibility or scalability district leaders needed.

After attending a regional workshop featuring Pine Cove Consulting, the Colstrip superintendent was fascinated by Pine Cove’s seminar. “That workshop led to a five-year project and a great partnership,” said PCC Vice President Brandon Vancleeve. With PCC’s help, the school district soon redesigned its entire network.

Using VMware View and Devon IT’s VDI Blaster software, the district then introduced centralized desktop computing to teachers, students and support staff. They eventually added 300 virtualized desktops to its campuses. With a virtual desktop infrastructure in place, the IT team has the flexibility to scale the VDI solution to meet whatever demands may come. An affordable budget has made it possible for the district to add 100 virtual desktops at a time, with the end-goal of virtualizing every machine possible, so students and teachers can access information and applications from any device they bring.

These solutions have led to less security issues, fewer support tickets and interruptions in classrooms. VDI also increased efficiency for larger projects and upgrades, leading to better productivity for the small staff.

Work in Sidney Public Schools
Located in northeastern Montana, Sidney is a popular place for the farmers, ranchers and oil drilling. However, Sidney has recently spiked in population due to the hydraulic fracturing mining industry. This has led to major oil booms which, in turn, led to large peaks in student population, making it difficult for the district to keep up technologically.

“We know we need to be very smart about how we do this. We have to build a solution that will be incredibly flexible so it can scale rapidly, but we don’t want to overbuild it, either,” Steve Yockim says.

The district made the move to redesign the entire technology infrastructure, and turned to Pine Cove for help. The team rebuilt the entire data center, virtualizing and consolidating servers onto HP ProLiant BL460 Server Blades with hypervisor software from VMware.

The HP server blades are mounted in a modular HP BladeSystem c7000 Enclosure, which houses both the district’s virtualized application servers and its VDI solution, which delivers operating systems, applications and user settings for students, faculty, administrators, and support staff.

Among many other changes, Pine Cove Consulting was able to boost coverage by 50 percent, giving the district just under 100 percent coverage everywhere. The modernized server and storage pushed services at faster speeds and eliminated outages. The new wireless services now have the important flexibility to vary the number and type of wireless access points supported by the network. Because the district has built an HP Converged Infrastructure to virtualize delivery of end-user workspaces, those workspaces can follow the user from device to device without sacrificing a consistent compute experience.

“In five years, who knows what the technology landscape will look like? But I know the groundwork we’ve put in place can scale to handle whatever comes next,” says Yockim.

A Brighter Future
For both districts, creating a new infrastructure and advanced networking system has made new upgrades and updates possible. Almost all students now carry mobile devices, and the networks are now given the flexibility to handle BYOD accessibility. Students can walk between networks and hardly notice a difference. With PCC’s help, the schools can now have the fast, modernized technology without the fuss of constant, slow networking issues.

Having Pine Cove Consulting ready and available to help with upgrades, advancing technology the way the schools want has become a reality for the small districts. Pine Cove’s work with HP systems gave back time to staff so they can have a reliable, fast network that is easy to operate. And most importantly, the schools have the flexibility for the boom and bust of their student populations.

Download the Case Study today!

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Topics: networking, Pine Cove, 1:1 computing, BYOD

Find out how your peers are using Cisco Meraki

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

Cisco Meraki cloud networking was built for the demands of education. 100% Cloud Managed WiFi, switching and security that enables a BYOD, high-density classroom WiFi, tablet and video environment.

If you are currently supporting a 1:1 or BYOD district wide initiative or looking to implement one, Cisco Meraki offers plug-and-play installation for rapid district-wide deployments with minimal support. Web-based centralized management provides intuitive visibility and control, without training or adding staff.

Cisco Meraki access points support high-density WiFi and includes 100% free integrated MDM for devices like tablets and netbooks. It provides complete visibility into the users, applications, and devices on your network.

iPads and Android tablets are taking campuses by storm. But with the right tools, tablets need not burden IT. The Cisco Meraki line provides a complete solution to create a simple, reliable, and secure environment for iPads:

  • Cisco Meraki wireless access points are optimized for dense classroom environments.
  • Scalable, cost-effective Ethernet switches are ultra-reliable and easy to manage.
  • Feature-rich security appliances provide easy-to-manage content filtering, web caching, and security.
  • Free cloud-based mobile device management enables secure, manageable iPad deployments.
  • Intuitive cloud-based management is easy to use without training or dedicated staff.
  • The Cisco Meraki cloud architecture saves 50% over traditional networking solutions.

Meraki's cloud networking solution is ideal, providing performance and manageability at a fraction of the cost and complexity of traditional solutions. Meraki networks simply work. Intelligent, cloud managed WiFi, routing and security that is scalable. You get all the benefits and features of an advanced WiFi solution with out the cost to deploy more IT staff to build your network.
 

Find out how your peers are using Cisco Meraki, by signing up for one of their upcoming K-12 webinars:

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March 12 at 10am PT
High Density K-12 Network Usage at Conestoga Valley School District

March 25 at 9am PT
Managing Highly Dispersed Schools at Beaufort Delta Education Council

April 17 at 10am PT
Providing Unified Wired and Wireless Network Management at The Rock Church & Academy

Check out their website for other webinars and feel free to reach out to me with any questions!

Benefit: *Click here for the free Cisco Meraki access point eligibility details. If you are unable to accept a free access point due to restrictions, like E-Rate, you can take advantage of this Meraki trial access point offer.

Or, if you have questions, just call us at
800.432.0346.

Topics: networking, E-Rate

Pine Cove Support!

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

Here is an email we just received from one of our clients. Its nice to see Pine Cove Consulting is "on the ball" when it comes to support!

Hi Matt,
 
Pine Cove’s support team is certainly “on the ball.”  Recently, our office was experiencing internet access problems.  After a few calls to my wife and colleagues, I concluded it was a city-wide problem with the cable/internet provider and knew we would need to wait it out.  A few minutes passed and the phone rang.  It was Derrick Morse, one of your tech support team in Wyoming, on the other end.  He mentioned that he could “see” that our server was showing some fluctuations and thought he would call to see what was going on.  I was impressed.  I didn’t need to call and alert anyone.  Your team saw it and took action.  That is what I call support!
 
Thanks,
Mike
 
Mike Skaggs
Soaring Eagle
President & CEO

Topics: networking

Are you ready for one-to-one computing in your School?

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

 

1. Is your network One to One ready?

  • a. Do you have the Wireless capability to handle every teacher/staff/administrator/student on wireless? 
  • b. Can your existing cabling handle the increased load on your Wireless devices? 
  • c. Can your area and core switches handle the massive traffic increase from Wireless devices? 
  • d. Can your bandwidth handle all traffic simultaneously hitting the Internet (as every teacher/staff/administrator/student goes online at the same time with a device)? 
  • e. Do you have methods prepared to limit unnecessary Internet access? (Filtering is one answer, but even limiting time on educational sites will need to be addressed, especially highly graphical websites) 
  • f. Increased access means data created will grow astronomically, are your servers ready to house this massive increase in data over the next 3-5 years? 

2. Moving to the Cloud? 
  • a. Do you have the bandwidth to move all or some of your data to the cloud (Google Apps)? 
  • b. Have you thought about what can be addressed with a private cloud? 

3. Are your Instructors ready?
  • a. Is your staff ready to teach in an environment where all students have a computing devise? 
  • b. Is your staff ready to transition from the role of disseminator of information to the role of a facilitator? 
  • c. Have you accounted for the training time it will take to have instructors proficient in these methodologies of instruction? Two in-service days? Weeks? Years? 

4. What are you going to phase out?
  • a. Have you considered phasing out while adding more is crucial for sustainability? 
  • b. Do you know that a lack of planning in the area of sustainability can be a recipe for disaster? 
  • c. What is your depreciation schedule for this new equipment? 
  • d. Is it possible to reduce printing costs and still deliver more materials to students through electronic formats? 

5. What are the devices you want to use for One to One? 
  • a. Does the device service both “Apps” and “Productivity” platforms? For example, Apps are programs that run on a tablet platform, Productivity could be a Microsoft environment used for testing. 
  • b. If the device cannot access both platforms, are you willing to forgo using one of the platforms? For example, making the choice not to use 100% Microsoft Products throughout the district if the choice is tablets for both staff and students – as it is imperative staff use the same tools as the students to insure seamless curriculum integration. 
  • c. Is the device you choose state testing compatible? 

6. Have you addressed how the new technologies will integrate into the curriculum? How will you insure curriculum drives technology and not the opposite?
  • a. What teaching strategies will you adopt/create? 
  • b. How will you address delivery of the curriculum through tablets? 

7. Are you planning to replace textbooks with tablets?
  • a. What strategies will you use to implement tablets? 
  • b. What are the ongoing costs of using tablets? 
  • c. Have you considered downloading textbooks to you local servers to lessen the load on bandwidth during the day? 

8. 180 days students use computers – if you provide computers for ½ the year, how will students continue learning the other 185 days?
  • a. Are you creating lifelong learners? How do they continue to learn outside of school? 
  • b. Have you considered opening your labs open all year long and evenings to accommodate student learning? 

9. Who will be charged with the overall integration of these changes in the district?
  • a. Will an additional load, if any, be put on the current technology staff? 
  • b. Who will be responsible for initial and on-going staff development? 
  • c. Who and how will you measure effectiveness and develop strategies to improve targeted issues as they arise in this transition? 

10. What is your time line for phasing in One to One computing? 
  • For effective One to One implementation, all key phases above must be addressed beforehand (and maybe some that can’t be foreseen). The key is to make sure you have taken care of everything you can predict, and adjusting to the things we cannot foresee.
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Topics: networking, cloud, VMware, 1:1 computing