Pine Cove Pulse

Obsolescence Management: How to Keep Your Technology From Becoming Obsolete

Posted by Rick Vancleeve

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photo by Anna Vignet on Flickr

We already know that technology changes faster than we can blink our eyes. It is impossible to stay ahead of the game when buying technology, because even if you buy the latest and greatest, they’re already coming out with a new and improved version. However, there are ways to keep all ends of your business or school’s technology running at its fastest, and that is to upgrade.

We know, you’re dreading the word “upgrade.” But if your business has a proper rotation strategy, you’ll actually be saving money by having technology that works quickly together – and gets replaced at the right times. A proper plan set in place that refreshes your technology every few years is essential to having your technology work properly. Plans such as Hardware as a Service enable this rotation smoothly.

Read more about hardware as a service benefits here.

So, why upgrade ALL parts of the system?

WiFi:

Why do you need to upgrade your WiFi? It works, right?

Two things cause obsolescence in WiFi:

1. Coverage

When your WiFi and switches are originally put in, they are designed to cover the building as it is. But over time, this coverage changes. Maybe you’ve added more employees or students. Maybe you added on or created some new rooms. Whatever the reason, coverage changes as the setup of your building changes.

The heat map below shows good to bad coverage (bad coverage being in red).

heatmap 

2. Density

With more employees or students comes more devices. The main factor in Density is the amount of WiFi that users are using. On average, there are now over 3 devices per user. Also, newer devices demand the newer WiFi to be used to their max efficiency. More employees and students are a factor, but changes in end point devices and number of devices per user drive this. The more devices you add, the denser your connection becomes. An overload of devices often causes drops in proper connectivity and bottlenecks.

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 The bottom line: obsolescence drives replacement far more than just equipment breaking.

Switches:

Why would you upgrade your Switches? They work, right?

When you put in your switches years ago they ran fine and still do.  However, now there is a need for ports that do 2 and even up to 5 GB over copper. Why? Simply because WiFi is currently running at 1.7GB and moving to 5GB. The switches have to be upgraded in order to handle this WiFi enhancement.

Servers

Why upgrade your Servers? They work, right?

Microsoft and other Network Operating Systems are requiring more and more resources, so to be able to run 2012 R2 you need more horsepower. Do you need 2012 R2?  The answer is yes you do, as a lot of items not only have been enhanced, but also many of the newer programs will make it a requirement. When your servers aren’t upgraded, it keeps your employees or students from having access to all of these latest programs.

Use the graph I sent you on Microsoft upgrading Operating systems

Workstations, printers and all other devices:

Why do you need to upgrade your Workstations? They work, right?

The constant change in software programs require better specs to run these programs.  In addition, the older endpoints don’t have the latest WiFi cards required for maximum throughput to get to programs and the internet.  Not to mention running the old WiFi connectivity from old workstations cause slowness on the WiFi device, which in turn slows down even the newer end points that do have the latest cards. 

Essentially, your technology is only as fast as its weakest link.

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Why refresh on a shorter lifecycle? Think you can’t afford it?

Our Philosophy:

  • Shorter life cycles require less tech support, better end user experience, and Total Cost of Ownership is decreased (less spent on extended warranties, additional tech staff, and better productivity)
  • Shorter life cycles enhance chances that devices are of the same “vintage”, which gives you a chance for all items to function together, rather than “rigging” this or that old device to work with the new equipment
  • Shortening life cycles does not necessarily require more money – but be strategic in purchasing what you need.
  • Less is More: It’s better to have a smaller amount of solid technology that you can count on versus a lot more technology that you can’t count on.

Key point: Your required processes a drive software a software drives hardware.

Have more questions on lifecycles? Contact a Pine Cove consultant today.

Building Sustainable Networks in K-12 Schools

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Topics: Technology Plan, HaaS

Building Sustainable Networks in K-12 Schools

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

Hardware as a Service

At Pine Cove, we often find ourselves explaining to a school district why they need to upgrade their IT infrastructure.  The technology landscape in schools today is being shaped by mobility and devices.  Cloud applications and mobile devices are being used in just about every school district we visit.  Many times we are asked to assess a district’s network and provide a proposal for getting them “up to speed.”  We realize that technology is not cheap and that there are no silver bullets.  You cannot simply throw a bunch of money at upgrading everything and not expect to be in the same position in a few years.  Investing in technology is more of a process than a single event. However, if you plan correctly and start on a path of sustainability through device rotation schedules and proper budgeting, you will serve your district well for the foreseeable future.

When we talk to schools about technology, we try to help them realize why it is important to the 4 major stakeholder groups:  students, teachers, administration, and parents/community members.

Students:  Students want to use learning methods and technologies that are relevant to them.  We can all agree that kids today are way more technically adept than most of us old folks are.  They expect to use the same devices and methods for learning that they use everywhere else in life.

Teachers:  Teachers tend to fall into a few different categories.  Some like to teach using the traditional pencil, paper, and the chalkboard.  Some like to use technology, but were not formally trained on how to incorporate it into the classroom.  Most new teachers entering the workforce use technology on a daily basis and were trained this way when they received their teaching degrees.  The simple fact is that most teachers want to use the latest tools and have current technology available.  Districts must realize that new teachers entering the workforce will expect them to have the latest technology available and integrated in their curriculum. This technological advancement will weigh heavily on a district’s ability to attract good talent.

Administration:  Administrators know that attracting the best teachers is in their best interests.  They want to create an environment that is relevant and up to the latest standards and trends.  Attracting the best staff and increasing scores are probably two of the biggest goals for a school district.  We believe having a current and sustainable technology infrastructure helps achieve both goals.

Parents/Community Members:  From my experience, most parents and community members want their kids to have the latest and greatest tools when it comes to their education.  If you don’t think that is the case, just ask a realtor what one of the top factors all parents want to know when looking for a place to live: how the schools rank.  I can promise that technology plays a vital role in a school’s ranking.

There is no way to slow the constant process of advancing technology. We use it in our everyday lives, from constantly using our smartphones to ordering food on an iPad in restaurants. There is no denying that schools are on the same fast track to advanced technology in education, and those that aren’t will quickly be left behind. Money can be a major issue for some districts, and Pine Cove recognizes this. That’s why we have turned to long-term budgeting and working to make sure schools get what they need at a better cost.

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Topics: Technology Plan

Where to start when writing a school district technology plan

Posted by Tyler Wantulok

school district technology plan

Here at Pine Cove Consulting we work with many school districts across Montana and Wyoming.  Each and every one of them are a little different.  Some are very small and all students (K-12) for the entire district are in one physical building.  Others are large campuses comprised of 5 or more buildings and spread across great distances.  Many are spread across great distances (one in Wyoming spans 100 miles!).  Even though each of these schools are profoundly different in many ways, they all struggle with the issue of how to integrate technology into the district and curriculum.  Getting a good plan in place is key to managing this rapidly-changing piece of education, but just knowing where to begin can be difficult.  The great thing, is you do not have to be technical to begin planning. 

The best approach that I have seen is to have a Technology Committee that includes stakeholders who will approach the task with different needs and perspectives.  I prefer to see the tech director, superintendent, a principal or two, some teachers and specialists, and if you can make it happen…parents and students.  The parents and students don’t need to be in every meeting, but their input in the beginning can pay big dividends down the road.  Once you assemble your team, you should have a brainstorming session on what you want out of integrating technology in the district.  I am a big fan of someone being on the white-board for this to document the brainstorming session.  Once you have all of your ideas and concerns you will start to see patterns.  From these patterns you will eventually begin to paint a picture of where you want to be down the road.  The key to leading any group through a task is to paint a picture (vision), get buy-in, accomplish it together, and continually assess and improve the outcome.  I love leading and assisting in these kinds of projects with schools and other organizations so I will share some of my methods for creating technology plans with you in case you need to write one for your district or business.

I prefer to approach writing a plan by first developing what I like to call "Guiding Principles".  Your "Guiding Principles" should help you in any decision that involves technology and will also help you when writing out the technology plan.  It provides you with a framework with which you can test ideas to determine if they adhere to your plan.  So what do you think are good guiding principles for a technology plan?  Follow me here, and I think you will start to see where I am going with this.

 

Guiding Principles

I think a school district technology plan should be written in accordance to some guiding principles:  Sustainability, Management, Training/Professional Development, and Change Management.  A process of Continual Evaluation and Modification will ensure that this plan continues to serve its purpose of providing a relevant technology plan for the district.

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Sustainability

 

A guiding principle for any technology plan should include a strict attention to sustainability.  Every decision made by the committee should be evaluated against an established criteria to determine economic viability and flexibility in the decisions made regarding technology purchases and integration in the district.

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Management

 

The second guiding principle for a good a school district technology plan is a sound management policy to support the facilitation of technology into the district and curriculum.  The committee should strive to provide the correct policies as it relates to technology usage in the district.  Proper management practices in relation to access and control of this technology should be put in place and administered.

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Training/Professional Development

 

The third guiding principle that should be included in a technology plan is a focus on training and professional development as it relates to integrating technology.  Continual training and development as well as a support system based on mentorship is needed to increase technology adoption and leverage.

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Change Management

 

The fourth guiding principle that should be in any technology plan is an adherence to change management procedures.  In order to guarantee that technology leveraged by the district supports the curriculum and assessment requirements, the technology committee should evaluate the use of technology on an on-going basis through the use of surveys and change management roles in the district.

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As I mentioned, the end-result of defining these guiding principles is that you have created a framework to test ideas and evaluate your technology usage.  For example, when deciding whether to buy a new piece of technology you should make sure it fits with your guiding principles and that someone will be accountable for making sure it gets integrated and is adopted.  You will also have taken all stakeholder's ideas and concerns into consideration and created a plan that everyone agrees to.  This helps with governance and maintaining the appropriate course for the plan

I hope that the next time you are presented with the challenge of writing a technology plan, you start by creating a well-rounded committee, setting a vision for how you want the technology to be used, and developing your guiding principles to keep you on course well into the future.  In my mind that is the only way to effectively incorporate technology into education in an impactful and sustainable manner.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!  

As an IBM Business Partner, Pine Cove Consulting understands what a district technology plan can do for the success of your school. Contact us to learn more or for a free IT assessment. 

jhill@pinecc.com

406-294-5471

@JustinHillPCC

Topics: Technology Plan