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Common Constraints in Education IT Systems Management

This blog post is a synopsis of a presentation by Anthony Juliano, CTO & General Partner, Landmark Ventures. Anthony is a seasoned veteran of IT Operations and Technology Innovation. His professional history includes technology strategy, enterprise systems, network administration and infrastructure/architecture operations for a variety of education institutions.

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Automated Patch Management Solution

automated patch management for education IT

In a recent survey conducted by Kaseya, 75% of education IT leaders said that software upgrades and patches were their top 2011 targets for automation.

School district and university IT administrators recognize that demand for automated patch management is escalating due to the proliferation of new vulnerabilities and the continual emergence of associated threats. Conditions require that they not only deploy more patches than ever before, but that they do so with a greater degree of urgency. Periodically applying patches is the only sure way to keep vulnerable systems from being exploited.

Imagine this scenario: Microsoft releases a major patch update of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 and Office. Some of the patches are labeled critical, so speed is essential because unpatched systems pose a significant risk. Downed systems would mean a loss of productivity for students, faculty and administrators.

What if a single IT administrator could access a pre-populated patch policy that was customized months before? With the press of a single button, he’d be able to download the patches from Microsoft’s website, install them on a test machine and test for compatibility issues. Meanwhile, an automated patch management inventory check could search for systems with the affected software, wake them up, check their readiness and push the verified patches out to waiting machines. The patches would then be automatically installed on each system, and they’d reboot as necessary.

Every machine that needs the patch can be automatically identified, updated and systems that aren’t updated can be flagged for remediation. With automated patch management, an IT management task that used to take days now takes minutes. A single IT administrator can proactively manage thousands of systems tasks in the same amount of time it took an entire team to do the tasks manually.

It just makes sense to implement an automated patch management solution within education IT environments. The most significant quantifiable benefit is the reduction in administrator effort that results from automating a labor intensive process. Patch updates can be scheduled when students and teachers aren’t using the devices. More productivity and less pain for education IT administrators and end-users is achieved with the use of an automated patch management solution.

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Click here to listen to our “4 Best Practices for Patch Management for Education IT Professionals” webinar!

 

We are bundling up for Spring!

We’ve bundled up some technology this spring aimed directly at our friends doing IT for K-12 school districts.  In many cases funding for education isn’t where it should be or has been, so to enable eduction IT organizations to be able to deliver even more services to their users with less resources, Kaseya has created an industry-exclusive K-12 Education bundle based on education IT best practices and requirements as well as the results of a survey* of needs from 175 private and public school districts (http://www.kaseya.com/EDUsurvey).

Here is a link to the full press release or you can go to our website to read more about The Kaseya Solution for Education IT.

Proactive and Preventative IT Systems Management

Information technology is revolutionizing the classroom experience for students, teachers and administrators. Students are adopting new technologies for learning, communication and play at an unprecedented rate. Educators and administrators are bringing new tools into the classroom to enrich the learning experience. Schools from kindergarten to post graduate level are ever more reliant on technology. It’s important to all concerned that access and use of these IT systems is uninterrupted.

Proactive, preventative IT systems management is essential in providing reliable, robust and cost-effective IT services. The problem is that the more hands-on and proactive you are, the more disruptive you may seem to users who just want to be left alone. What if you could deliver support to your end users without  asking them to go grab a cup of coffee? What if the end user was not even aware that an IT administrator is on the machine?

non-invasive IT systems management

Remote Desktop Access: Take Control without Disturbing the User

Sometimes, IT administrators need to conduct basic maintenance or view a machine that is already in use. Instead of kicking off the student or teacher, what if you could make changes to the remote machine in the background without taking full control of the system? What if you could transfer files, view a thumbnail of the desktop, access the task manager, resolve registry issues or open the command line – all while users continue working without being aware maintenance is taking place on their machines?

Remote desktop access provides instant access to a number of system-level controls without having to interact with the desktop of a remote computer. The technology directly connects you to a machine’s command line, system registry and disk drives without having to go wait for end user interaction. This allows you to work behind the scenes and allow you to accomplish just about anything you need to deliver truly effective technical support and proactive IT systems management maintenance.

Another great feature of a world class remote desktop access solution is the ability to grant users direct connect access to their workstations from any other machine on the internet.  So, for example, if Principal Jones wanted to get some school work done at night, but didn’t have a district laptop, she could leverage remote access to establish a unique and highly secure remote access session to her office workstation without compromising network security or moving data to an unmanaged machine.

Download our free white paper to learn more about non-invasive IT systems management via remote desktop access.

Remote Systems Management for Educational Institutions

remote systems mangement for classrooms

Efficiently monitoring hundreds of school systems and increasing security of IT environments are core functions educational IT administrators perform on a daily basis. Remote systems management delivers the ability to look across multiple operating systems and platforms, drilling down to the individual device level from a central dashboard. Remote systems management software enables a proactive approach to improved operations and increased client (administrators, educators, students) satisfaction.

Image this scenario: A server in the multi-media lab crashes in the middle of class at least once a week, preventing students from completing their assignments on time. Every time the server crashes, the professor logs on to the network and creates a ticket which is routed to the help desk. By the time an IT administrator logs into the system, the class is nearly over and the professor has had to postpone the assignment. He and the students are frustrated, and their opinion of the IT department is less than stellar.

What if every system on the network was continuously monitored and automatic alerts were issued to the help desk whenever a CPU breached a 50% utilization rate? What if an IT administrator could remotely access the server, call up performance data that includes CPU usage, available memory at the point in time the CPU spike occurred, the operating system version and other pertinent information? Proactive remote systems management could have prevented that server from crashing.

Automate IT Tasks with Remote Systems Management Software

With remote systems management software, educational IT administrators can automatically flag systems for changes, disk capacity, protection violations, performance and downtime. They can easily monitor event logs from a centralized console to better analyze and fix recurring issues. By monitoring the windows event log, IT administrators can identify potential problems before they become real problems, thus avoiding downtime and eliminating the need to interrupt faculty, students or staff while they’re trying to complete their work.

Educational IT administrators should not be thought of as interruptions and annoyances, but rather as valuable resources who can help:

  • Turn information into insight
  • Deliver better quality services more quickly
  • Facilitate collaboration between students and teachers
  • Drive efficiency
  • Manage risk

Does your school or classroom have remote systems management capabilities? If not, imagine how they could improve your working environment. Not only would your team be better able to perform its duties, the way IT administration is perceived by your clients would be significantly improved.

Learn more about Kaseya remote systems management. Download our free white paper: “School IT Systems Management Complete and Integrated Remote Control” now!

Education Systems Management Challenges

education systems management
Let’s face it, handling education systems management IT environments can be quite difficult. Whether it’s blocking a new software virus, managing theft of school laptops or dealing with school administrators who have little knowledge of IT, people just don’t understand the expertise, time and patience required.

IT systems management professionals in education institutions face difficult problems in trying to manage ever-growing networks of computers with limited resources. IT teams must keep systems (often spread over a large geography) running, meet compliance requirements, keep devices in service for learning and protect against malware…even on student-owned computers that IT doesn’t control. And they need to do it all on tight, sometimes shrinking budgets.

The challenge in education systems management is ever-tightening budgets that don’t keep pace with the requirements of managing large, heterogeneous, geographically dispersed and often mobile systems. New deployments, re-imaging, maintenance, upgrades and overstretched bandwidth are just some of the obstacles. Enterprise software packages are expensive and require big commitments in training for staffs that are already stretched thin. Add:

  • High expectations from teachers, administrators and parents
  • Short, seasonal purchasing cycles
  • Licensing compliance requirements
  • Endless pressure to do more with less

And the end result is a difficult working environment, to put it mildly.

Automate Systems Management in Education IT Environments

Information technology has become an integral part of the modern education system, from kindergarten through higher education. Faculty and students increasingly rely on technology for classroom instruction, homework and administrative operations. However, administrators and governing boards, focused on hardware and software, often dismiss the need for systems management in education IT environments.

Managing the IT infrastructure doesn’t have to be thankless. Nor does it have to be difficult and overly time consuming. Education systems management automation can provide remote management of IT assets, resulting in an interruption-free environment for end users and a better reputation for IT administrators. By automating key tasks, IT professionals can reduce costs, decrease downtime and strategically align objectives with organizational goals.

How are you addressing new software viruses, compliance requirements and other IT challenges in your school district or university? Share your experiences with us.

Learn more about IT automation. Listen to our free webinar, Managing Remote IT Systems Management from Your Office: 5 Tips for Education IT Directors” now! Gain valuable insights from IT administrators just like you who have experienced common challenges and learn how they got the answers they were looking for by using education systems management automation technology.

Laptops and smartphones changing the IT systems management landscape in classrooms

IT systems management classroomIt isn’t easy being an IT systems manager at a K-12 school district or a university these days! Once the domain of a few aging computers tucked away in a lab, technology has become ubiquitous in the classroom. Today’s technology can empower students, teachers and administrators.

There’s a major change in the types and number of personal devices that are used by students, teachers and administrators. Your school is probably talking about transitioning to a 1:1 model (one device per stakeholder), if you haven’t already. There are many factors and limitations when implementing technology for every stakeholder, the most important being budget and IT systems management.

Many students and teachers want to bring their own IT assets into the classroom. As more people get their own laptops or smart phones, they want to use these devices in the classroom as part of their day-to-day learning and teaching. This can be because it’s a personal device that they’re familiar with, and often it’s because their laptop or other device is much newer than the one that the school owns… so performance is much better.

On the one hand, personal devices reduce the overall cost of a 1:1 program. On the other hand, a plethora of different device types, operating systems and software applications can be a nightmare for IT systems managers to manage.

Overcoming classroom device obstacles with effective IT systems management

One of the biggest obstacles is getting the budget allocation for a systems management technology solution that supports every stakeholder across an entire school district. Researching some cost savings methods can be one of the most crucial parts to the success of your program. One of the biggest cost savings mechanisms is desktop virtualization. While you’re unable to leverage personal devices, education institution IT systems management assets (server capacity, applications, storage, etc.) should be pooled across the district and shared between geographically-diverse users. Virtualization increases productivity, saves money and creates efficiencies. Look for a solution that centralizes IT systems management and gives administrators a holistic view of all IT resources, arming your school district or university with the visibility to efficiently distribute resources as demand ebbs and flows.

Once you have your classroom devices in place, it’s important to implement a proper systems management solution for your district or university as a whole. Implementing an IT systems management solution will help your staff manage this new influx of technology in an effective and efficient manner. When selecting a solution, make sure to take into consideration the integration of remote systems management and help desk software to offer simple and fast support to students, teachers and administrators. Ideally, these tools should take on the character of an invisible, reliable utility.

How about you? Are you supporting an iPad, Blackberry or more than one personal or mobile device in the classroom? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Learn how remote IT systems management enabled K-12 education technology for the North Conejos school district in Colorado, giving teachers reliable access to interactive learning tools. Download free case study now!

On-Premise vs. Cloud Systems Management for K-12 and Higher Education

Systems management for K-12 and higher educationAs the price of storage and bandwidth continues to drop, cloud-based systems management services are becoming more attractive to education institutions that need to reduce licensing costs, avoid hiring additional IT staff and must focus on increasing their level of service to stakeholders (administrators, educators and students).

Although the cloud can supply a cost-effective alternative, education IT managers need to be wary and weigh the alternatives carefully. There is no ‘one model fits all’ solution, and rather than diving headfirst into the cloud, smart education IT managers are first determining how they can maximize the benefits of their existing infrastructure. Many choose an on-premise IT systems management solution. This results in significant cost savings while avoiding what many perceive as the downsides of the cloud.

Many education institutions remain concerned about security, systems management redundancy, functionality and who has access to their data in the cloud. A wholesale migration to the cloud would be costly to reverse, so it makes sense for education IT managers to research and proceed cautiously.

Education institutions must assess their stakeholder needs and infrastructure before deciding on an on-premise systems management solution, or a cloud solution, or a hybrid approach. There are advantages and disadvantages with both platforms and these are subject to the types of systems management software and services under consideration.

Advantages and Disadvantages of On-Premise vs. Cloud Systems Management Solutions

Costs are a primary concern, but education IT managers can’t ignore issues related to security and compliance. Education institutions, which operate under regulatory compliance, should factor in:

  • Third-party possession of confidential data.
  • Stability – what if the solutions provider fails?
  • Increases to subscription service costs over time.
  • Customization and integration issues.

Gartner estimates that the Software as a Service (SaaS) market will grow to 18% of all software sales by 2013, up from 6% of software sales in 2007. The market for SaaS and cloud services is showing strong and consistent growth; however this estimate also shows that, at 82%, the on-premise systems management delivery model will remain a strong contender.

Cloud computing is an attractive proposition for education institutions seeking to make the most of the technology available today at lower costs and lower risk. The upfront investment is low, total cost of ownership is reduced and they only pay for what they use.

So, which is best: cloud or on-premise solutions? The answer is neither and both. Look for a provider who can deliver cloud-based software to remotely manage your networks and has on-premise systems management modules that deliver proactive management of desktops, mobile devices and servers.

Learn how Virginia Tech deployed Kaseya’s on-premise systems management solution to ensure application availability, system’s health and the availability of research data on the network. Download case study now!

Education IT remote systems management software

Efficient remote systems management softwareEducation IT professionals are routinely faced with siloed systems and environments that must be managed in isolation using dedicated, often proprietary systems management solutions.  The result is a disconnected proliferation of management tools, interfaces, processes and procedures that make the overall management task complex, cumbersome and time-consuming. Putting all the requisite pieces in place becomes an exercise in juggling multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities.

By implementing a comprehensive and integrated solution with the power, flexibility and scalability to meet the needs of IT professionals today and expand functionality over time, remote systems management software enables a proactive approach to improved operations for educational institutions and increased client (administrators, educators and students) satisfaction.

The purpose of remote systems management software is  to reduce costs and complexity, manage risk and improve service via flexible delivery models. Systems need to be smarter – not just faster or cheaper and optimized for the needs of today’s educational institutions.

Smarter systems are created with streamlined and efficient systems management software that leverages virtualization and automation, enabling education IT professionals to gain greater control of their infrastructures. IT should be thought of in terms of how it can enable the organization to become more agile and competitive, by helping turn information into insight, deliver services better and faster, enable collaboration, drive efficiency and manage risk. By centralizing, streamlining and automating IT management tasks such as configuration and provisioning, remote systems management software can dramatically reduce cost and risk while improving service delivery in a way not possible with conventional approaches. Administrators need not spend days or weeks bringing new resources online; with automated processes and virtualized technology, needs can be met immediately and without disruption.

The core sets of functions performed by remote systems management software should include:

  • Deployment
  • Configuration
  • Execution
  • Updating
  • Logging
  • Reporting
  • Monitoring
  • Remediation

These functions are part of the core tasks an education IT professional performs on a daily basis. Remote systems management automates systems deployment and management processes by mimicking best practices associated with provisioning of services. The key to effective management is the ability to look across platforms and operating systems, without sacrificing the ability to drill down to the individual device level and perform detailed management tasks.

This results in a one touch approach to process systems management. It reduces processing errors, ensures compliance with procedures and increases the flexibility of managing transaction intensive tasks.

Listen to our free webinar, “Managing Remote IT Systems Management from Your Office: 5 Tips for Education IT Directors” now! In this webinar, we discuss the challenges, solutions and results from IT administrators just like you who have automated key IT tasks, developed solid business processes and implemented best practices to help them actually do more, with less, without leaving their desk.

Experiencing Challenges in Systems Management within Your Education IT Department?

systems management automationIT automation, where systems management software helps run the routine, day-to-day tasks of IT maintenance, can help K-12, university and college IT professionals run their entire networks smoothly – from one central location. By automating IT processes, delivering support capabilities remotely and breaking free from the outdated break/fix model, school districts can operate more efficiently, securely and cost effectively. IT automation delivers relief from the administration, monitoring and helpdesk chores that take up so much time and budget.

Education IT Systems Management Challenges:

  • No centralization
  • Point solutions used to coordinate tasks
  • No patch management software
  • Systems management software applications not updated frequently enough
  • Onsite support too time consuming
  • Reactive instead of proactive

So much time is spent putting out fires, there’s no opportunity to get ahead of these issues… to be organized and strategic.

IT Systems Management Automation Solutions to Challenges:

  • Consolidation under one interface
  • Integrated patch management
  • Time savings resulting in cost savings
  • Staying within school district/university/college budget
  • Ability to be an IT Systems Manager

After automation, education IT professionals have the time and bandwidth to make strategic decisions, get organized and move beyond the ‘putting out fires’ environment.

Survey of Systems Management Issues

A recent ZiffDavis survey of IT professionals measured attitudes about IT automation. It also evaluated the savings and return on investment that organizations realize when implementing automation solutions. When asked about their biggest challenge, in terms of systems management, nearly half of survey respondents cited “providing satisfactory service levels to end users.”

It‘s interesting that this seemingly basic expectation – that schools, staff and students should have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs each day – has become a challenge for education IT departments. Obviously, keeping applications and systems up and running isn‘t as simple as it sounds.

The ROI of IT Systems Management Automation

The benefits of IT systems management automation are clear, but how do they translate to hours and dollars saved? The survey reports that, “Automation technologies can reduce complexity, improve response time and reduce the need for putting out fires.” The study also found that systems management automation reduces the average repair time for system problems by more than 60 percent. The same is true for reductions in tech support visits. Automation also cuts down on travel associated with dispatching technicians to service calls, which conserves resources.

Learn how education IT professionals manage remote systems management from their office and improve levels of service delivery. Listen to our webinar – 5 tips for education IT directors here.

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