Saturday, April 11, 2015

Can other industries learn from the efficiency of school ICT support?

I wonder if many ICT Managers in general industry understand the efficiency many school ICT departments must maintain.

When I think of my life before school support I remember the PC support team of four, which grew to 6 if you included the contractors supporting the Apple hardware.  There was a network support team of 6 and more than 20 in the servers/applications area with at least five managers leading up to the CIO.  

The total number of endpoints would be very significant in local industry terms with more than 600 PCs but these were all corporate managed desktops with less than 50 mobile devices and about 120 Apples.  There was also several hundred mainframe terminals which were maintained by the IT department.  The network was big with multiple redundancies and about 20 Cisco switches four VLANS but it was before wireless so that was not a concern.

Now I think of the school, 4 technical support staff with me as a manager.  More than 1200 endpoints, more than 800 of them mobile devices taken home by students who were quite happily using them to get as many malware infections as possible.  The other 400 were mostly mobile with about 150 desktop computers.  We had 35 switches, almost 100 wireless access points and a constant battle to ensure the network wasn't attacked from within.

I have recently met with two smaller schools both of whom have support departments of one but never the less support hundreds of end points, virtualised server infrastructure, complex networks with 10 - 20 switches and more than 30 wireless access points.  I consider this almost untenable but the schools expect that they will have systems available at the same level as you would expect in a corporate environment.

The advantage all Corporate/Business IT support departments have is the ability to put costs to outages and use ROI calculations to determine the value of IT support staff.  I have yet to see a dollar value placed on outages in a school.

What is the cost of a student being out of class having their Computer fixed?  How much do we lose if a teacher loses a lesson due to system outages.  What would the cost be if that teacher then changes their teaching practice to avoid technology following an issue?

So schools end up using as little as possible to do as much as possible and accept the risk of failure caused by insufficient resources.  However, very rarely are there failures which put systems off line. Without management having realised the risks we took, new systems come on line, systems are updated and old systems decommissioned