The school IT service in the rural district of Kassel, Germany, is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the IT infrastructure in 72 schools counting a total of 25,000 pupils and 2,000 members of staff.
Support of decentralized structures as rural district
Our IT support is based in the media center in Hofgeismar, but as a rural district we are of course faced with certain challenges presented by the distribution of the schools throughout the district. Our overall support concept is oriented toward the decentralized structure. From an organizational and technical perspective, we aim to centralize as much as possible, but the individual support technicians are often out of the media center for days at a time working on site in the schools.
Guaranteeing the Internet connection
Technically speaking, the limiting factor at present is predominantly the Internet connection, so we have installed servers in practically all schools. In the majority of cases, there are KSaN (Kassel Schools on the Net) servers running, but it has been announced that these are to be phased out and support will only be available until May 2018.
Central identity management with UCS@school
For this reason, we were forced to choose a replacement system relatively quickly last year and we decided on UCS@school. The advantages that we have identified are primarily found in the flexible combination of centralization and decentralization. On the basis of the central systems here in the computer center in Hofgeismar, we can offer all the services which put strain on the network (e.g., DHCP, RADIUS (BYOD), Fileservices) decentrally and at the same time.
We are currently in the process of rolling out the third school with our central identity management and network concept, so we are really getting into the swing of things.
One important thing I’ve noted: “Preparation is everything!”
Checklists and documentation facilitate the rollout
We noticed during the installation in the first school in particular that it is important to consider in great deal how the changeover will be performed. There are a lot of organizational questions to be clarified especially. Additionally, the structures which had developed in the individual schools over the years were naturally very different and had never been standardized.
We have now compiled detailed checklists and documentation for rollouts in schools, with the result that the third school installation currently under way is proceeding far faster and we can basically already reap the fruits of the standardization and centralization. It is nice to see that my team is really getting into the swing of things here, and we are planning to equip four schools a month after the summer break.
So, what comes next?
All doors are now still open to us to offer all 27,000 teachers and students services in next to no time. Everything standardized with the same login data via single sign-on.
The next issues that we will be addressing in parallel include a cloud storage solution, mobile device management and possibly a learning platform.
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Matthias Woede has been a specialist for the IT service for schools in the rural district of Kassel, Germany, for over 4 years and has worked for 25 years in various functions from software developer to consultant to project manager in IT.