When you hear Marburg, you probably first think of its nationally known Philipps University or the production site of the biotechnology company BioNtech. What is probably less well known to most outsiders is the role of the school authority. In this function, the university city is responsible for 23 schools of all types – from elementary school to vocational school. The approximately 11,500 students and 1,100 teachers can be accommodated in the schools’ more than 800 classrooms.
Currently, 15 employees of the “Media Center” department manage the school IT with its 4,700 end devices, 80 server systems, 500 access points and 80 switches. Despite the good equipment of the schools, the disadvantages of the schools’ own IT solutions as well as the limits of the respective networks became more and more visible over time and the desire for a central identity management (IDM) grew.
In this article, we would like to explain in more detail how exactly we proceeded in Marburg to organize a central provision of school IT at our school. We will also write about the cooperation with Univention and the system house Linet, that supported us in the operational implementation, and describe what problems arose and what solutions we found. For this, we will take you on a short journey back in time to pre-pandemic times, to the day when we took the first decisive step towards a central IDM with UCS@school from Univention.
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Initial Situation: Two Networks and One Problem
Our motivation to fundamentally restructure the IT in the Marburg schools and to provide a sustainable and user-friendly authentication basis stemmed primarily from the fact that the IT for the education sector had previously been divided into an educational network and an administrative network. While the administrative network was run by the Hessian Center for Data Processing (HZD) and used MS Office, the educational network relied on various providers and the open source software LibreOffice.
This resulted in the fundamental problem of the dual network structure: managing 23 schools with 46 networks became a daily challenge for our IT specialists. Many of the documents could only be opened with Microsoft Office and not with LibreOffice – a real problem for the end user at the client in the educational network. However, this was not due to the functionality of the individual software solutions, but to their incompatibility with each other.