Managing Assets in the Cloud: Keeping Track of an Ever-Expanding Amount of Technology Assets Can Be a Daunting Task for an Understaffed District IT Department. Two Schools Turn to the Cloud for Assistance
Weil, Marty, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
TECHNOLOGY IS PROLIFERATING in Berkeley County Schools in Martinsburg, WV, a district that serves a student population of 17,000 in three high schools, five middle schools, six intermediate schools, and 14 elementary schools. "We are deploying a large number of electronic whiteboard and data projectors, as well as a good number of either donated/refurbished computers or new computers, including netbooks, notebooks, and desktops," says Dave Kenney, director of research/and technology at the district. And with the addition of new schools, the amount of tech tools will only continue to grow. "We are opening a new primary school in August where the servers will be virtualized and housed in a nearby data center," Kenney explains. "The desktops in that new school will be 90 percent virtualized. We've decided to [go with] regular PCs in administrative offices and for each teacher."
But despite this growth, the district does not have a very big IT team, according to Kenney. "There are nine people in my department," he says, "and that includes two electricians and a secretary."
To help its small IT team stay on top of its 7,000-plus-and-growing technology resources, Berkeley turned to SchoolDude's cloud-based asset management system, called ITAMDirect. "Going with a cloud-based asset management system was almost like adding another employee or two," Kenney says. "To collect the kind of information the system delivers--just by installing a little client--would never be possible with our staffing levels. So the asset management system helps us, at the first level, to cope with growing assets without commensurately growing staff."
Like Berkeley, Sharon Public Schools (MA) chose ITAMDirect to help its small IT team manage its technology assets. Leo Brehm, the district's director of technology, says that even though Sharon is a relatively small district--with three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school--its technology asset base continues to grow over time, and at a faster rate than its IT staffing does or can. "The system helps manage some of the pressure inherent in technological growth," says Brehm.
The ITAMDirect client tells the IT team everything it needs to know about a district-owned computer: the operating system, the amount of installed memory, the number of available slots for additional memory, the size of the hard drive, the installed software, expiration dates for warranties and software licenses, and more. Beyond computers, the system also tracks items such as projectors, cameras, and whiteboards--anything that has a value worth cataloging.
Set It and Forget It
Although many school IT departments already have server-based asset management systems in place, cloud-based solutions geared toward K-12 are relatively new--and hence, are scarce. More cloud providers may begin tailoring their offerings to K-12 schools as districts, like Berkeley and Sharon, recognize the benefits of managing assets in the cloud.
On top of tracking assets and providing data, SchoolDude's ITAMDirect takes the burden of caring for yet another system off of the district IT team--the main reason why Sharon Public Schools chose a cloud-based solution, according to Brehm. "It is almost a set-and-forget client," he says. "We put it on the machine, and it just continues to report things that are going on every day."
"Part of the attractiveness of the cloud-based system is that somebody else is responsible for backing up the system, making software upgrades, ensuring system availability," agrees Berkeley's Kenney. "We probably could have gone with some kind of traditional system that does the same thing and reports it to our own server, but that's more management for us."
In addition, Kenney notes that taking the asset management to the cloud prevented Berkeley's IT staff from having to add and maintain another server. …