Education IT Challenges: Educational institutions such as schools and universities have particular IT challenges to deal with.
They have to store and analyze enormous amounts of data, most of which have to be retained and secured for different reasons - protecting personal information, safeguarding intellectual property, sheltering a draft exam paper from students who are justifiably very keen to get hold of it before they should.
The number of users may run into tens of thousands. A patchwork of legacy systems, totally different from one department to another, masquerades as an IT infrastructure. Staff and students clamour for constant remote access to learning resources through whichever device they happen to be using. E-learning courses are proliferating (have a look at this infographic)
Of course, IT administrators are generally expected to deal with all of this on a shoestring budget.
Thankfully, it is nowadays possible to deal with these challenges through software, by implementing virtualization technology and creating a private cloud - a private network that accepts connections from internet-based clients. All data are centralized on the private cloud and accessed via thin clients, or any other computer or mobile device which is running client software. A private cloud requires:
- A web server that acts as a web portal to accept public connections.
- A gateway server that relays authentication credentials between the private network and the web server
- Back end components, the most important of which are a hypervisor to run virtual machines, a connection broker to match end user session requests to virtual machines, and a management console.
The ideal characteristics of a software solution for educational institutions are cost-effectiveness, security, and ease of use.
Let us first discuss cost-effectiveness, because budget limitations restrict choice and are all-important. By choosing the right software, expenditure on hardware as well as software licensing costs can be reduced.
The right software enables access to the private cloud through low-cost thin clients. Also, the life of outdated PCs can be prolonged by transforming them into pseudo-thin clients.
With application virtualization, which allows any device to run an application even if the operating system is not supported or there is a resource-sharing conflict, the right software integrates seamlessly with an existing miscellany of networks and devices. There is no need to spend a lot of money on re-engineering the system.
The right software enables monitoring of app usage, preferably through inbuilt reporting and analytics tools. This helps to ensure that staff and students have access to the apps they really need, while eliminating apps that are never used, and ensuring compliance with licences.
The right software lends itself to centralised management, preferably via a central console.
This saves time and cuts travel costs drastically because all sites, even campuses in different cities or countries, can be managed remotely. The ability to provide remote assistance to users by shadowing PCs yields the same benefits.
Education IT Challenges - How about security?
When using a private cloud, data never leave the cloud, so there is no security risk even if a device is stolen - a common occurrence on a busy campus. Backup is ensured by administrators to minimize data loss. Access settings can be granted by user, group or department - a critical asset for school network administrators managing students with varying security clearances.
The right software uses encryption, such as SSL communication. Software that allows second-level authentication - through a Safenet authentication server, a Radius server, or other popular authentication servers - is even better.
Computer test labs tend to be inherently risky by their very nature. The right software limits the ability of students to render the operating system unusable, or to infect it with malware, by generating a virtual clone (a new and fully working operating system) for each student, whenever needed, in minutes.
Of course, convenience and ease of use are of paramount importance to IT administrators and users alike.
The right software makes life easier for staff and students by enabling access to resources from home (or anywhere else) using a multitude of different devices: PCs, Macs, laptops, iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Windows phones, Chromebooks, even Raspberry Pi. Access is also possible from any HTML5 browser, just by typing credentials into a browser on shared workstations.
The right software allows publication of HD-quality desktops, applications, video and audio over LAN and WAN. Brilliant for E-learning.
The right software lightens a system administrator’s burden by facilitating centralized software management and maintenance. With no need to upgrade each and every teacher’s and student’s computer manually, there is no lag time to benefit from updates and patches.
The right software scales easily, allowing addition and management of multiple campuses to a server farm from a central location. Several administrators can work together and collaborate in the farm, enabling system administrators to delegate tasks easily, for example allowing a department’s computer lab technician to manage the department’s network segment. New servers and users can be added in minutes.
The right software can be installed very quickly and is easy and intuitive to use. Inbuilt, powerful load balancing ensures high performance and reliability even when thousands of students log into the system simultaneously. Inbuilt reporting and analytics allow system health checks and nip problems in the bud, through monitoring of user activity and server performance.
The right software comes with auto-configured printing and scanning redirection, so that users can print and scan using local peripherals, and administrators are spared from having to install drivers on the server.
Parallels RAS is one software product that fits the bill. It is a cost-effective, secure, and convenient connection broker that allows staff and students to access data, desktops and applications through a wide variety of devices, from anywhere, at any time.
So what are you waiting for, click here to get started with a Parallels RAS free trial today.
Education IT Challenges: | edtechmagazine
Education IT Challenges: | educause.edu
Education IT Challenges: | IT Challenges in Higher Education | techlearning
Education IT Challenges: Top 10 IT Issues, 2016: Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate | educause review
Education IT Challenges: http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/06/04/6-technology-challenges-facing-education.aspx | thejournal.com
Education IT Challenges: http://www.openeducation.net/2011/02/22/the-enormous-technological-challenges-facing-education/ | openeducation.net
Education IT Challenges: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/6-challenges-impeding-technology-adoption-in-higher-education-in-2014/2011501.fullarticle | imeshighereducation.co.uk