Madison County Schools
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AVAYA TECHNOLOGIES SUPPORT OUTSTANDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND 21ST-CENTURY SKILLS AT MADISON COUNTY SCHOOLS
Enabling the Transition to Mobile and Wireless Technologies – Supporting the District’s Core Mission
Richmond, Kentucky – From an IT perspective, the focus of Madison County Schools is to provide sufficient bandwidth to handle an uninterrupted flow of data from the state to the district, from the district’s data center out to their 20 schools, and within each of the classrooms. Their goal is to anticipate and meet all the needs of the instructional plans for every level of education throughout the district, with a reliable, scalable infrastructure that will enable growth for many years to come. This supports the district’s mission of “providing all students quality education that inspires individual excellence.”
The IT team reflects the district’s commitment to providing a network that offers teachers flexibility and unfailing support for what they’re doing instructionally.
“We believe that the network should be completely transparent to the teachers and the students. They shouldn’t have to worry about bandwidth.”
Bob Moore, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Madison County Schools
As part of their latest strategic network infrastructure upgrade in 2013, the IT department chose to deploy Avaya Ethernet Routing Switches (ERS) 5500 Series and Avaya Ethernet Routing Switches (ERS) 8800 Series. They also installed the Avaya Identity Engines Ignition® Server and Avaya Identity Engines Ignition® Guest Manager with their Avaya Wireless LAN 8100 Series to support the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.
“Opening Up the Bandwidth as Much as We Can”
The district could have supported gigabit bandwidth between the schools without upgrading any of their switches. However, the IT decision-makers felt that if there were bandwidth limitations inside a building, it would restrict what teachers were able to do in the classrooms. To maximize the performance of end-user devices, they decided that gigabit bandwidth within the schools was a necessity.
“Rather than worrying about bottlenecks, it will be better for the district, in the long run, to open up the bandwidth as much as we can,” CIO Bob Moore comments.
Over the past few years, the IT department noticed a transition in end-user devices from the traditional PC and wired connections to mobile and other wireless devices. In the latest network upgrade, a solution was needed to optimize network service for the traditional wired devices, the mobile/wireless devices provided by the county, and the shift to students using their own devices in the classroom.
Avaya Ethernet Routing Switches (ERS) 5500 Series are high-performance, highly efficient, stackable switches with comprehensive Layer 3 Routing, advanced security features, and unified communications features. As a flexible, multi-service platform, ERS 5500 Series switches are suitable for wiring closet, data center aggregation, and network core applications.
Avaya Ethernet Routing Switches (ERS) 8800 Series provide dependability and versatility, with rock-solid network reliability and always-on application access, supporting device and network virtualization, IP-VPNs, and multi-tenancy architectures. They optimize Wireless LANs and BYOD environments, off-loading data flows from mobile devices and directly integrating them into the high-performance LAN.
“With the new series of switches, we feel confident that we will continue to have the assurance that the network is always there, and that it remains stable and reliable even as we accommodate expanding and changing patterns of usage,” Moore says. “Our advanced technologies from Avaya enable us to deliver the network in a way that is so solid, it becomes a part of the infrastructure, like desks, chairs, and other physical equipment.”
“Teachers and students can focus on the instruction without being concerned about what the technology will or won’t allow them to do.”
Bob Moore, CIO, Madison County Schools
Moore adds, “Some districts have mix and match solutions, but we haven’t done that. We have Avaya technologies for our network backbone, wired, wireless, and telecommunications systems. If we had to deal with five different vendors for those things it would make our job a lot more difficult, and the results would probably be less effective.”
Transition to Mobile and Wireless Devices
The school district maintains three wireless networks: one for mobile/wireless devices owned by the county; a Mac network; and a guest network. The guest network has grown in importance as more students use their own devices in the classroom, and as teachers are eager to leverage students’ affinity with their personal cell phones, iPads, and laptops. Moore comments, “The students are already involved with technology, and we don’t have to try to convince them to use it. So a lot of what’s driving our wireless network technology is the goal of providing teachers the kind of network access that will enable them to do the things with technology in their classroom that they want to do in order to benefit our students.”
Avaya Wireless LAN 8100 supports the BYOD trend by providing a highly scalable, real-time optimized and risk mitigating wireless networking solution, incorporating the latest 802.11n wireless standard. It provides industry-leading voice and video over scalable Wi-Fi, with outstanding performance and coverage.
Increasing Guest Network Security with Avaya Identity Engines Ignition® Server
The district chose to deploy the Avaya Identity Engines Ignition® Server with Guest Manager in order to enhance logging, monitoring, and control over the guest wireless network.
According to Jacob Cecil, Network Administrator, “Integration of Identity Engines into the guest wireless network went very smoothly on the initial trial in selected elementary, middle, and high schools, and we are now expanding it to all our facilities. A brief introduction to students, faculty, and staff enabled them to utilize the network with personal devices via their existing Windows Active Directory credentials. Other guests, such as visiting sports teams, members of the press covering public events, contractors, parents, and individuals attending events in the school facilities can gain access easily, using a valid e-mail address or phone number.”
The Avaya Identity Engines Ignition® Server provides a central policy decision point that streamlines access management, increases security, generates reports, and lets network administrators apply policies. It is one of the industry’s most advanced policy engines for unprecedented access flexibility without compromising network security. Identity Engines Ignition® Guest Manager enables a quick and easy process for creating guest user accounts.
“Avaya Identity Engines offers several benefits that were not available with the previous open wireless guest network,” Cecil says.
“The result is a network that enables us to support the bring-your-own-device policy in a very safe and controlled manner.”
Jacob Cecil, Network Administrator, Madison County Schools
First and foremost, there is accountability, since everyone using the guest network is identified, and the IT team can associate specific devices with specific users, to track activity. They can apply filtering and monitor bandwidth usage, and utilize controls as needed to maintain instructional functions and help support CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliance. Supporting the BOYD approach relieves the county of the burden of supplying devices to students who wish to bring their own. It also provides guest access as a service to visitors and members of the community who utilize the school facilities for a variety of functions.
SUPPORTING THE INSTRUCTIONAL PLAN WITH CONSISTENCY AND RELIABILITY
At Madison County Schools, the main thing that drives IT strategy is the instructional plan. In order to plan effectively, teachers need to know that the network is always on, that it’s fast, that the bandwidth is there, and that there won’t be any sluggish periods. “To achieve this, we must have a high level of consistency and a high level of reliability, and that’s what we get with Avaya,” Moore states.
EASE OF MANAGEMENT AND RESPONSIVE SERVICE
The IT team has found that the tools they use to manage their Avaya systems are intuitive, the documentation is thorough, and support services are excellent.
Cecil says, “We’ve found that the management processes are fairly intuitive, and when we do have questions, our support at Avaya is in place. They’re always very quick to supply any information that we need.”
Moore adds, “Our Avaya equipment is rock solid. We very rarely have issues with it. The tools are in place to make it easy to manage and troubleshoot. Avaya stands behind the equipment, and we don’t get the runaround either from them or from our Avaya channel partner. In fact, both companies take a very personal approach in their relationship with us. This high level of service and cooperation is a key element in our commitment to Avaya technologies.”
SCALABILITY, FLEXIBILITY, AND INVESTMENT PROTECTION
If the district needs to go to a higher bandwidth connection between some of their sites, they can do that. If they don’t want to replace everything in a specific school, they can grow it incrementally and still have everything function well together. These things can happen without their needing a lot of different management tools and having to learn different operating systems. The Avaya family of devices allows us them to grow where they need to without major overhauls. This gives them flexibility, scalability, and simplicity, and it protects their investment for many years to come.
“For growth and scalability, Avaya makes it easy for people in our position.”
Bob Moore, CIO, Madison County Schools
Moore explains, “The key thing for us is to have an infrastructure that enables us to grow incrementally as technology changes, rather than replacing our networks every three to five years.”
Moore adds, “One thing that we’re looking at is setting up a second data center for disaster recovery and other functional advantages. With our Avaya equipment, we could go to ten gigabit between our two main data sites with very little trouble. That’s just one example of the kind of flexibility and scalability that we have with Avaya.”
Advancing Education for 21st-Century Skills
The Madison County Schools support an educational philosophy that defines 21st-century skills as the 4Cs: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. They know that all those things are not done strictly on a piece of paper any longer, but are accomplished primarily through technology. With the strength and reliability they experience with Avaya technologies, teachers and students can conduct their work in virtually any media, including student-produced videos, which are becoming more and more common.
The IT team recognizes that devices and tools are being used earlier and earlier, with students as young as four years-old working on iPads. Moore states that the district believes in putting technology into the hands of students very early, so that by the time they get to middle and high school, working with technology is just as familiar to them as using a pen or a pencil.
Moore concludes, “In order to implement our current and future educational strategies, we need to have support structures in place that provide a high level of reliability, consistency, availability, and bandwidth. We have to be able to grow in order to support our instructional plans and our overall educational philosophy. Now we’re in a very good place to do that. Avaya has enabled us to create a district-wide IT environment that can scale to meet our needs for many years to come.”
“Being able to partner with Avaya across so many different areas of technology saves us time, and it saves us money.”
Bob Moore, CIO, Madison County Schools