Nov 16 2021

Updates to Maximize Network Health and Minimize Disruption During the School Year

With schoolwork, classes and testing taking place online, K–12 IT administrators are tasked with keeping everyone in the district connected. Here’s how they can navigate necessary updates.

Teachers and students within K–12 districts need a functional network to maintain a meaningful learning environment, especially as many districts continue to offer remote learning options. How, though, can IT leaders improve the health of their networks without disrupting classes when they discover their infrastructure isn’t holding up?

IT professionals in K–12 schools must consider the three elements of their IT backbone: the wiring closet, the edge data centers and the main data center. Each of these network elements has different needs, and upgrades or repairs should be addressed at different times of the year. If upgrades are made without careful planning, students may be stranded without internet connections and no way to access their online classrooms or learning materials.

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Here’s how IT leaders can minimize disruptions while undertaking system upgrades:

When Should Updates Be Made to the School’s Network?

For many K–12 districts, the school day is over at 3 p.m. This gives IT teams time to make smaller upgrades and updates outside of school hours without having to do so in the middle of the night. They can also make updates on weekends to avoid disrupting classes or online testing that may be taking place during the week.

Larger updates and any changes to the district’s main data center should take place over longer periods when school is not in session, such as winter break, spring break or during the summer.

RELATED: Navigate government funding for K–12 schools to optimize network health.

“I wouldn’t recommend doing any major surgery to a data center when you need that data service,” says Jeff Chabot, government segment director at Schneider Electric. “It’s no different than the Pentagon, or a bank that’s trading on the market. Learning, for our children, is just as critical.”

How Can IT Teams Effectively Manage Updates to Infrastructure?

As for the types of upgrades that can be made during the school year, consider what is necessary to facilitate remote learning. In many school districts, families opted for online learning. Many districts also quickly found that students in quarantine after COVID-19 exposures needed ways to access class materials online.

“If you’re a district IT administrator, you have to plan for changes on the fly,” Chabot says. “Certainly, you have to have that network in the classroom up and running, but you also want to have the tools where you can reach people remotely.”

To make the most effective changes with the least amount of disruption to learning, IT professionals need clear visibility into the health of their infrastructure. This will help prevent system failures that require lengthy repair processes.

IT teams should be sure their system is cooled appropriately, and they should monitor their uninterruptible power supply systems, their batteries, their power distribution units and more, Chatbot says.

Appropriate system monitoring can also tell IT administrators exactly what needs to be fixed or replaced in the event some part of the system does fail. This will save technicians a trip to the school to diagnose problems, cutting down on the total amount of time the school’s systems are offline.

Although schools can’t prepare for every change coming their way in the new educational landscape, they can take a proactive stance on the health of their network infrastructure to ensure learning is minimally disrupted.

MORE ON EDTECH: Technology offers families 24/7/365 access to learning.

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