May 16 2024

Support Summer Network Upgrades with Configuration and Deployment Services

K–12 schools want to modernize their networks with as little disruption as possible. Here’s how they can plan for and execute these major projects.

Networks are the technology backbone of teaching, learning and running a K–12 school. With so many functions relying on this connectivity, it can be difficult to find the time to shut down the network for necessary upgrades.

Many schools target summer break to make these changes, but the reality is that “summer break” is a period of only six weeks and is often even shorter than that at the secondary level.

Turning to a partner for network configuration and deployment services can help school technology teams navigate this small window. Bringing in experts — in a capacity that fits a school’s needs — makes upgrades faster and smoother while capitalizing on the right Wi-Fi trends and funding opportunities.

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Summer Break Goes by Quickly for K–12 IT Teams

While many people think of summer break as a three-month stretch of empty school buildings, that vision is far from reality.

A summer break for a school building might be as long as six weeks, but in a middle or high school setting, it’s often shorter. Summer school programs frequently run in these buildings for four weeks after classes let out, leaving many IT teams waiting to make upgrades until at least July. And teachers are typically back on contract at the end of July.

Besides summer school classes, IT admins must also plan around sporting events and other extracurricular activities taking place in their school buildings. There will be coaches and student-athletes attending practices, games and tournaments.

Other times, school staff members are relying on the network through the summer. HR may be conducting interviews and hiring new employees. Reports need to be uploaded, and transcripts need to be sent out. Maintenance crews might need to replace an HVAC unit because they are operating in the same small window of time for building upgrades as the IT team.

All these pieces need to be considered when planning to take the network offline for an upgrade.

Network Mod TOC


Experts Help Schools Modernize Their Networks with Less Stress

On top of the extreme time constraints, IT teams are often faced with administrators who don’t understand the complexity or labor intensity required to upgrade network components. It’s unrealistic to expect a K–12 technology team to finish any and all capital projects during summer break. But assistance from service providers takes responsibilities off the school IT staff’s shoulders.

Bringing in services from a third party such as CDW also brings in years of networking expertise. These partners know all the logistics involved in an upgrade. They can swoop in, complete the project and leave. It’s not a commitment where schools are hiring staff for a contract or bringing on a lot of people. They can contract experts to do the task and get out of the way.

In addition to network upgrades, support for device deployments is an option for the school’s IT leadership. With CDW, the options range from a zero-touch deployment (in which schools pay the bill and experts do everything to the last-mile delivery) to having the partners drop everything at a central location in the district, where IT experts pick it up and distribute it.

Think Through a Plan for Summer Network Upgrades

IT leaders don’t always consider where to put the technology before it’s up and running. Schools may lack the physical space to store technologies before deploying upgrades, so thinking through logistics is important before crunch time in the summer.

CDW’s LES configuration center in Dallas serves as a central location for schools to deploy technology, from network upgrades to device refreshes. Having a central location gives schools a place to have a large amount of hardware delivered and configured. It can also help them reduce trash. New technology comes with a lot of packaging, and CDW’s partners can help schools recycle the materials without overwhelming custodial staff.

GET THE INFOGRAPHIC: What do you need to maintain the device lifecycle?

Working with a third-party service provider for network upgrades can give school leaders a bird’s-eye view of the configuration process as well as the trends and options available for their district.

There’s a limit to how much K–12 IT teams can do internally, especially within a small window when the network can be shut down.

There are enormous considerations for them to make and, without the help of an expert, questions that can easily be overlooked until it’s too late. Will the network live on-premises or in the cloud? Who’s going to monitor it? Who will monitor security updates to make sure they’re happening regularly and successfully? Does your school have the physical space for an on-premises system and a way to manage climate control?

While technology teams might know the outcome they want from a network upgrade, they may not know how to design it to reach that goal.

CDW’s experts can help schools build out the network step by step and offer advice on aligning upgrades with relevant funding.

Weigh E-Rate Cycles and Bond Funding for Network Modernization

Many K–12 schools use E-rate funds to upgrade their networks. IT leaders know what money they will be matched on, and they create a shopping list from there. Something will always need upgrading. E-rate funding helps schools decide what is urgent now and what could be phased in during the next year or the next budget cycle.

MORE ON EDTECH: Answer commonly asked E-rate funding questions.

The hardware inside school buildings — in classrooms or offices — will always be the last piece to update, because schools can’t add 500 access points if the network doesn’t have the capacity to do anything with them.

Bonds can also be used to fund network upgrades and services, especially as money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and Emergency Connectivity Fund disappears. Schools using bonds to fund networking projects should be cautious, however. They don’t want to exhaust their community, to start, and bonds aren’t a guaranteed source of funding in the future. Capital expenditures make sense for a bond, but avoid using that money for anything that will depreciate and need to be refreshed. CDW can help schools determine how to best allocate their funding to keep K–12’s technology backbone, its network, standing strong.

This article is part of the ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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