How Schools Can Benefit From Outside IT Partners
IT is a specialisation. Even within the most IT focused businesses, the maintenance of network infrastructure, procurement of new devices and the migration to new systems are all tasks undertaken by specialist departments. This level of in-house expertise can be difficult for schools to muster. It is very likely that most schools would benefit from some assistance. This assistance can come in several forms, all of which should be investigated from an institutional point of view.
Strategy & Roadmap
The most basic level on which outside partners can help your school is to come in and develop your baseline strategy for digital execution. This will start with an assessment of where you are and what you want to achieve. For schools struggling to grasp the nature of their current networks, or the possibilities on offer from the EdTech industry, this can vastly improve your options.
Procurement is the area in which you are most likely going to need help. This references identifying and purchasing the right IT products. Businesses of all shapes and sizes benefit greatly from partnering with procurement specialists. The number of choices and variations within IT make it very difficult for the inexperienced to make the right purchases.
There are firms that specialise in understanding the nuances between different end-user devices, servers and storage networks. They can explain the difference between iSCSI, FCoE, NAS, SAN, hybrid cloud and hypervisor enabled virtual machines.
EdTech specialists can help you specifically assess educational software, the best end-user devices (tablets, laptops, phones, etc) for in-class purposes, and education specific technology such as Interactive Whiteboards.
Deployment and Migration
For any new IT purchase, the largest technical challenge will be in its deployment and the migration of your processes to that new platform. Any company you work with for procurement will likely be able to help you install your new system. This can take a significant strain off of your in-house IT resources and ensure a good outcome.
IT maintenance is a technical and full-time job. Keeping your network switches, servers and storage systems working at optimal capacity may be above your in-house IT capabilities. IT specialists can take this problem away. Investigate the different packages available. You can get in-house support, monthly or quarterly reviews and check-ups, or simply phone support. Whatever the extent of your needs, there is a company that will be willing to deliver that as-a-service.
Cybersecurity is a standard concern for any digital project. However, the fact that your school stores sensitive personal data of children places extra scrutiny on your ability to digitally protect that information. This means robust and top-notch anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls, access authentication and internal system visibility. You should then conduct regular IT audits and vulnerability testing to make sure that your system remains sufficient to defend your school from external and internal cyber-threats. Ideally, schools should be able to monitor how their networks are being used in real time.
These are all services that can be offered by outside partners. It is very likely that you will need at least some help picking the right systems and installing them. For schools striving for the highest levels of security, outside firms can be brought in to monitor and maintain the security of your network as a fully managed package. Regardless, it is essential to make sure that your new IT roll-out does not leave you exposed to malicious penetration, data loss or lack of regulatory compliance. Even if not considering an IT upgrade, it is important to go back and make sure that your existing policies and capabilities are up to standard.
You can consider purchasing software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages for a number of purposes. This sounds complicated, but it is something you probably already do. SaaS is any software that is hosted somewhere else and delivered as a usable end product. Your email, for example, is almost certainly SaaS.
Particularly for administrative purposes, you should consider software packages such as Office 365, or other cloud systems like Azure and AWS. The procurement and installation of these products can be aided through partnerships. But, their ongoing and offsite maintenance will take some burden off of your school. Because these often operate online, you do need to be conscious of your in-house network and WiFi capabilities.
It is also possible to purchase devices-as-a-Service (DaaS). This can take away some of the pressure when it comes to device maintenance and procurement. But, DaaS can come with steep subscription costs. It is, however, worth investigating if getting and maintaining the right end-user devices has been a recurring problem for your school.
Summary: The Opportunities For Outside Partnerships Are Wide-Ranging And Beneficial
The proliferation of IT service firms has been driven by a wider need of businesses to bring in help when it comes to IT. These services range from procurement help to fully managed packages that allow organisations of any size access to the most sophisticated IT products without in-house IT teams. Schools are particularly well positioned to take advantage of these offerings. Their historical lack of experience with IT management means that they can benefit greatly from partnerships with IT specialists. Schools should investigate different levels of help so that they ensure the best outcome from their IT investments.