Schools, Enterprise or Not

How important is education? We hear this question all the time. So, how important is our children’s education?

Most school networking departments are working on a shoe-string budget. With this budget, they need to upgrade computers both for students and administrators, classroom peripherals i.e. smartboards, projectors. They also need to use this budget to keep their infrastructure  wired and wireless, and cabling up to date…for 5-7 years at a time. Yes you read that right, 5-7 years at a time.

Most people that work for at least a medium sized company, know that they will get a new laptop every three years. After three years, ok 6 months, most laptops are out of date. Wired networks get faster, wireless networks get faster, display drivers change get updated etc. And schools, the places where our children are supposed to be educated, have to wait 5-7 years.

Let’s think for a second, what do schools use that equipment for? To educate the next generation. Indeed more and more educational content is being presented online instead of via text books. School assignments are saved to the cloud. Heck even YouTube has educational content on it.

This post goes into how the children are more engaged with digital learning.

So the big Question: Are schools an Enterprise?

In my opinion, they absolutely are, or at least should be thought of as one. Let’s think about a school district that has 3,000, 5,000 or 10,000+ students. That’s HUGE when it comes to networking. How many switches are needed? How many Access Points are needed? What are the uplinks back to the MDF? Security? Internet Access? Server/Storage/Virtualization? Software? There are a lot of points that need to be upgraded, but how can they do that on small budgets?

I’ve been in schools that have 20+ year old fiber MDF to IDF, it’s not uncommon, and they can’t upgrade it due to budget constraints. They do what they can, upgrade switches, upgrade Access Points so that our children can learn. But to use one of my favorite analogies:

You buy a brand new Jaguar. It’s sleek, it’s pretty and it’s fast. But you live out on a gravel and dirt road. Makes a lot of sense right?

Now expand that to school networks. The students and faculty get spiffy new equipment, whether district or self provided. We’ve given the children a device that can access educational content at the speed of light,  but have constrained them to an infrastructure that is old and slow.

How can we expect our children to learn, to stay engaged when the local Starbucks has faster access? Why are we not helping our schools upgrade their infrastructure out of the dark ages? We go to work and expect, no demand, that the network be fast and stable. Why is this not a demand of schools? Or more importantly the School Boards?

How do we get more funding to the schools? How do we ensure that the next generation(s) has the tools necessary to thrive and surpass us?