Do schools spend more money on back-end ICT than is necessary?
I am facing a bit of a dilemma. I currently work in a school where the budget is very closely looked at (as it should be) and justifying any kind of large expenditure is extremely difficult.
We had a new school built four years ago with a server infrastructure which consisted of 12 servers (Dell Blade) and an EMC SAN. As we are entering the fifth year (and have no remaining maintenance agreements in place) I am getting extremely twitchy and want to start a rolling program of upgrades. This has lead me initially to a number of key questions which I will pose below:
- Why go for a SAN over a NAS? Enterprise level NAS boxes (ie. Thecus N12000) seem to have EVERYTHING you would want in a storage solution (redundant power supplies, support for SAS drives etc.) at a lower cost, with a 5 year support contract. Considering we are not running a huge data centre would this not be an acceptable compromise.
- We are looking into virtualisation very closely and are due to have a couple of the larger companies out in the near future to provide quotes on what they would think would be suitable. I have already heard figures of £60000ish being thrown around and think this seems extremely expensive to fulfil the NEEDs of our school (900 students on roll). Essentially we use our servers as file stores, nothing more. Our major demands (as with most schools) are the SIMs server and our email server. The rest is pretty much hosting files and processing logins/managing AD etc. Why would we NEED such high spec servers?
- Future-proofing - is this as important as everyone seems to think? We are currently into year 4 with our server equipment which was average at best at the time... is it still fulfilling our needs? Absolutely! My feelings are that when you have to consider that servers pretty much have to be replaced on a ~5year basis due to the rising cost (and unavailability) of support it makes absolutely no sense to plan further ahead than this and, to be honest, I believe hardware requirements for educational systems are on the decrease due to cloud based systems.
You may notice that I have used the word NEED a lot in this. When I am preparing my plan for SMT I am very keen only to go in with what we NEED to ensure the network is of a suitable level for the school, I am now in the process of working out what that is and if anyone has any feedback, arguments against or suggestions based on the above it would be very much appreciated!!!