Sunday, August 19, 2007

Network Migration

FCPS has switched from Novell servers to MS Windows 2003 servers. The predominant theory is that it will make maintaining the WAN more efficient since FCPS has so few IT specialists. It provides a more centralized method of control and allows for the technology services people to keep an inventory of every machine connected to the network. This step makes sense since there isn't the time or resources to have actual technicians work on the workstations. The new LanDesk makes this possible.

The Technology Coordinator of each building was asked to be present during the migration period since the techs who would do most of the work may have questions about specific hardware and locations in the building. I spent several days with the techs as they upgraded the system. The process wasn't too complicated and the imaging of the computers was done from the server, so no CD-ROMs were required to be carried around.

Overall the new system is very nice. However the security policies are much stricter than before. One of the biggest drawbacks is that staff members cannot install printers. This is because the county is concerned about licensing issues. Too many staff members would install software, knowingly or unknowingly, without the proper software license. So the decision was made to prevent software installation by anyone other than the network administrator. This creates some more work for me but it is manageable. One of the things I like most about the new system is the ability to remote control other computers. This really helps me to assist teachers when I'm in the ISS room and cannot physically be in front of their machine. Of course, if it doesn't turn on, then I can't remote to the machine.

When the staff returns, there will be a small learning curve, but I don't anticipate to be too difficult. The concepts are the same; only the environment has changed.

The decision to migrate to Windows from Novell makes sense for the current situation. However I would love to do more research into the total cost of ownership of using Linux based servers, thin clients and open source software. While students will always need to use MS Word and the rest of the office suite, many of the software titles we use have freely available open source equivalents. The use of Linux servers and open source software in a thin client environment can save 100s of 1000s of dollars over time when compared to proprietary software and operating software. A major paradigm shift such as that would have to be done very slowly over time and would require buy-in from a lot of stakeholders. But that's where the fun begins!

No comments: