Tech Report

Date: September 17, 2013
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

It was our usual summer of hardware and software upgrades. A new virtual server meant we could take the oldest of those (only a few years old) and make it our new file server, the old file server hardware became our software mirror (which had been running on an old donated PC). Towards the end of last year we had purchased a new Window application server and a new database server and almost all related services are running from these now, we’re just cleaning up the last small pieces that still depend on something on the old ones. Between that and consolidating our thin client servers a little more we should shortly be able to retire 5 or 6 of our oldest servers. We collected a small second round of thin-client donations from Camas and used them all to replace about 100 old Windows XP computers.  

On the software side a new version of our Linux server operating system was released (Debian 7) and so quite a few of those were upgraded (still a few more to go). Our thin-client infrastructure remained stable as we’re just halfway through their release cycle. The biggest change that affected our users was probably upgrading our Windows print server to the latest Server 2012. This meant rebuilding half our printer objects and policies for deployment (we also have a Linux print server that was upgraded without needing everything to be redefined), which has been a slightly mixed-bag. People were without printing for only a very short period and we have a more modern deployment method now, but we’re struggling to find printer drivers for some of our older printers and Windows XP support isn’t good (both of these will improve as we gradually leave behind old printers and XP).

For a couple of years now we’ve been watching the development of Google’s Chromebook, their Internet based laptops. Until recently they wouldn’t quite work correctly with our proxy setup but that has now changed. They offer the promise of a very affordable and simple device (both to use and manage) that allows productive access to the Internet and all web-based applications (like Google Docs).  We’ve bought 40 of these, 30 for our High School English department that solely use web-based things like Moodle and Google Docs (their previous laptops have gone up to Yale, replacing yet more old XP machines) and 5 each as a trial for Shari Conditt and Devon Fliss.  We are hopeful that they are well received as they seem to be the ideal device for our older students.

The other device we’re having to start to support more is the tablet, mainly the iPad at the moment. While that is only increasing very slowly we’ve reached the point where as a department we can no longer treat them all as little “one-offs” and so we’re looking at comprehensive management solutions for them. It seems that costs are relatively low, currently $15 per device per year. That could certainly add up as we get more devices, but currently the savings in time and efficiency are certainly worth it. The time of multiple disparate personal devices is certainly upon us so starting to learn how to manage them and make them straight-forwards to use and secure on our network is appropriate.