A 3-Stage Plan for IT managers to Support Large-Scale Online Learning

Today, the vast majority of the 70 million K-12 and college students in the U.S. are learning through online platforms. This unprecedented shift is putting a big strain on schools’ IT backbones.

Fortunately, there are solutions for meeting the challenges posed by today’s capacity surge and tomorrow’s uncertain future.

This article lays out a three-stage strategy to keep IT infrastructure operating well in the short, medium, and long term.

The short term: How to expand capacity, right now

The first stage, happening today, is all about keeping up with the capacity crunch. And to do that requires an understanding of your new IT loads.

Many networks and their supporting IT infrastructure are not sized for this higher demand. You will need to take stock of your servers and networking gear, along with your uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), cooling units, racks, and power distribution units. Determine whether your IT infrastructure can support your network and deploy more capacity if needed.

If you face issues with assessing capacity, you can reach out to your trusted partner and Schneider Electric for assistance.

The medium term: How to ensure your system remains in good health

Once you’ve met the rush for more capacity, it’s time to make sure your overall system is fit for this unprecedented new normal. After all, a day of downtime is far more disruptive for 100-percent virtual learning than when students are sitting in classrooms.

This effort should begin with the low-hanging fruit of servicing and modernizing your equipment. Make sure to keep current on your service contracts and preventive maintenance, but also focus on preparing for future uncertainty. Plan to replace any UPS batteries approaching five years of use, and any UPS approaching 10 years of use. If you’ve increased density, is your cooling equipment ready for more heat?

Beyond the simple services, consider whether your mission — the big picture — has changed at all. There’s a good chance you may want to revisit your system’s design. Perhaps your older on-premise designed system should be hybridized for more rapid scalability. Or maybe it’s better to exchange your aging IT equipment to new rapidly scalable solutions. Again, your trusted IT partner and Schneider Electric can help you figure this out.

The long term: How to adapt your system and staff to the new normal

Once the school year wraps up, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for future uncertainty. Online-based learning may continue into the fall, or it may ebb and flow indefinitely. The goal should be to respond to future changes in capacity with agility, reliability, and efficiency.

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) should be utilized or modernized if not in place currently. DCIM is a tool combining IoT-enabled products like UPSs and cooling units with software that monitors and manages the performance of these products.

With a DCIM solution, you could detect hotspots, diagnose faults quickly, keep watch over your IT spaces, spot energy waste, and identify ideal locations for new IT capacity — and do so remotely and securely. This newfound visibility and control will become especially important during periods when your staff is working remotely, and IT loads are much larger.

DCIM can also rapidly speed mean time to repair. Without DCIM, your team would have to travel to a site, manually diagnose an issue, drive back to collect a needed replacement part, and then drive back to the site. That could take hours or days. A DCIM system can identify or even predict a fault, so you only need to travel to the site once, with the replacement part in hand.

Adapting to a new normal

It’s worth considering that the education system, and their IT backbones, may never be the same. It’s no longer a given that students will return to brick-and-mortar schools for 100 percent of any given school year.

The big question is: Do you have the IT backbone to deliver remote learning reliably and efficiently? This is a tough question that will take some thought, but it’s wise to start considering the answer now.

We can help you tackle anything, from basic preventive services all the way to redesigning your permanent IT backbone. Call us at 1(877)-800-4272 to get started, or check out our partner selector tool to find a partner ready to support you.

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