Avaya Technologies Provides Gigabit Connectivity for Madison County Schools
Learn how Avaya Technologies helped Madison County Schools’ IT department provide sufficient bandwidth to handle an uninterrupted flow of data from the district’s data center out to all schools.
Securing the Guest Network
The district chose to deploy the Avaya identity engines ignition server with guest manager in order to enhance logging, monitoring, and control over the guest wireless network, which went over smoothly, according to MCS Network Administrator Jacob Cecil.
“Integration of Identity Engines into the guest wireless network went very smoothly on the initial trial in selected elementary, middle, and high schools, and we are now expanding it to all our facilities,” he explains. “A brief introduction to students, faculty, and staff enabled them to utilize the network with personal devices via their existing Windows active directory credentials.”
Other guests, such as visiting sports teams, members of the press covering public events, contractors, parents, and individuals attending events in the school facilities can gain access easily, using a valid e-mail address or phone number, Cecil adds.
The identity engines ignition server provides a central policy decision point that streamlines access management, improves security, generates reports, and lets network administrators apply policies. Identity engines ignition guest manager enables a quick and easy process for creating guest user accounts.
“Avaya Identity Engines offers several benefits that were not available with the previous open wireless guest network,” Cecil says.” The result is a network that enables us to support the bring-your-own-device policy in a very safe and controlled manner.”
First and foremost, there is accountability, since everyone using the guest network is identified, and the IT team can associate specific devices with specific users, to track activity. They can apply filtering and monitor bandwidth usage, and utilize controls as needed to prevent any impact on the instructional functions and to help ensure Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance. Supporting the BOYD approach relieves the county of the burden of supplying devices to students who wish to bring their own. It also provides guest access as a service to visitors and members of the community who utilize the school facilities for a variety of functions.
Supporting the Instructional Plan With Consistency and Reliability
At MCS, the main thing that drives IT strategy is the instructional plan. In order to plan effectively, teachers need to know that the network is always on, that it’s fast, that the bandwidth is there, and that there won’t be any sluggish periods.
“To achieve this, we must have a high level of consistency and a high level of reliability, and that’s what we get with Avaya,” Moore states.
The IT team has found that the tools they use to manage their Avaya systems are intuitive, the documentation is thorough, and support services are excellent.
“Our Avaya equipment is rock solid. We very rarely have issues with it,” he explains. “The tools are in place to make it easy to
manage and troubleshoot. Avaya stands behind the equipment, and we don’t get the runaround either from them or from our Avaya channel partner. In fact, both companies take a very personal approach in their relationship with us. This high level of service and cooperation is a key element in our commitment to Avaya technologies.”
If the district needs to go to a higher bandwidth connection between some of their sites, they can do that. If they don’t want to replace everything in a specific school, they can grow it incrementally and still have everything function well together. These things can happen without their needing a lot of different management tools and having to learn different operating systems. The Avaya family of devices allows us them to grow where they need to without major overhauls. This gives them flexibility, scalability, and simplicity, and it protects their investment for many years to come.
“For growth and scalability, Avaya makes it easy for people in our position,” Moore explains. “The key thing for us is to have an infrastructure that enables us to grow incrementally as technology changes, rather than replacing our networks every three to five years.”
Moore adds, “One thing that we’re looking at is setting up a second data center for disaster recovery and other functional advantages. With our Avaya equipment, we could go to ten gigabit between our two main data sites with very little trouble. That’s just one example of the kind of flexibility and scalability that we have with Avaya.”
The Madison County Schools support an educational philosophy that defines 21st-century skills as the 4Cs: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. They know that all those things are not done strictly on a piece of paper any longer, but are accomplished primarily through technology. With the strength and reliability they experience with Avaya technologies, teachers and students can conduct their work in virtually any media, including student-produced videos, which are becoming more and more common.
The IT team recognizes that devices and tools are being used earlier and earlier, with students as young as four years-old working on iPads. Moore states that the district believes in putting technology into the hands of students very early, so that by the time they get to middle and high school, working with technology is just as familiar to them as using a pen or a pencil.
Moore concludes, “In order to implement our current and future educational strategies, we need to have support structures in place that provide a high level of reliability, consistency, availability, and bandwidth. We have to be able to grow in order to support our instructional plans and our overall educational philosophy. Now we’re in a very good place to do that. Avaya has enabled us to create a district-wide IT environment that can scale to meet our needs for many years to come. Being able to partner with Avaya across so many different areas of technology saves us time, and it saves us money.”
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