How Washington Community High School Safeguards Uptime

Highly reliable backup power strategy helps IT teams drive a top-of-the-class education experience.

How Washington Community High School Safeguards Uptime

Photo provided by Eaton

Located in central Illinois, Washington Community High School (WCHS) serves more than 1,500 students across a 42-acre campus. With the goal of providing a solid foundation of both academic knowledge and vocational skills, WCHS offers upwards of 100 different courses, including college prep, vocational and general education.

WCHS strives to provide the latest technology equipment and current teaching materials to enhance all courses and programs of study. When the high school began struggling to support an array of aging uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), the IT team knew they needed to upgrade its power protection solution to ensure continuous uptime and preserve learning opportunities throughout the campus.

Finding an Uninterruptible Power System That Will Make the Grade

With technology so heavily integrated within today’s curricula, the ability to maintain continuous, clean power in learning environments has never been more critical.

“Gone are the days of chalkboards and erasers,” emphasizes Ron Ehlers, director of technology for WCHS. “Now, when technology or the Internet goes down, things are at a standstill, and learning opportunities can be significantly impacted.”

Ehlers recognized that in order to meet WCHS’s uptime requirements, a refresh was needed on the school’s fleet of existing UPSs.

Photo provided by and approved by Eaton

“They were becoming increasingly unreliable and we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes with any of our UPSs,” he explains. “We purchased them here and there and had no refresh dates for any of them. Because we had batteries going bad and other issues, I decided to replace them all.”

An upgraded solution was needed to properly safeguard the equipment housed in numerous network closets across the campus, including those supporting workstations and access points connected to classrooms, an outlying maintenance shed, and the press box at the football field. Additionally, WCHS required protection for its main server closet, which contains critical equipment such as a storage array, phone system, and network switches.

Ehlers and his team also wanted the ability to remotely monitor and manage their new UPSs. To help put these pieces together, the team desired a true partner who could serve as a close collaborator in the deployment of the school’s new backup power strategy.

After requesting a UPS manufacturer recommendation from Dell, one of his preferred partners, introductions were made between Ehlers and Eaton Business Development Executive Tom Boucher. As Eaton’s longest-standing hardware alliance partner and one of its top resellers, Dell is able to secure best-in-class power management solutions at the best possible price.

Uptime That Never Plays Hooky

During an initial consultation visit, Boucher discussed several product options with Ehlers, including the possibility of consolidating the school’s backup solution into one or two larger UPS units. However, it was ultimately determined that a combination of smaller Eaton 5P and 5PX UPSs would be a better fit — literally — considering the space constraints in some areas of campus.

“Although we initially thought about consolidating UPS systems, it just wasn’t practical, considering where the units were being installed and how Ron needed to manage the technology,” Boucher says.

Ehlers’ intuition that Eaton was focusing on the needs of WCHS was further confirmed when Boucher shared that the school was eligible to receive E-rate funding from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which provides discounts for telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to qualified schools and libraries. However, because the year’s E-rate application period had already expired, WCHS opted to complete its UPS upgrade in two phases.

“E-rate was extremely beneficial to us,” Ehlers says. “Even though I missed the initial deadline, I purchased some critical replacement units right away because ours were failing. But waiting to buy the remaining UPSs using the E-rate discount was very valuable.”

Ultimately, WCHS chose to deploy nine Eaton 5P and 12 Eaton 5PX units, both of which deliver line-interactive backup protection ideal for a wide variety of applications and equipment, including enterprise-grade servers, storage, VoIP gear and networking equipment. Both models also afford advantages including a next-generation intuitive LCD display, efficiency rate of up to 99%, scalable runtime options, and a comprehensive warranty that covers both the UPS and the batteries for three years – a benefit offered by no other manufacturer in the industry.

Photo provided by and approved by Eaton

A Secure, Remote Connection

WCHS complemented the UPSs with the Eaton Gigabit Network Card (Network-M2), which combines speed and enhanced cybersecurity for improved business continuity. In addition to providing administrators with the ability to remotely monitor and manage power quality equipment, the Network-M2 issues alerts of pending issues and enables administrators to perform orderly shutdown of servers and storage.

It didn’t take long for WCHS to reap the benefits of the network card’s capabilities; shortly after the first UPSs were deployed, Ehlers received an alert about an issue while he was off-campus. Thanks to the notification, he was able to shut down the connected equipment in a safe, orderly fashion before the UPS lost power, avoiding potential data loss or corruption.

“I really wanted some insight on what was going on — something I definitely didn’t have with my previous solution,” Ehlers emphasizes. “With the Eaton solution, it’s great to be able to set it up, get alerts, be able to login in and see a problem, and even complete firmware upgrades.”

Acing the Test

Since standardizing its backup power strategy, it’s been nothing but A’s on WCHS’s power management report card. The high school not only has a highly reliable backup solution, but awareness of potential issues and the ability to resolve them remotely in ensuring continuous uptime across campus.

Through its collaboration with Eaton, Ehlers and his team can move forward confidently knowing it has a partner who will always keep the school’s best interests at the forefront.

David Windsor is a global product line manager in Eaton’s Power Segment. He leads global front-end innovation efforts, developing world-class product and feature concepts to solve strategic business challenges and drive valued differentiation for end users and channel partners. You can find more information at

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