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IT staff upgrading district computers to Windows 10

Post Date:07/07/2017 10:09 AM

IT staff upgrading district computers to Windows 10

 by Jason Campbell, Manteca Bulletin

Most people don’t think twice when it comes time to update their computer or personal device.

But Colby Clark has a lot more computers than most people do to worry about.

The Director of Information Technology for Manteca Unified is currently in the process of completing a project in which all of the handheld devices and computers in the district are upgraded to Windows 10 — streamlining the experience inside of classrooms across the district and shore up any security concerns that may arise on the older software.

Colby Clark shows servers

Colby Clark, the Manteca Unified Director of Information Technology, shows the central location at the district office where all of the information from school sites is received and stored. 

By the time the project is completed, more than 30,000 computers inside of the district will have Windows 10, and almost 20,000 of those computers will have been refreshed and updated within the last month — the culmination of a cooperative project that took months of planning and preparation.

And in a district that has shifted its focus to a more tech-based platform inside of the classroom, making sure that everything is operating efficiently and cooperatively is key — and something that Clark, who manages a staff of 18 people including himself, strives for.

“They’re really the all-star team when it comes to this,” Clark said. “We have hundreds of years of IT experience between all of us, and that expertise was very important when we were planning an initiative like Going Digital and everything that came with it.

“They’re all very knowledgeable and it’s really beneficial for projects like these.”

A commitment to security When the decision was made to pursue a plan that would put a computer into the hand of every single student in the district, the existing framework necessary to support such an undertaking wasn’t suited for handling that kind of an undertaking.

According to Clark, rebuilding the district’s network required essentially dismantling what was already in place and rebuilding something capable of sustaining the sort of traffic that something like Going Digital would generate.

Through a lease of fiber-optic cable capacity, everything that’s done on devices while at the district’s 32 campuses is funneled back through the servers that are kept under lock- and- key inside of the district’s office complex on Louise Avenue — a climatecontrolled room that not only has duplicate power sources to preserve the integrity of the information contained within, but has a secondary air conditioning unit in case the primary unit fails.

And that attention to detail reverberates through all of the department’s policies on the information that it is in charge of storing.

For example, certain information — like financial records, and sensitive student information — is limited to only a select number of people who would have a valid reason to access it. And even then, those access points are linked directly to pre-approved IP addresses, meaning that whoever attempted to access said information would need to be doing so from a pre-authorized computer capable of researching and accessing those databases — something that not even his staff is capable of doing unless they have a valid reason to do so.

And even in the event that the information that is secured is disseminated for any reason — like information made available to the Federal government or an authorized research entity or university — that information is encrypted end-to-end and requires the person who receives said information to have the key necessary to unlock it.

Upgrading the entire district In addition to the benefits that come with using the most current operating system for a given computer, the move to Windows 10 across the board had practical reasons as well.

According to Clark, the majority of the tablets that were running Windows 8 were causing problems because they allowed students to access anything inside of the Microsoft app store, including games. With the new software, the district will be able to limit student access across the board to only apps that have been approved for educational purposes, regardless of where they access the internet.

The updated software will also cut down on the number of required system updates, and cut down the length of time it requires to update when one is called for — a request by teachers who were growing frustrated finding required updates when they were trying to facilitate a lesson in the classroom.

And Clark, who has been in IT for more than two decades, says he and his staff understand the complexity of maintaining all of those pieces of equipment and their importance in a district where technology and the systems that utilize it are now a core part of the curriculum.

“If the network is down, then that means that the lesson is down as well,” Clark said. “We try to run a tight ship and make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to protect our students and our staff, and that means making sure that they’re able to do the work they need to do.”

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