Florence School District One (FSD1) is the fourteenth largest school district in South Carolina, encompassing both rural and urban areas. The district wanted a cost-effective technology infrastructure to support teachers and students and help improve learning outcomes. FSD1 acquired the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite, a set of 12 products that the IT staff uses to reduce operating costs and improve IT services in the classroom. The suite also facilitates communication and collaboration among teachers and students, and extends the value of the district’s IT investments. During a period of fiscal restraint, FSD1 used the Enterprise CAL Suite to do more with less, enhancing the teaching and learning experience at the district’s 21 schools and offering students leading-edge tools that they can use to help reach their potential and succeed as graduates. Situation
With administrative headquarters in the city of Florence, South Carolina, Florence School District One (FSD1) has a mission to help its 17,000 elementary, middle, and high school students become productive and responsible citizens. The fourteenth largest school district in South Carolina, FSD1 faces some unique challenges in achieving this goal. Burgeoning populations in both rural and urban, affluent and low-income neighborhoods—plus a tight budget—make it difficult for FSD1 to ensure that all students have equal access to the educational resources that they need.
To that end, the 11-member IT department at FSD1 works closely with the district’s administration to acquire technology that enables the administration to do more with less. “Our previous superintendent set the stage for involving IT in all aspects of the district’s operations,” says Jayne Boswell, Director of Instructional Technology at Florence School District One. “As a result, our IT department stays at the forefront of technology so we can provide students with the latest tools that they need to be successful in the work force.”
Moving Toward Consolidation
It took several years for the district to arrive at this situation, and its evolution parallels a growing adoption of Microsoft technologies. Back in 2004, FSD1 had a Novell GroupWise messaging and collaboration solution and Novell eDirectory directory service software. The district began deploying the Windows Server 2003 operating system in the fall of 2004 to support many of its 3,000 instructional software packages. At the same time, FSD1 deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. The district also used Microsoft Office productivity software across all 7,000 desktop computers.
||Microsoft products are always evolving to meet our needs. With the Enterprise CAL Suite, we secured a technology foundation to improve the quality of education across the district at the best possible price.
Information Technology Manager, Florence School District One
“We were using Windows Server 2003 and we didn’t want to tailor our directory service software to work with applications built on the Windows operating system, so we replaced eNovell with Active Directory Domain Services from Microsoft,” says Kyle Jones, Information Technology Manager at Florence School District One. “From that point on, we started to remove Novell from our environment.”
In the fall of 2007, FSD1 began deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. The following year, in the fall of 2008, FSD1 added Microsoft Forefront Client Security. FSD1 performed a major renovation at its administrative facility in Florence and implemented a new data center in the summer of 2009. The data center consolidated data from all departments into a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise data warehouse.
Working with Disparate Tools
As it deployed more Microsoft technologies, the IT department began to see the labor-saving possibilities inherent in creating a more homogeneous IT environment. “Our Microsoft technologies worked well together and with our third-party instructional applications,” says Jones. “We still had room to improve, though.”
The IT staff juggled a collection of disparate tools to configure and secure the district’s desktop computers and servers. These included a Symantec endpoint security product, Altiris asset management software, and Veritas Backup Exec, which required IT staff to manually check backups every day. Even though all these products are now under the Symantec umbrella, when FSD1 first acquired them they were marketed by different companies and each product required a separate license renewal, adding to the workload of an already busy IT department. IT staff were also unhappy with the large amount of memory that Symantec consumed on desktop computers, because it affected the performance of learning applications deployed across the district.
“Our goal has always been to reduce downtime and promote learning in the classroom,” says Jones. “We wanted to have our IT systems work seamlessly so we could flow data into the classroom, with no disruption to instruction. With thousands of learning applications and a dispersed IT environment encompassing 7,000 workstations, we needed centralized and integrated tools that enable remote desktop management. We began to look at Microsoft server and desktop management products.”
Aligning Technology to a Vision
Streamlining IT administration wasn’t the only reason that the FSD1 IT staff was thinking about acquiring more Microsoft technologies. The district wanted to offer an intuitive collaboration solution for both students and teachers, including instant messaging, shared online workspaces, and videoconferencing. Other goals included reducing paper consumption and streamlining business processes by introducing digital workflows.
In 2009, FSD1 began thinking about expanding its IT infrastructure and began to visualize a cost-effective technology platform that would be flexible enough to serve the needs of students, teachers, and administrative staff. “Over the years, Microsoft had become a trusted advisor to the district, and we were happy with the results of our Microsoft software investments,” says Jones. “However, in order to keep within our budget, we had to find the most cost-effective way of extending our initial Microsoft investments to achieve our goals.” Solution
In June 2009, Florence School District One made a strategic decision to enter into a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite agreement. The suite brings together 12 of the latest Microsoft technologies to provide FSD1 with interoperable collaboration, security, communication, and desktop management capabilities.
“With the Enterprise CAL Suite, we are saving $22 per desktop for 7,000 desktops over 6 years: a total licensing savings of $924,000,” says Jones. “In addition, the Enterprise CAL Suite ties everything together in a single, easily managed licensing program.”
||We are in the beginning stages, but we envision teachers creating SharePoint sites for group projects, for sharing ideas with each other, and for all manner of content management.
Information Technology Manager, Florence School District One
The IT staff at FSD1 got these numbers by comparing the cost of acquiring the Enterprise CAL Suite with the cost of acquiring the same technologies individually. The district had a Microsoft Core CAL Suite, which combines Client Access Licenses for Windows Server, Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. The IT staff also licensed Forefront Client Security separately. The annual licensing costs for these products amounted to U.S.$17.22 per desktop. However, the Enterprise CAL Suite includes all these technologies, plus an additional 8 products and costs only $22.00 per desktop based on estimated retail price.
These savings were compelling enough for FSD1 to enter into the Enterprise CAL agreement. The suite enables the district to do so much more with its constrained IT budget, but what mattered most to the IT staff is that it now has the most up-to-date Microsoft products available to deliver the IT solutions that the district requires.
“Microsoft technologies always evolve and what made the Enterprise CAL Suite attractive was its breadth of software and its built-in assurance that we could always upgrade to the latest and greatest products,” says Jones. “When we took this idea to the board, we showed how we could eliminate the extra expense of purchasing technology products individually and gain better control over our IT budget. At the same time, we can offer the district an inclusive suite of products that would help us do more with less.”
To date, the IT staff has deployed Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Exchange Server 2007, Office Communications Server 2007 R2, System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2, System Center Server Management Suite, and Forefront Protection Suite. “We use Forefront Security for Exchange Server to scan internal email, but it is also catching malicious software that slipped through our firewall,” says Henry Isgett, Network Administrator at Florence School District One. “We are also using Forefront Client Security to help protect our PCs and laptops.”
“FSD1 Is in the process of upgrading to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and will be completely deployed on Exchange Server 2010 by the end of November 2010,” adds Jones. “By that time, we can take advantage of the new release for Microsoft Office Communications Server [called Microsoft Lync Server 2010] and consider using it to replace our PBX system. We have already upgraded 5,500 desktop computers to Windows 7 under the School Agreement, and we will be upgrading student desktops to Office Professional 2010 in the spring of 2010.”Benefits
With the Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement, Florence School District One gained the technology that it needed to foster educational excellence across the district. With a single, cost-effective licensing program, the district is reducing operating costs, improving IT services in the classroom, facilitating communication and collaboration among students and staff, and extending the value of its IT resources.
“Microsoft products are always evolving to meet our needs,” says Jones. “With the Enterprise CAL Suite, we secured a technology foundation to improve the quality of education across the district at the best possible price.”
Reduces Operating Costs
FSD1 has a track record for fiscal responsibility and is one of the few districts in South Carolina that has a healthy bottom line. “The Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite appealed to our board because we gained immediate and long-term cost savings,” says Jones. “In the first year, we replaced three disparate management and security products with Forefront Security Suite and System Center products, and saved $55,000 in yearly licensing costs, saving us $330,000 in third-party licensing costs over six years. The cost of the Enterprise CAL is just 25 percent of what we were paying for licensing those third-party products we replaced. And instead of facing a huge upfront cost to acquire those Enterprise CAL products individually, we can defer the expense over the duration of the agreement, keeping our district up to speed on all the latest versions.”
Using integrated System Center products to simplify desktop management, IT staff members can more easily configure and image the district’s 7,000 desktop computers. “We’ve reduced by 80 percent the number of times we have to physically touch a workstation,” says Jones. “Instead, System Center technologies get most of our work done in seconds.”
||Microsoft technologies always evolve and what made the Enterprise CAL Suite attractive was its breadth of software and its built-in assurance that we could always upgrade to the latest and greatest products."
Information Technology Manager, Florence School District One
Another area where FSD1 expects to cut costs is by reducing paper consumption. The district has set a goal to become paperless within three years, and the IT department is excited about using the Microsoft InfoPath 2010 information gathering program, as well as InfoPath Forms Services, Business Data Catalog, and Excel Services in SharePoint 2010 to achieve this objective.
“We hope to turn anything that is a paper form today into a digital form,” says Jones. “We can see our intranet transforming itself into an online vehicle for people in all our schools and facilities to use digital forms and processes to drive administrative productivity across the district. Ultimately, we hope to significantly reduce the estimated 40,000 pounds of paper we have to shred annually.”
Improves IT Services in the Classroom
FSD1 IT staff members are using new integrated software distribution, asset management, and desktop monitoring technologies in the Enterprise CAL Suite to deliver instructional software to the classroom with no disruption to instruction. Ensuring minimal downtime for students and teachers keeps everyone focused on learning, without worrying about technology. “Since signing the Enterprise CAL agreement, we have reduced downtime on the student workstations by an estimated 70 percent,” says Jones. “Short of a hardware failure, we can fix anything remotely using System Center products.”
And since IT staff replaced Symantec with Forefront Client Security, students and teachers are enjoying improved security and performance, contributing to a better learning experience. “Forefront Client Security catches probably 5 percent more unwanted email, spyware, and viruses than our previous solution,” says Isgett. “But the really good news for the students is their learning applications are performing much better. Symantec had become a real resource drain, whereas Forefront Client Security consumes much less memory.”
Facilitates Communication and Collaboration
The IT staff expects to bring its last school into its SharePoint-based intranet by November 2010 so everyone can take advantage of a districtwide collaboration platform, and teachers and students can share work and communicate outside the boundaries of the classroom.
“We are in the beginning stages, but we envision teachers creating SharePoint sites for group projects, for sharing ideas with each other, and for all manner of content management,” says Jones. “Teachers don’t want to become webmasters in order to get their content into a digital format, and with SharePoint technology we’ve seen an easy transition into online content management and collaboration.”
Several administrators across the district are already using the instant messaging and web conferencing capabilities within Office Communications Server 2007 to find and communicate with peers instantly, and to save travel costs for face-to-face meetings. The district also acquired Polycom CX5000 (formerly called Microsoft RoundTable) a videoconferencing system with a 360-degree camera that is designed to work with Office Communications Server 2007, and expects to use this for a more realistic online conferencing experience during monthly administrators’ meetings.
Extends the Value of IT
The more that products work together to complement and reinforce their inherent capabilities, the more value that they bring to an organization. For FSD1, the Enterprise CAL Suite extends the value of the district’s IT investments with a product suite that interoperates with its existing investments and even makes potential investments in new technology more advantageous.
FSD1 is running a pilot project for Microsoft Live@edu hosted email and collaboration services for students in several of its high schools. The district considers this a key IT service to boost student familiarity with desktop tools that they’ll encounter when they graduate. Its value to the district is increased thanks to the interoperability between Live@edu and the district’s Exchange-based messaging solution. Live@edu uses the Microsoft Outlook Live email client so IT staff can use the same archiving tools and create distribution lists in the same way that they do for Exchange Server. And because Outlook Live can be configured to access the district’s global address list, students can share contacts and calendars with teachers to arrange meetings and work on group projects.
As soon as Windows 7 is fully deployed, IT staff can take advantage of the many Windows Server 2008 R2 features that are designed to work with client computers running Windows 7. The district is also interested in the benefits of desktop virtualization and plans to explore the virtualization technologies that are part of Windows Server 2008 R2. “We see how Microsoft virtualization technologies are continuing to evolve, and we are interested in the IT administrative savings that we can achieve by managing applications on the server instead of at the workstation level,” says Isgett.
By using the Windows 7 RemoteApp and Desktop Connections feature, Isgett and his peers can ensure that teachers and students using a virtualized application will enjoy a similar experience as if the application was running on their desktop.
“For me, the overarching benefit of the Enterprise CAL Suite is that we can offer the latest Microsoft technologies to all our students,” says Jones. “Some of our students don’t have computers at home; others have access to a lot of technology. At Florence School District One, we want to equalize the opportunity for all our students to live up to their potential. Partnering with Microsoft means we can expose students to the IT tools that they’ll need to be competitive when they leave school, no matter what neighborhood they come from.”
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For more information about Florence School District One, call (843) 669-4141 or visit the website at: