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Back-ups OK'd for schools

August 20, 2014 - Two of five technology critical needs are set to be fixed by the time kids return to the classroom.

Clarkston Board of Education voted 7-0, Aug. 11, to approve two new data backup systems.

Eversync will replace the 7-year-old backup units, one at Clarkston High School and the other at the district administration building, for $24,900 $1,500 for two licenses and $23,400 for two upgrade packages.

"They're getting old," said Network Administrator Angela Harrison, who placed the new backup systems among her department's top five critical needs. "Drives fail pretty regularly."

The systems store financial, student, staff, and personnel files, she said.

"We were notified in April 2014, Eversync will no longer support hardware beyond July 9, 2014," she said. "The backup is critical to the district's disaster recovery plan. If there were a catastrophic event, the district would not be able to recover from the data loss and continue business."

An alternative, Cloud backup, is not recommended.

"It's not really secure," the administrator said. "Due to the amount of data we currently backup, I am concerned about the amount of time and bandwidth usage for backups."

The new systems include a one-year warranty, and would cost about $2,000 for maintenance per year.

This summer, the district is also installing a new firewall, purchased earlier this year for $60,000. Replacing the old firewall was another critical need. The purchase means not having to spend $16,000 for web filter software maintenance on the old system, as well as $14,000 in antivirus software maintenance this year. Maintenance for the new system will be about $5,000 per year starting in 2015.

Other critical needs are wireless internet access, computer equipment, and network upgrades.

Installing a wireless internet system districtwide would cost about $600,000. New computer equipment for students would be about $1.2 million. Network upgrades, which would be needed for wireless internet, would cost about $600,000, Harrison told the board.

"The majority of the district's computers were purchased between 2004 and 2007. Hardware is old, slow and failing," she said. "The Windows XP Operating System is no longer supported by Microsoft or other software companies whose programs run on a Windows system."

Tech consultants

The district is looking to hire a consultant to develop a three-year plan to meet critical and other technology needs.

Administration is considering Convergent Technologies and Plante Moran for the job, with its recommendation going to Convergent.

The consultant could finish the plan by December at a cost of about $20,000. The district's technology department would take 6-8 months to develop the plan because of limited staff, Harrison said.

A proposal by board President Rosalie Lieblang to have the board, or a committee of board members, meet with the consultant before hiring met with resistance from other board members.

"I don't particularly think this needs to be done as a whole board or even by a couple board members," said Trustee Steve Hyer. "This board is made up of community folks, not IT."

Trustee Cheryl McGinnis said the board should let the professionals in administration decide on the recommendation.

"Fewer meetings are better," McGinnis said.

The board ran into micromanagement issues during workshop meetings with previous technology consultants, coming to a head at a June 23 meeting, said Trustee Elizabeth Egan.

"They ended up walking out on us," Egan said.

The board should make sure there's a clear understanding of the outcome this time, the trustee said.

Board Treasurer Joan Patterson said she is interested in meeting with the consultants.

"The board or subsection of the board should spend time up front to make sure we're on the same page as we move forward," Patterson said.

Lieblang said the board needs to meet with the consultant to make sure they know what information to provide.

Board Vice President Susan Boatman agreed.

"I believe the board should have some say in what this plan should look like," Boatman said.

The board will meet with consultants recommended by administration before their next meeting, Aug. 25. A decision to hire the consultant would be made during the regular meeting.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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