- Assess. Begin with a thorough assessment of your current situation and inventory. You will need to know what servers are in place, what applications are installed and the role of each in your organization.
- Ask the right questions, which could include: What are our connectivity and storage needs or other technical limitations? Are there business constraints in terms of maintenance efforts, load requirements and uptime needs?
- Do your vendor homework. Some of the big names in virtualization such as Citrix, VMware and Microsoft (see "Virtualization Companies," below) all offer their own brand of virtualization. These and other solutions offer a host of possibilities for school systems in their efforts to go virtual, with each having specific strengths and limitations that need to be evaluated on the basis of a district's current technical, business and support constraints. Demonstrations from and conversations with these vendors about your specific needs is a good starting point.
- Communicate. Communication with users and administration at all phases of development and implementation is key, as feedback and input from all parties will be critical at each step.
- Start small. A good idea is to start with a small and well-defined need as a pilot program for virtualization in your district. This way you can more clearly evaluate its impact.
Understanding how—with proper planning and implementation—this technology can assist your district, is the most important first step in reaping real benefits from virtualization.
Lane B. Mills, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Educational Leadership program at East Carolina University. A former Assistant Superintendent for Accountability and Technology for a North Carolina school system, Dr. Mills was a 2004 Technology and Learning Ed Tech Leader of the Year finalist.