Cloud, thin computing saves $200,000 yearly

Beech Grove City Schools in Indiana had a problem with their IT system. Although it delivered the basic educational and administrative support, the cost in maintenance was steep: a staff of seven full-time people was required just to maintain the system, which comprised six servers, 1,000 PCs, 200 MacBooks, 250 Apple iPod touch devices, and 30 laptops. This left no resources available for improving the system or to provide curriculum learning applications for use in the classrooms and labs. At the same time, teacher technology needs were growing. They needed to log-in to the system quickly from their classrooms, access the grading and assessment applications from home, and leverage Web-based virtual learning applications in the classroom to not only enrich classroom learning but to provide students ways to earn additional credits that otherwise would have prevented them from graduating.

While the technology needs kept growing, the technology budget for the district was being reduced. The only way for the IT group to reduce maintenance spending was to break the cycle of PC replacement. Ensuring security was another concern. With the district's old PCs, a virus once shut down the district system for five weeks, causing tremendous disruption to teachers and students. Beech Grove City Schools Director of Technology Teresa Kratzer assembled a team of 35 staff from all parts of the district, including technology teachers, non-technology teachers, administrators, operations and other staff, and created a plan for not only fixing these problems, but doing so on a tight budget. Together with Integrity Network Solutions of Indianapolis, they mapped out a new system with servers consolidated into one data center, faster point-to-point network connections and thin clients from Wyse Technology.

Kratzer talks about how she approached the IT budget problem: "We saw cloud computing and adoption of the thin computing model as a way to solve the challenges we faced, while gaining additional benefits. In addition to meeting our immediate computing needs, our plan for a low-maintenance system helps allay our perennial concern that next year's budget might be even tighter. Our investment in Wyse thin computing will pay dividends for years to come."

Already, the district is saving $200,000 per year because they can have one person maintaining 1,000 desktops, as opposed to one person maintaining 200 desktops. They expect additional energy savings because, at 12 watts, the thin clients use a fraction of the energy of a PC. Kratzer estimates $30,000 a year in energy savings alone.

Beech Grove City Schools implemented 300 Wyse V10L thin clients throughout the districts schools in addition to creating two new computer labs in the middle school and high school. Wyse management software improved IT efficiency during implementation and ongoing operation. Integrity Network Solutions conducted the initial set-up. Four district IT staff and two high school students swapped out more than 200 aging PCs as well as setting up two new computer labs outfitted with 30 thin clients each. Now, students and teachers use Wyse thin clients to access online Web services, student information systems, library programs and assessment testing programs.

Most importantly, the low cost and versatility of the Wyse thin clients enabled the district to help students who don't have enough credits to graduate or advance a grade. In the two new labs, students now have access to Plato, an online course credit recovery program. If students can't get enough credits from class work, they can take courses on Plato and earn the credits they need.

Now that the cloud-based system and Wyse thin clients have been in use for more than a full school year, Kratzer and her team are delighted with how it has reduced maintenance requirements and enabled them to offer new learning capabilities to teachers and students. "We just couldn't take advantages of these resources before because managing them in our decentralized environment would have been too complex. Now, students are graduating with their class and the district graduation rate has improved."