network administration: Software lends power and efficiency to Mac management

Getting the most out of as little as possible is a maxim school technology departments are fast learning to live with. Whether this translates to a smaller budget, in less time, or with fewer staff, school districts are forced to pursue greater reliability, power, and efficiency from their technology resources. Yet as these factors are often interdependent–operating within time constraints can push up costs, while attempting to reduce costs can cause deadlines to slip–the goal often remains elusive.

At Minooka Community High School District near Chicago, where 800-plus Apple Macintosh machines serve 1,500 students, officials believe they have solved many of their problems by using a program from Hi Resolution Systems.

Minooka’s current setup is a mixture of Apple Macintosh OS 9 and OS X client machines, and by the 2004-05 school year the district will have fully converted to Mac OS X. Since deploying MacAdministrator, Director of Technology Les Kern now finds he enjoys the luxury of time to concentrate on long-term planning, while the systems largely take care of themselves.

Kern is a veteran of the IT business, having worked in the industry for more than 20 years. “In that time,” he said, “no product has done more for me, period. … Just the time saved alone justifies its price many times over, not to mention the impact we have seen here on learning.”

With a sophisticated network topology that includes 300 roaming wireless laptops and 23 servers of various types looking after all of the shared directories, security was one of the first issues the district needed to address. Yet the other products Kern tried did not meet the district’s needs.

“I had tested almost every product out there before I evaluated MacAdministrator, and I had been losing sleep for some time over the support and security issues we were constantly tackling,” he said. “All the while, our techs were hard at work addressing the various problems, and students were losing valuable education time.”

To address their problems, Minooka’s technology staff created a 10-point plan, citing the areas they wanted to address to increase system efficiency and minimize downtime. These points included complete desktop control; application control; software distribution; low network impact; low cost per workstation; remote administration; auditing; excellent logging capability; easy and complete access to ‘allowed’ capabilities; and minimal time spent by a tech on each machine.

Kern discovered MacAdministrator at an ed-tech conference and, impressed by what he had heard, downloaded and installed the software onto a server on his return to Minooka. “Ten minutes later,” he said, “I had a workstation up and running without any fuss.”

MacAdministrator is a network administration, desktop security, and control product that provides an administrator with a total management capability over any number of networked Macintosh computers. It works independently of server type, making it especially effective in mixed-server environments such as Minooka.

That summer, “I decided to hire a tech from Hi Resolution to come on site to help us set it up,” said Kern. “In a day, our systems were humming along perfectly and, as it turned out, we didn’t need much technical support because MacAdministrator is so easy to set up. By the end of the day, we felt that we had an excellent grasp of how the whole thing worked and how we could enable more features in the future.”

When classes began in the fall, “students logged on and what happened next astounded me: pretty much nothing,” Kern said. “Everything worked perfectly. The students had absolutely no problem adapting to the system.”

He added: “Since that first day, productivity has increased. Students are turning out more work and doing more research, because the computers always work.”

Technology Assistant Debbie Dobson has found the new setup user-friendly and efficient. “I like the ability to log a student out when needed using the Configuration Manager right from my desktop or laptop,” she said. “The process is quick and simple, taking less than a minute. Editing the protection settings can also be done conveniently from a desktop or laptop that has the Configuration Manager installed on it. Any machine with MacAdministrator installed on it picks up the new settings at logout or login, depending on setup. If you choose, one simple change can affect all the machines. The program keeps students on task, as they can’t access any folder from the server but their own.”

For many school districts, printing costs put a huge strain on budgets. The ability to strictly control printer use by students and staff is one feature of MacAdministrator that Dobson is looking forward to implementing in the coming months.

Kern now looks back on his district’s 10-point plan and smiles: “All 800 computers are taken care of by a technology assistant. … I now sleep very well at night.”

Hi Resolution Systems

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