Cloud control
The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas is developing a private cloud as part of a major network refresh, funded by more than $200 million in bond money.

“We wanted to give students 24-7 access to all of their services, and we wanted these to be secured,” said Frankie Jackson, chief technology officer for the district.

Cypress-Fairbanks is the third largest school district in Texas, with about 113,000 students. Everything in the district is centralized, including the delivery of IT services—and moving to a private cloud “will lend some advantages to us,” Jackson said.

To create a private cloud, school districts will need a robust data center. Cypress-Fairbanks has upgraded its main data center to a Tier 3 facility and is moving its mission-critical systems to a Tier 4 facility on its own separate grid. Fiber connections run from all six of the district’s hub sites to both data centers and the internet backbone.

“We are working with Microsoft to design federated Active Directory [service], so that students can log on from home and use their same network credentials they would use to authenticate as if they were at school,” Jackson said.

A project like this requires a significant investment and is not for every district, she noted.

“You need a strong, committed staff” with the expertise needed to manage a data center, she said, and “you have to have a cheerleader” who can advocate for the necessary support.

Next page: The right questions to ask