NECC 2009: School, Data, and Network Administration

neccimagesnecclogomerAerva demonstrated its Presto digital signage software. Both Presto and AerWave (for larger enterprises) are web-based applications for managing digital signage, with a full drag-and-drop user interface and social networking capabilities. With the company’s MoApp applications, users can add features such as polls, voting, text2screen, and pic2screen to their digital signage. Aerva also has integrated social networking widgets for Twitter, Flickr, and RSS into the software.

CDW-G recently announced the results of its 2009 School Safety Index (see story). Based on a national survey of more than 400 K-12 district IT and security directors, the index measures 10 indicators and four contra-indicators to set a national benchmark to gauge the current state of school security. The 2009 School Safety Index found that while K-12 districts are taking steps to improve their network and building security, an increase in the number of breaches caused an overall decline in schools’ physical and cyber security scores.

Century Consultants promoted its Star Base School Suite, a student information management system that has proven easily accessible for educators, counselors, and parents, the company says. School officials can customize Star Base settings to hide students’ personal information from unauthorized system users, and parents can see their child’s up-to-date grades using the web-based system.

Faronics announced a new version of its Deep Freeze desktop security software, v6.5, that features the ability to create multiple spaces where data can be retained over restarts. These spaces, known as ThawSpaces, can be optionally hidden to deter end-user access and tampering. A new events scheduler provides greater flexibility in scheduling software updates, while the Enterprise Console now can remotely deploy, execute, and control software on workstations, Faronics says. In addition, the software now lets administrators display customizable warning messages prior to workstation maintenance events. At an administrator’s discretion, computer users can be allowed to cancel any events to prevent their computing session from being disrupted.

Focus School Software demonstrated its Focus Student Information System, which it calls a scalable, flexible, easy-to-use, and affordable solution. Schools and districts that license Focus SIS have access to the source code and can extend the product in new and innovative ways. All enhancements are available to the Focus user community, providing a longer life cycle for the product and allowing the firm to keep support costs low.

Follett Software launched TetraData Insights, a three-step model that enables continuous educational improvement using available data. With data-driven decision making taking on added importance for states trying to qualify for federal stimulus funding, this latest release of Follett’s TetraData warehousing and analytics tools provides school districts with a convenient point-of-entry solution (Bronze level) and then builds upon that foundation with Silver and Gold levels, the company says. Each phase builds on the last by adding more data domains, features, and professional development. The timing of the rollout is particularly significant, considering U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent comment saluting school districts across the country that are using data to spur improvement and noting that data systems should be “the norm and not the exception.”

KACE announced new technology breakthroughs for its KBOX family of systems management and deployment appliances. The new appliances allow organizations to enjoy as rich a management experience for the Macintosh platform as they have traditionally enjoyed for Windows, KACE says. “Whether [they use] Mac or Windows, organizations can now manage both equally through a quick-to-deploy and easy-to-use appliance,” said company CEO and co-founder Rob Meinhardt. New features include Mac imaging, which eliminates redundancies in the capture, storage, and deployment of disk images; new software metering support for the Mac, helping organizations manage licensing fees by means of thorough analyses of their software use; and enhanced policy-based configuration management for Macs that enforces operating-system and application settings through pre-packaged policies and an easy-to-use scripting wizard.

Marshal 8e6 announced a new technology partnership with ArcMail, a provider of eMail archiving and management solutions. Through the partnership, Marshall 8e6 will add eMail archiving to its Integrated Secure Web Gateway and eMail security products.

OKI Data Americas, which markets its products under the OKI Printing Solutions brand, showcased its line of printers, multifunction products (MFPs), and customized printing solutions. The company’s Color Access Policy Manager software allows administrators to manage color output and maintain control over printing costs across networked devices. OKI also gave show attendees the opportunity to participate in the company’s Color Me OKI philanthropic program, by bringing the “Twin Sister” 1955 Pink Cadillac and an Elvis tribute artist to its booth in an effort to increase breast cancer awareness. Attendees could have their picture taken with the Elvis impersonator in the pink Cadillac in exchange for a donation to breast cancer research.

Pearson unveiled new releases of its PowerSchool and Chancery SMS web-based student information systems. PowerSchool Premier 6 includes several enhancements to the software’s user interface for a more intuitive and interactive user experience, Pearson says. These enhancements include ReportWorks 1.0, a new graphical reporting tool; address management and boundary validation using embedded Google Maps technology; and prerequisite checking and teacher course recommendations. Chancery SMS 7 also features ReportWorks, address management, and boundary validation, along with integration with Pearson’s parent and student portal, ParentCONNECTxp. Pearson also previewed a new “assessment for learning” solution, as yet to be named–an intuitive interface that can be used to create standards-aligned assessments and quizzes in minutes, the company says. Assessments can be made for the whole class, a group of students, or an individual student.

Stoneware demonstrated its webNetwork, which enables any organization to create its own private computing cloud, through which users can access their applications and services from anywhere, using any internet-connected device. According to Stoneware, the transition of applications and data from client devices into the private cloud allows organizations to rethink their client-side technology purchases; schools no longer need to buy powerful computers for their students, teachers, and other end-users, because the processing is all done inside the cloud. Users connecting to webNetwork are given their own virtual web desktop (webOS), which offers only the applications and services available specifically to them from the private cloud.

Weidenhammer introduced the latest update of its alio financial and human-resources management software, alio 10.0. The software includes new business intelligence tools and enhancements to its reporting and human-resources functions, the company says. alio Intelligence, which is bundled with alio 10.0, gives school districts higher-level analytics, user-defined dashboards, and online reporting tools to better manage information. The software’s HR system automatically generates information to the master employee profiles when new employees are added. alio 10.0 also offers an expanded variable report column, allowing users to retrieve five years of data and display it in 12 columns. And through a tool called EDGE, or Electronic Document Generation, users can create a diverse set of documents such as payroll and accounts payable checks, invoices, billing statements, and purchase orders.

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