The rain coming down outside serves to remind me that Spring is here. With Spring comes the promise of summer and the relaxation that it brings. (Pictures of beaches are now dancing in my head.) Spring also means it’s time to start planning for all the technology work we hope to undertake over the next year — with the realization that the more we can knock off over the summer, the less we will suffer next academic year. If you’re anything like me, things always seem to get put off until mid (late?) August despite my best intentions. I am determined, however, that this year will be different.

Naturally, the department has had numerous conversations about summer plans and upgrades, but I wanted to get some of the details down in writing. This is important because I want to be held accountable for what we are able to scratch off the list, and alternatively, what slips under the radar. I’ll check back in a few times over the next few months to provide updates on how things are moving along.

 

There are several projects already in motion that I feel confident will get done. On the software side, we are in good shape. Our network manager is planning on upgrading the labs to Windows 7 – we are proud owners of about 50 of the 350 million Windows 7 licenses that Microsoft has shipped thus far. We are also planning on (finally) upgrading to Abode CS4. Anyone not using Office 2007 will have to suffer through the ribbons this summer. But standardization is a good thing, right?

 

From the A/V point of view, we are also making good progress. Last Thursday our A/V installer visited for a planning session, and over the weekend I reviewed the quote for four classroom ENO Boards and associated components. I think we’ll move on this shortly and aim for a mid June install date – a month ahead of last summer’s install. We are also planning on purchasing two additional Xirrus wireless arrays to fill in some coverage holes on campus. Of course, purchasing is easy – getting them installed, wired, and configured will gobble up the time.

 

uRL Homepage

The Roxbury Latin social media mashup, uRL.

We are also in the first stages of making some alterations to our website. The front page is getting a facelift, and we are making some navigation changes. In addition, we will be making social media content more visible on the site, since uRL (our social media sub-site) has received very positive feedback. A little background on uRL first: about a year ago, we realized that we had significant amounts of content being produced and shared on the web. This content was on various social media sites, such as Flickr, Youtube, Twitter, etc. We were/are even using Facebook to communicate with alums and parents. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a way of unifying this content in one central location. To address this, we launched a sub-section of our website a year ago (we worked closely with our web company, Silverpoint, on this) that served as a delivery vehicle for everything that we were producing. By allowing multiple individuals at the school to produce this content, it’s kept fresh, and there is something new almost every day. What we have found is that a large majority of the site’s visitors are going to uRL, so we’ve decided to make social media content more central to our traditional site. We haven’t quite figured out all of the details, but it’s clear that our constituents love the photos, videos, news, and calendar information that’s now available to them. Along with this update, we are also trying to roll out an archives subsection to serve as a central place for highlighting some of our extensive photo and document archive collection.

Other projects are not as clearly advanced. We’d like to beef up our DMZ, and this will require some review of our network topology, probably a more robust switch, and some time to get it all done. In addition, we’d like to upgrade our VPN capability, and need to select, purchase, and install the SSL VPN device — probably an Array. We have talked about trying to deploy a VDI or Terminal Server of some sorts for remote access, but haven’t ironed out the details yet. Is two months enough time to develop and deploy a VDI solution?

 

Other projects that we are putting in the queue include several server upgrades (from Windows Server 2003 to 2008), new endpoint virus and malware protection (Symantec or McAfee?), deploying a streaming server for media, and switching our DNS provider in order to allow for on the fly re-routing if needed.

 

Finally, improved network access control rounds out the major summer projects list. Perhaps this was an omission, but this wasn’t high on the priority list until a rogue laptop two weeks ago caused us to, eh, bump it up a bit. Over the next few weeks, we’ll try to determine how to best implement this without requiring security measures that would make the Pentagon look vulnerable.

 

So that’s the laundry list — it seems doable, right? I’m determined, at least this year, to plan ahead and make sure that 1. Work isn’t postponed until mid-August, when we are up against the start of school, and 2. That I end up getting some time off without having to worry about the summer projects that we didn’t squeeze in during June or July. Wish us luck, and check back in a few weeks to see how things are moving along.

Andrew Katz

Associate Head of School for Academics at The Roxbury Latin SchoolThe Swain School

http://twitter.com/andrewjkatz