Moving to the cloud saves money and worry for coastal school district
Located along the North Carolina coast, Hyde County Schools had already lost one server to a hurricane several years ago. So when its replacement AS/400 turned five years old and began experiencing significant maintenance issues, the school system realized a move to the North Carolina Education Cloud hosted by SAS was a less expensive alternative.
The cloud provides the local education area (LEA) with more security and protection against foul weather. After a seamless transition, the school district's finance officer and chief technology officer are happy they made the switch.
"It's saving us time, it definitely saved us money, and it's saving us hassle," explains Finance Officer Ken Chilcoat. "It's worry-free. We don't have to worry about staying late doing backups or coming in nights and weekends when the AS/400 sends out a hardware error.''
No learning curve
The North Carolina Education Cloud provides hosted servers monitored 24/7, nightly backups encrypted and secured off-site, and hardware and OS under an IBM maintenance contract.
Users have secure VPN access 24/7 via the Internet, the ability to administer the system, a Help Desk for assistance, software upgrades and application support for LEA licensed software, and a disaster recovery program. When school reps log in, they see screens that look exactly like what they're used to, so there is no learning curve.
With the AS/400, Chilcoat said the district was paying more than $6,000 a year for the hardware maintenance contract, and was going to spend more than $50,000 to replace the server. And there were other costs associated with computing on-site: $2,400 to $3,000 worth of backup tapes each year and 160 hours a year in overtime costs for staff members to back up the computer after hours at the end of each week and month.
It was a lot of money for a school district with just 576 students.
When Chilcoat and Chief Technology Officer Shelby Gibbs learned about the NC Education Cloud, and that there are incentives for early enrollees, they were eager to give it a try. The transition was made over a weekend with no issues.
SAS worked with the IBM maintenance staff on the transition. Chilcoat estimates that Hyde will save several thousand dollars a year – significant for a small school system. The typical LEA is expected to save 50 percent compared to the price of owning and maintaining a server.
Easy to use, worry-free
Chilcoat says the school system is particularly happy that it controls everything – including access and permissions. "It's just the location of the box – that's the only thing that's changed.''
And that location change provides a great deal of peace of mind. Chilcoat and his staff no longer have to worry about hurricanes, lengthy power outages and other issues that affect coastal and rural Carolina school districts.
In the past, if a hurricane was threatening, Gibbs had to back up the system and bring the tapes to a county bank vault.
Even then, the situation wasn't ideal. The bank flooded during the last hurricane.
With the cloud, SAS is making arrangements for school districts to log in remotely from neighboring school district portals so operations like payroll can be managed regardless of the weather or power situation in a county.
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