Blenheim-based Marlborough Boys College has beefed up its security, improved network reliability and is poised to establish an electronic link with an affiliate school in China, thanks to a hardware upgrade coupled with a Citrix implementation. Information manager Peter Oliver says the school decided to upgrade its network infrastructure, as it was becoming increasingly concerned about network reliability.
“Like a lot of New Zealand schools we operate on a wing and a prayer,” he says. “We had built up a network of sorts by getting things from a variety of sources, including TradeMe. But it was tired and old and dangerously unreliable. There were days when the network had fallen over even before classes had even begun.
“We also had a couple of boys who seemed to feel the need to prove their manliness by hacking into the network. They have never succeeded in breaking into anything, but we knew we were vulnerable.”
Oliver says he started to see Citrix as a possible solution to both problems, after seeing the thin client system in action at a school in Brisbane.
“We were blown away by what they were doing with Citrix,” he says. “They were running 170 different pieces of software across their network, while kids and parents could access school programs from home.”
Following a selection process, and after gaining approval from the school’s board, the Citrix gateway was rolled out to all staff in the first phase of the implementation — followed by a rollout to students. Eventually, the college intends to deploy Citrix at its joint-venture school in China, the Changzhou International School.
Despite the distance, Oliver says initial testing suggests there will be no latency problems.
“It’s early days yet, but according to our trials there doesn’t appear to be any problem at all,” says Oliver.
The thin client architecture has solved most of the school’s security concerns at a stroke. Apart from an early glitch resulting from a problem with a switch, the system has proved to be reliable. Oliver says uptime is now better than 99 per cent.
He says very little training was required to use Citrix. “When you log on you get an environment that is similar to any other experience on a PC, ultimately you can customise your experience to the way you like it.”
The thin client terminals also start up much faster than ordinary PCs — in about 10 or 15 seconds — and the network is much easier to manage.
“Obviously, updating software is a doddle compared to what it used to be. You used to have to send a technician running around 200 computers, but we don’t update much on the client itself now.”
The school still runs a few fat-client PCs for applications such as multimedia production and editing, but Oliver says video can be played “reasonably well” through the newer thin client terminals.
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