You BETT ya! (or why I went to an education fair to meet IT Pros)

BETT 2011 122_thumb

I spent much of last week at the crazy busy BETT education fair at Olympia showing people Office 365 and meeting some very interesting techies working in schools, collages and universities all over the country.  I had a lot of misconceptions about the type of IT Professionals working in education before I got there, most were blown out of the water and my thoughts reset.  I’ll get a video of the Office 365 stuff out later this week…

Scale was the first thing I wrongly assumed.  I thought that schools would be small, but it’s the opposite.  Mail administrators in schools face a battle of provisioning hundreds of mailboxes each year, archiving old ones and constantly managing their users and storage requirements.  AD DS administrators face the same but with the added complication of load as every student logs on 4 , 5, 6 times a day as they move between classrooms.  Those AD DS servers are taking a battering folks and they need to be up to the job.

I was expecting lots of people to be stuck in the dark ages – and some are – but many are not.  Schools are readily adopting cloud technologies to cope with the scale and flexibility they need to provide.  Many have rolled out Windows 7 or are planning to do so in September.  Many are using Hyper-V to virtualise (the ones who aren’t are very actively looking to ditch Vmware because of cost), application virtualisation and VDI and RDS are hot technologies too as schools look to make it easier to rollout application updates.

Saving money is high on the agenda as you’d expect so using virtualisation, cloud and making their infrastructure easier to manage are top of the agenda.

Security is paramount.  Firstly they have lots of kids doing the Bring Your Own Computer thing and it’s causing infections and virus outbreaks a plenty – except those schools that have deployed NAP (Network Access Protection).  Secondly I was showing off a bunch of slate devices and the critical thing there is that they can be encrypted preventing anything that the kids do with them such as taking pictures with the web cams from falling into the wrong hands.

There are lots of people doing clever things with Windows 7 and much of what’s used in the class room, like digital white boards and interactive projectors are useful in the board room or the meeting room.

The best thing though was that there was a palpable enthusiasm for using technology to help reduce cost and more importantly help our kids to learn in better ways.  It seems education is a space full of early adopters and a good segment to watch for ideas.

What do you think?