From Flooded Server Room to 100% Cloud: Making your K-12 (or Business) Modern, Distributed, Resilient, Secure, and Scalable

Speakers: Gahl Zabar & Pax Whitfield

Level: Fundamental, Lecture

Excerpt: Could your organization communicate and operate in the event of a total site shutdown? Are you leveraging all the benefits of modern cloud computing, or following the status quo? Can you operate from the coffee shop down the street as easily as the IT office?
We’ll examine the total communications failure and rapid expansion imperative that motivated The Winston Preparatory School to decentralize every technology component and go 100% cloud. Part case study, part retrospective, we’ll discuss not just the technology choices, but the motivation, debates, culture shifts, false starts, and pivots that led to where we are today.

Description: At many organizations, particularly in EDU, the old “servers in a closet” paradigm still dominates. Talking about “the cloud” can provoke knee-jerk reactions, fundamental misconceptions, privacy and security concerns, or worse. That was Winston Prep.
Then came Hurricane Sandy. During the storm, Winston Prep’s server closet infrastructure, a single point of failure powering the flagship campus in New York City and a satellite campus in Connecticut, flooded and went dark for days. Everything ground to a complete stop for both locations. Parents couldn’t communicate with the school, and the school couldn’t get information out to families.
Determined to never go down like that again, and planning a series of additional locations that would need to share resources but operate independently, we got to work. We analyzed every aspect of our technology, and chose new tools that were robust, decentralized, secure, and able to scale with us as we grew.
Today we are six locations, five campuses, four states, two time zones, remote workers, Apple School Manager, DEP, MDM, VPP, G Suite, virtualized cloud servers, teleconferencing, a palette of SaaS tools, and a fleet of Macs, iOS devices, and Chromebooks.
At this talk, we’ll share the process and struggles as we moved from “servers in a closet” to “everything in the cloud”. We’ll unpack the needs that motivated key decisions, the tools we use today and why we chose them, plus the false starts and dead ends we encountered along the way. Then, we’ll open the floor for you to share your experiences, ask us questions, and have a group discussion about being all in on the cloud.

About the speakers

Pax Whitfield (Twitter: @winstonpreptech) – Chief Technology Officer – The Winston Preparatory School

One of the ones that grew up around relatively early technology, then ended up in it almost by accident.
Learning to make and record music with computers gave me deep exposure to Macs, and started me on a path that would lead me to work for Apple for a spell, then leave at the suggestion of a friend that thought EDU would be a good fit.
They must have been right. 15 years later I’m working to modernize, secure and streamline things for a rapidly expanding, technology-forward private school that offers bespoke, individualized educations for kids that learn differently.

Gahl Zabar – Director of Technology – Winston Preparatory School

I’m the Director of Technology, teach math classes, and run the music program at Winston Prep CT. Clearly I like wearing a lot of hats! I like to learn things hands-on and enjoy being challenged.

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