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UNITED: Modified agreement will save district money

by on January 15, 2014 10:49 AM

ARMAGH — The United School District will see some substantial savings after approving an information technology service order modification sought by IT officials at ARIN IU28 during Tuesday’s meeting.

Robert Sarraf, an ARIN employee who serves as the district’s coordinator of technology services, told the board Tuesday that he was able to find a way to save the district around $8,800 a year by modifying an agreement that was approved at last month’s meeting.

As part of a Regional Wide Area Network Master Service Agreement between Sting Communications and ARIN IU28, the board had approved a basic managed firewall at $85 a month with base proposal equipment included.

Tuesday’s modification removes that plan and instead upgrades to an advanced managed firewall that includes content filtering, anti-virus/spam and intrusion prevention for $150 per month with a one-time required equipment upgrade at $3,000. In doing this, Sarraf said, two other services that are currently used through other contracts can be eliminated.

Even moving from the $85 per month plan to the $150 per month plan will still save the district that $8,800 a year, he said, adding that the entire amount won’t be recognized in the first year because of the one-time $3,000 fee included in the upgrade, but that the district still is saving $5,800 in the first year. The plan runs for five years starting from July 1 through June 30, 2019.

“We’ll still get the protection that we need, the protection for the network, and save us a bunch of money,” Sarraf said.

In addition to Sarraf’s announcement, Josh Muscatello, director of technology at ARIN, outlined for the board a five-year plan for technology success.

Muscatello said some of the plan has already been set in motion with the website redesign that was approved last month and is included in Phase 1, which begins with the current academic year. Muscatello said training for the website redesign will take place Jan. 27-29.

Also included in Phase 1 is something Muscatello called a “core switch project,” which usually is a $60,000 or $70,000 project. His concern with the core switch is the potential for an outage, and said he looked at replacing the core switch at a cost of around $30,000 instead of $60,000, without having to ask the district for any money because Sarraf was able to pay for the project within ARIN’s current budget.

Muscatello said they’re hoping to have that project done before July.

Phase 2 consists of looking at virtualization of the district’s servers.

Muscatello said currently there are 10 physical servers that are all dual- or tri-purpose, and added that the “best practices in technology nowadays” are having one server serving one purpose.

Virtualization, Muscatello said, allows them to only buy three pieces of physical hardware but be able to support multiple virtual servers on each piece of hardware.

“We’re going to eliminate the need for 10 physical servers and go to a three-box solution,” he said. He gave an example that if he replaced four of the physical servers, it would cost about $40,000, whereas for about $65,000 he could get 75 virtual servers for the district.

“It just makes sense money-wise,” he said, adding that they would pay for the project out of ARIN’s current budget and that they “may” have a little they will need to budget for in addition to what they’re already budgeted for when all is said and done, “but it won’t be anywhere near the $65,000 the project will cost.”

Phase 3 will be the end-user device refresh plan, which consists of replacing all PCs that will be entering their seventh year of life in the 2015-16 school year.

Muscatello said he didn’t know how many PCs that’s going to be at this time, but that instead of having a huge hit on the budget in one year, the plan calls for replacing all the seven-year-old machines every year “so that the oldest machine in the district is only ever six years old.”

Phase 4 is the wireless network project, Muscatello said.

The district’s wireless network was put in only a few years ago, he said, and is currently meeting their needs. But by 2016-17 “we will need to do something about it” and want to have it in the five-year plan, he said.

Finally, Muscatello said, they will entertain what they believe is potential for a one-to-one initiative in the district by 2017-18.

He said if all the other phases work out and are completed, “a one-to-one initiative could really happen by then” and “we’re going to be on a path where we can support” that initiative.

Muscatello said the reason why they are able to pay for the core switch and virtualization projects is because Sarraf “combed through the entire budget” and uncovered areas in which they could be better spending their money. Sarraf found several services they were paying for that they could get at a much lower price, Muscatello said, either through IU consortium services or by eliminating ones that weren’t needed.

Board President Don Davis expressed his excitement of Tuesday’s announcements.

“We’re really pleased with ARIN providing IT services, because … Josh and especially Rob went through all those contracts, and they were able to provide us more and better services and actually cost us less money,” he said.



Heather Blake is the wire editor and an assistant web editor for The Indiana Gazette. She covers courts, Saltsburg and Homer City borough councils and Penns Manor and United school districts, in addition to writing feature articles. She can be reached at hblake@indianagazette.net.
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