It’s Not Glamo(u)rous. Just Essential.

I had the opportunity on Friday to spend some time with our enterprise systems manager thinking about something that certainly isn’t glamo(u)rous, but is nothing shy of essential.  That something?

Storage.

Sure, there’s plenty of “free” storage out there for the taking, but I’m interested in making sure that we can offer students and staff in our district a reliable environment that will be there today and tomorrow, and won’t disappear, or fill up, in the middle of the night.  As we see more and more growth of our district’s Virtual Campus (a Moodle installation), as well as the beginnings of the use of in-district blogging tools, we’ve got to make sure that we’re planning for enough space so that we can meet the needs of teachers and students both today and down the road.

That sounds easy – but it’s certainly not.  Hence our conversation.  I actually find fascinating all the bits and pieces of infrastructure that go into making sure that, when you turn on your computer or launch a browser, the stuff that you want is there for your use.  And I know, too, that the infrastructure that we build ultimately affects what can and cannot be done with students, so there’s a direct impact on education with every technology decision made.  I take opportunities to think and learn about the district’s infrastructure very seriously.

And now, I need your help.  I’m wondering, and have been asked to make a guess (well more like an attempt at making a semi-intelligent shot in the dark) about what the storage needs of a teacher and a student are today here in the dawn of the 21st Century.  How much space does a teacher need to teach and a student to learn and to archive his or her learning over the life of public schooling?  What’s a decent ballpark?  How much space should we have available just for the digital learning and online storage needs of a district of approximately 25,000 students and 1300 teachers?  Can you defend your answer?

We’re going to be making some plans around these numbers, and we’d like to at least get close.   Any ideas you have are much appreciated.

8 thoughts on “It’s Not Glamo(u)rous. Just Essential.

  1. 640K should be enough for anyone…

    You’ll likely have a massive variation in requirements from staff and students alike – so many factors come into play: Are they heavy users? Do they want to store revisions or just final versions? Are they working with video/graphics? etc…

    One solution would be to plan for easy and fast expansion – you can promise a reasonable/high amount and bank on the majority of your users not using it to anything near capacity. Think Gmail/most webhosts. If you’re going to have a reasonably large user base then statistics will be your friend and help you predict future requirements.

    Try this: http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/

  2. Hmm, my current documents folder is 1.85GB. No movies. No music. No personal pictures. My current “math_teaching” folder alone has 667.1 MB. Then again, I’m kind of skeptical of the cloud and keep local copies of everything. I also host my school website (and associated uploads) offsite, so these figures don’t include those files.

    Our school allows us 2.5 GB of server space per teacher. This doesn’t include the shared server space.

    I have no idea how you’d figure this out for a whole school. I hope my data helps. I’d like to hear what you finally decide upon (and how).

    Jackie Ballarinis last blog post..Why not both?

  3. Hi Bud.

    Recently one of our teachers filled up his 750 MB limit. I think it now has been increased to 1 GB (1000 MB) for him. That seemed like a temporary fix and reminded me of a program that one of my students wrote in Java. Since he wanted to use arrays, he allocated a certain size that the array could become. Then, when it ran out of room, he had the program automatically create a new array that was twice as large. When that one filled up–again, a new array twice as large as that one.

    I think some kind of system where a set level for most users is sufficient, yet with some kind of exponential growth potential for those that legitimately need it–maybe something like that would be best.

    Thousands of text files = one Windows Bitmap file.

  4. I would suggest a move away from expensive, proprietary network storage systems …they get old quickly and are expensive to administer and update. When it comes to adding fiber/SATA disks to expand storage, it can get extremely expensive very fast. At my previous school we spent 120 K on a Dell storage SAN thinking we got a great deal…but it was crazy expensive to add more storage (it was kind of a razor/razor blade thing). Also, even with a $120 K storage solution our students were still had 60 MB quotas and our teachers had 1 GB quotas.

    You’re much, much better off utilizing the massive storage that comes on individual computers now…buy everyone in your district a terabyte external disk like this one for backups and save yourself the expense of crazy expensive network storage systems: http://www.buy.com/prod/cavalry-1tb-usb-2-0-external-hard-drive-cavalry-usb-2-0-external-hard/q/loc/101/206746682.html

    Take all that money you’ll save by avoiding an expensive LAN network storage system and spend it on bandwidth.

    ~Matt

    Matt Montagnes last blog post..Acer Aspire One in the House!

  5. Stay away from expensive LAN storage systems…you get very, very little bang for your buck with these proprietary SAN storage solutions and they’re extremely expensive to support and maintain.

    Several years ago at my old school we ended up puchasing a Dell SAN for 120K…for this kind of cost one would think we could set quotas higher than 60 MB for students and 1 GB for teachers that we ended up with. Additional blade modules for storage were extremely expensive (we were stuck with a razor/razor blade proposition).

    You’d be much, much better off harnessing the local storage capacity of your teacher computers and having them back up to external drives. You can pick up 1 TB drives for less than $100. For 20K you can pick up 200 TB of storage…you’ll never be able to acquire this much storage on the network side for a reasonable cost.

    Combine this with a google apps network and other web applications and you’re good to go. Use all the money you’ll save by avoiding the expensive LAN storage solution and buy more bandwidth.

  6. What about using a standard inflation model. Start with a set amount of storage space in year one, and then increase by 3-5% per year. You can budget, and then as costs of storage continue to come down, the budget works in your favor as storage costs less each year.

    Bens last blog post..Saying Goodbye…

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