Does network redundancy have a place in education?

After months of waiting for our telco provider, we finally got our Internet connection speed upgraded from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps. The next phase in upgrading our school’s network involves upgrading our 5 year-old firewall to a new unit. When speaking to different sales engineers, they all asked if we wanted redundant firewalls. I hadn’t really put much thought into it before, but it really makes sense for education.

firewall

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In your typical classroom there are (almost) always spare pencils, paper, textbooks or other learning materials. This way if the student forgets to bring their materials, learning can continue. For our 1:1 laptop program we have spare laptops for students who have forgotten their devices. What if our firewall dies? What if our wireless network controller were to crash? What if our Internet connection goes down for several hours? The answer to all of these is – learning stops.

Is $3,000 too much to spend on a redundant firewall? What about $4,000 for an extra wireless controller? I guess it depends who you ask. District administrators may think so, after all we’ve gotten by without it all these years. Now that we are relying on the Internet for high-stakes testing, online curriculum, and online gradebooks I’d say it’s a small price to pay.

For years now, servers include built-in redundancy to prevent downtime. Most of them had spare power supplies, hot swap hard drives, and RAID controllers to prevent data loss and downtime. Is it fair that we aren’t offering redundancy to our children’s education?

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