CHALLENGES: Saint Francis needed an effective way to distribute educational content to 1,800 iPad devices, whether users were on or off campus.
RACKSPACE SOLUTION: Rackspace Cloud Files
BUSINESS OUTCOME: Cloud Files have allowed Saint Francis to successfully deploy their one-to-one iPad program, enriching the educational experience for students and teachers alike.
Saint Francis High School is a college preparatory, coed Catholic school in Mountain View, California. In 2012, the school initiated a one-to-one program that loans an iPad to each of its 1,700 students and 100 teachers for the school year. Students now use their iPad devices for everything, from providing dynamic feedback in class to creating presentations, annotating static documents, and making movies.
When mounting this ambitious program, Saint Francis’ Technology Services Department grappled with the problem of how to distribute content to 1,800 iPad devices most effectively. The solution? Rackspace Cloud Files.
One of the major dilemmas presented by the one-to-one program was that students and teachers would be using their iPad devices both on campus and at home. This meant that the technology services department had to think strategically about content distribution.
Technology director Larry Steinke explains, “We knew that users would be on campus sometimes and at home sometimes, so we couldn’t guarantee that they would be using our high-speed network to download content locally. Whether we had the files on-site and they got them from home or we put the files off-site and had them download them on-site, it would mess up our Internet bandwidth.”
Saint Francis needed a solution that would allow off-site users to download files from an off-site host and onsite users to download files locally. “We decided we needed to divide and conquer,” Steinke says. “We did two things: we set up an on-site caching solution so that files accessed from the Internet would be cached locally, and then we chose Rackspace to host the files off-site.”
Saint Francis had previously hosted dedicated servers at Rackspace and had an excellent experience. “Rackspace had come recommended very highly from somebody I respected,” Steinke says. “We used their services for three years, and they were flawless, but we didn’t continue further because it didn’t match our business needs at that time. When this project started, we didn’t look at other solutions. My positive experiences with Rackspace in the past led me right back to them.”
Initially, Steinke set up a Cloud Server, but a colleague who’d looked into Cloud Files saw that it better suited the school’s needs. “He saw that it was an easier, faster solution,” Steinke says. “It did exactly what we needed and fit very nicely with what we were trying to accomplish. I decommissioned the server I’d created, and we’ve been using Cloud Files ever since.”
How does the system work? Steinke explains, “If someone is on-site and they download files that we’ve distributed through our iPad management software, they’re getting them from our caching appliance—but really they’re coming from Rackspace as a point of origin. If they’re at home and choose to download content, they’re getting it from Rackspace as well. Rackspace is our single point of distribution for providing content, applications, and things of that nature to over 1800 iPad devices. It’s really become a central part of our solution.”
Saint Francis uses Cloud Files in tandem with mobile-device-management software JAMF. “Their solution allows us to decide which iPad devices get certain icons or certain applications. If my colleague across the room here decides that I’m supposed to get something on my desktop, I’ll turn on my iPad and either it’s going to be there on the glass or it’ll show up in an application called Self Service, which is our internal app store. I hit “Install All” and it installs all of the apps that I don’t currently have, and they’re available to me within moments.”
Cloud Files’ reliability and ease-of-use made for a smooth transition into the program, especially in the beginning. Steinke says, “At the beginning of the year, when 1,700 kids were each downloading 40 applications and other files at the same time—I was happy to use someone else’s bandwidth and technology to do that. If we’d used a small on-site server and distributed them over the Internet, I think the first week of school would have been unproductive, with everybody stuck trying to download things. Having some extra resources for that really helped out.”
With an entire school relying on technology to get them the content they need, when they need it, Steinke appreciates Fanatical Support®. “My experiences with Rackspace support have been 100% positive,” he says. “This truly sets Rackspace apart. If my questions are really technical, I am confident I can get routed to a suitable support person to get answers. They always know more than I know... about everything!”
Thanks in part to Cloud Files, Steinke says, “Our iPad program has been a great success. Our teachers and students are more creative than ever and have been using the tools and apps provided to demonstrate engagement across the board. Nearly every instructor is using the iPad devices for dynamic activities and ways of sharing information in ways we could only dream of a few years ago. Students are making movies and collaborating on files such as lab reports and group projects more than ever. The one-to-one program has really had a positive impact on our school environment.”
What would Steinke say to schools interested in deploying similar programs? Steinke says, “Many other schools in our area are looking at similar programs, and eventually they come across the same questions that we encountered last year, how to manage all of this data. We recommend Rackspace, and we’ll continue to do so.”
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