We teach our children to share and if we remember to ‘walk our own talk’ technology sharing can save us an enormous amount of money. Some states have formalized technology cooperatives called Educational Service Agencies or BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services), others do not. If you do not have a technology cooperative in your area, think about starting one.*
1. Cooperative bidding and purchasing. Instead of asking for pricing for a small purchase of computers for your district, combine your purchase with the other districts in your cooperative. Will the price be cheaper if you are offering to purchase 3,000 computers or 300 computers? The same concept holds true for negotiating pricing for other equipment, software, and services. Join together and build ‘Economies of Scale’ and reap the benefits of ‘Volume Discounts’.
2. Disaster Recovery. Design disaster recovery plans together with other technology cooperative members. Each district can work with another to act as a ‘Hot Site’ to host a partner school district during emergencies. Working together can reduce the cost of ‘renting’ a Hot Site from a private, for profit DR company.
3. Develop a school district site or neutral site as a Network Operations Center for the technology cooperative. The idea here would be to develop a shared Internet ‘On ramp’. The districts in the cooperative would have broadband lines to the shared NOC which would have a large, scalable (hopefully redundant) pipe to the Internet.
This is a conceptual diagram from private industry. Individual schools and districts connect via broadband (red lines) to the shared NOC (cloud -located at a school or neutral facility) and from there are connected to the Internet (lightning bolt).
Why is this a good idea? Once again, by combining all the Internet lines and bandwidth, the cooperative can negotiate lower Internet costs.
Also, once all the schools’ data lines come to one location before going out to the Internet, the NOC can put in a centralized firewall for all the participating districts. The same can be done for Internet filtering, spam filtering, intrusion detection, e-mail virus scanning, etc. Think about the savings both in time, effort, and money that having a centralized firewall, Internet filter, and spam filter would offer, as opposed to maintaining a firewall, filter, and spam filter in every district.
The shared NOC could also securely house Cloud Applications that don’t belong on the public Internet. These might range from web-based SIS and Financial systems to a host of educational applications.
4. Shared trainings, consultants, and keynotes. By pooling training and consulting dollars a technology cooperative would be able to offer PD or hire consultants that would be cost prohibitive for a single district.
5. Mature technology cooperatives may consider joint-hires for specialty positions. Much the same as pooling resources for training, consultants, and keynotes; members of the cooperative can find savings in sharing FTE’s that could not be justified in one district’s individual budget.
The need for sharing is there. The opportunity to share is there. The savings is there. So, how do you get started?
Begin a conversation with your colleagues. Keep it simple. Grow from there. If you need help, contact me.
*Full Disclosure: For many years I directed the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, a non-profit, educational technology consortium of (60) school districts located just north of New York City.
*Also, if you have an educational service agency in your area that is not meeting your needs, take the time to re-engage them so that together you build a more responsive cooperative arrangement. Don’t give up, it’s too important. The dollars you save can be re-allocated to student technology.