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Weigh In: How do you deal with growing bandwidth needs?

Districts use the cloud, go fiber-optic, and block ads, among other tactics.

On the Edge
"We feel like we're teetering on the edge of having enough bandwidth," says Julie Carter, executive director of technology at Minnetonka Public Schools in Minnesota.

"We're at a 120-meg connection and we have points in the day where we rise very close to that. We have a consortium that several districts around the state use as their ISP and we're transitioning toward an unmeasured level of service because of the growing demand from surrounding districts.

"A lot of the banner ads we're blocking so they're not taking up bandwidth. We're not prioritizing at this time. We're shaping that bandwidth traffic just because we still have a little bit of growth room on that 120 mark. We don't feel like we're coming to a halt and saying no to YouTube."

Conserve and Thrive

"We believe we're going to be in a deficit very soon," says Rich Hug, director of technology and communications at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District in southeastern Pennsylvania.

"We're getting more bandwidth through our main Internet provider, a regional fiber-optic network, and also conserving bandwidth. Each school has business-class broadband. We're using Comcast as a secondary connection. It's fairly inexpensive, maybe $100 a month, and, depending on the setup, we're getting 8 to 15 megabytes per site.

"We're looking at our cloud applications—which ones are vital and which ones are not. When we find ones that don't have any educational value, we are blocking those.

"We're also monitoring our heavy users, looking out for hot spots where we may need to [prioritize applications]. For instance, we may have to make sure our Gmail has a priority over YouTube."

Sharing Fiber

"We never have enough bandwidth, but we've done the best we can to accommodate our bandwidth needs," says Sherry McVay, technology director at DeWitt Public Schools, just outside Lansing, Michigan.

"We've done a lot of things. We share our bandwidth with three districts through a fiber network that we built more than 10 years ago. It goes all the way to Central Michigan University and allows us to have burstable connectivity. We purchase our bandwidth from one of the largest service providers for school districts in the state—we can tap into its bandwidth.

"We've prioritized bandwidth as something in the budget that's required. Now we're looking at equipment that will do 10 gigs. There's a constant push and pull as to how much of that we can afford and when we put it into place, but we're certainly keeping that as part of our plan for the future."

Scalable Solution

"We currently have enough bandwidth because we've chosen a very scalable solution to accommodate our needs," says Bailey Mitchell, chief technology information officer at Forsyth County Schools in Georgia.

"When we tripled our connection over the past two years, we built in a provision for scalability with our providers so that we could simply make a phone call and ask that the volume be turned up to accommodate our needs. We updated our equipment to maximize the efficiency and use of the Web resources we subscribe to across three different connections.

"It's a balance of ‘What's the size of my Internet connection and do I have well-tuned, functional equipment in place to maximize the browsing experience?'

"In the process of tripling the Internet connectivity, we put those contracts back out to bid. We got three times more for the same price."

—Late Fall 2012—

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