Arizona MSP handles student storage

An Arizona-based managed service provider is tackling the storage needs for the all of the students in the state. With more than 800,000 kids and teachers learning online, the company needed automated storage management.

No more teachers, no more books.

Conventional means of learning the three R's just went out the window in the state of Arizona, and now more than 880,000 students are getting assignments, taking tests and learning their lessons through a set of desktop applications made possible through managed services and some automated storage management software.

As part of an initiative called Arizona Students First, a new Internet-based education system will be delivered by a collaborative dubbed the Cox Education Network.

The Arizona School Facilities Board awarded a $27.9 million Application Service Provider (ASP) contract to Cox Business Services and its three major providers -- KPMG Consulting Inc.; LearningStation Inc., an educational ASP and content aggregator; and Ensynch Inc., an Arizona managed solutions and education technology services provider.

Ensynch gets the hard part.

Its responsibilities include managing the data center that hosts all the applications and storage -- all of which adds up to about 15T to 20T Bytes of data.

Gene Holmquist, president of Ensynch, said the storage management software in his Tempe data center was being stretched to its limits and, with the addition of the new project, his team needed to automate recurring, daily operations like backup.

"We were using some utilities from Veritas to back our servers up, but we hit critical mass," said Holmquist. "We recently installed a large disk farm from Procom [Technology] and we were looking for automated backup services.

Holmquist went to the bigger software players like Veritas Software Inc., and Legato Systems Inc., but in the end he chose a product called NetVault from San Diego, Calif.-based BakBone Software Inc.

"The other vendors were very firm on price," he said. "From a business perspective it was an easy decision and technically our guys were comfortable with it."

He said NetVault had device support for the NDMP data from its Procom storage systems as well as miscellaneous filers. Also, it supported the more than 250 servers in a mixed operating environment.

The end result? After a being trained by BakBone, Ensynch has one person running daily backup operations between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to satisfy the company's service level agreements with its customers.

The ASP will host school and teacher Websites, provide e-mail services for staff and students, and can provide student information management systems, student assessment tracking systems, and teacher resource management systems.

There is one downside to homework in the age of the Internet. Some students will be forced to work harder than ever at coming up with excuses for missed assignments. "The dog ate my hard disk" might not work on technology savvy teachers.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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