Tech Talk: Remote Control

It seems that the only constant in a network administrator's life is change. Network administrators must manage different and distributed systems. Tasks such as operating system upgrades, software application, maintenance and user management can easily consume a technician's time. Add into the mix network hardware support such as routers, firewalls and switches, and finding a centralized management solution is critical.

Education institutions face this problem. Often they can afford equipment and software, but cannot get adequate funding for staff and technical support.

The potential benefits of centralized IT are tantalizing: a significant drop in ongoing IT costs; increased efficiency; improved management control; and greater standardization.

Many software programs can install software and drivers from miles away via the Internet and a network connection. This process is being applied to technology used in education. Data/video projectors now have built-in network cards and software that enable technicians to change inputs, turn a projector on or off, and check bulb and filter life remotely.

If teachers have a problem, they can call or e-mail a technician who can “take over” the data/video projector remotely and take care of the problem via the data network. If a teacher leaves a projector on, it can be monitored remotely and turned off before the last technician leaves the building. Or, the software can be set up to send out a “turn off” command to all projectors at a specific time each day.

This same remote-management technology also is being applied to IP camera systems; each camera is given an IP address, so the camera can be viewed and managed over the data network. With a total IP camera system, the storage server, recording software and hard drive live with the technician, eliminating the need for digital video recorders (DVRs) in each building and staff to support them. With an IP telephone system, adds, moves and changes that had been done only with a technician on site now can be done remotely.

Other products are beginning to come to the market with remote-management capabilities; one example is an IP intercom paging system that can be scaled to manage hundreds of intercom and paging end-points, regardless of whether they are situated down the hall or across town. The system makes one-way and two-way communications in remote areas possible where phones do not exist. And it can track calls, record conversations and make districtwide announcements.

Remotely managed technology is the wave of the future for schools and universities that want to enhance technical support and personal safety, and simplify local, regional and global communication.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected]. www.kbdplanning.com

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