Tech Talk: On the Merge

Dec. 1, 2002
Schools should consider merging voice, video and data on one network from a central point.

Convergence technology: what is it? In the simplest terms, it is the merging of voice, video and data on a single network from a central point. It enables all systems to talk to each other.

Educational institutions can save money by merging their systems; it requires less equipment, space and staffing to run. For a long time, these disciplines have been divided, and each group has been apprehensive about crossing boundaries. But now that the technology is merging, can you afford not to get on board?

Issues to consider in moving toward a centralized communications center:

  • Space requirements

    Finding space in an existing facility or constructing new space generally is difficult and expensive. The size of appropriate equipment rooms will vary depending on the quantity and types of communications to be delivered. Standards and practices indicate that the minimum size should be not less than 150 square feet and may range up to 1,000 square feet. Construction estimates for equipment rooms of 150 square feet have been placed at more than $25,000 for new construction, including HVAC and power requirements for the space alone. Multiply this estimated construction cost by the number of buildings and you have a significant number, compared with building one larger centralized space. Add in the need to duplicate equipment, and this number rises rapidly.

  • Standardization

    Standardizing hardware and software can reduce initial and life-cycle costs, reduce acquisition lead time, and improve operational readiness and support.

    Standardization makes support more cost- and time-efficient, and simplifies licensing of simultaneous user software. Schools can train technicians and teachers more easily, and parts and back-up equipment are easier to stock. Such a system will have standard desktop operating systems for workstations, network operating systems and configurations for file servers, and management software that is capable of viewing and controlling all network components.

  • Staffing

    Highly centralized network systems can reduce the number of support staff required by 25 percent. Some new, centralized network-management systems can help control these costs by permitting most operational functions to be handled centrally and reducing the number of people required at each building site.

  • Remote management

    From a management perspective, application deployment often is time-consuming, expensive and difficult to execute. With hundreds of users, the cost of application ownership can spiral out of control. It is far more cost-effective to invest in a centralized system that a few technical support staff members can manage easily than it is to develop individual building systems that are resource-intensive.

The most attractive benefit of centralization is in the area of operating costs. The control of multiple systems from a single location requires less space, fewer technicians, substantially less hardware and software, and makes maintenance more predictable.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Bloomington, Ind., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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