Smart Strategy

Smart Strategy

As its technology needs continue to grow, Meadowbrook Academy relies upon the experts at Verteks for IT services and support.

Technology is playing an ever-larger role in K-12 education as schools seek to engage today’s tech-savvy students. Meadowbrook Academy recognized this trend several years ago, and began developing the IT infrastructure needed to support and enhance its academic programs. Today, the Ocala, Fla., school uses technology extensively in its classrooms, and relies upon Verteks Consulting to keep its IT environment up to date and running smoothly.

Meadowbrook Academy was founded in 1996 as a ministry of Meadowbrook Church, and both organizations relied upon a shared in-house IT team. Over time, that team grew to include multiple help desk technicians, system administrators and managers. Verteks was called in to assist with large projects and complex issues.

The academy began to grow and dramatically increase its use of technology. At the same time, several members of its IT team moved on to other opportunities. The remaining IT staff struggled to keep up with the volume of support requests.

“The academy went from a very small computer lab to a hyper-acceleration of technology initiatives,” said Steve Maze, IT Director, Meadowbrook Church and Academy. “It didn’t take long before we were buried. At one point we had more than 250 open tickets, some of which were very old. We were not keeping ahead of demand for new computer systems, existing computer support and all the things the organization needed.”

Verteks proposed a co-managed IT program in which Verteks would provide remote monitoring and management and help desk support, along with sound advice and guidance. Verteks would serve as an extension of Meadowbrook’s IT team, enabling in-house staff to focus on strategic initiatives.

“It just made good sense,” Maze said. “The academy’s IT needs had outgrown our capabilities by a good measure. It put us in a place where we needed somebody better qualified to come in and help us. Verteks has a strong bench of people who have expertise in every aspect of the IT infrastructure — a sort of ‘brain trust.’ Instead of trying to keep a deep bench on staff, we knew this was the avenue to take.”

On the Front Lines

Verteks set up an end-to-end program that would keep Meadowbrook’s systems running smoothly. Meadowbrook even eliminated its in-house help desk ticketing system, instead relying upon Verteks to track and manage support requests.

“Verteks became the front line,” said Maze. “We presented to our staff that support is going to come from Verteks, not our in-house staff. We explained that there are several different avenues for requesting support — you can call the Verteks help desk or send an email — but you need to follow that process, even if it’s an emergency. It took a while for people to get used to it but it has worked out very well.”

Principal Tina Stelogeannis says that Verteks’ support enables teachers to focus on their students rather than troubleshooting technical problems.

“If our teachers have any IT issues they can contact Verteks and get a response immediately,” she said. “The technicians will even work around class schedules because they know the teachers are instructing. Sometimes they can remote in and troubleshoot issues, which saves us a lot of time.”

Verteks’ support has become increasingly valuable as the school’s technology initiatives have continued to expand. Two years ago, the school began using tablets in its high school classes — first in the 11th and 12th grades, then the following year in the 9th and 10th grades.

“That was a big undertaking and Verteks really helped us out,” said Stelogeannis. “Knowing that we had experts available took the pressure off me administratively because that’s not my area of focus. The folks at Verteks are easy to talk to and always keep me up-to-date. They put every foot forward and burned the midnight oil to help us get it done.

“This year, we’re going to all-digital curriculum for the high school, and their guys have worked hard to get all of it uploaded. They went directly to our publishers to get the information they needed so I could focus on the new school year without worrying about technology questions. That’s one of the special things I really appreciate about them.”

Making Progress

The Verteks team also recommends new technologies that can save money, reduce risk and enhance Meadowbrook’s IT infrastructure. Maze points to data backup and security as two key areas where Verteks’ insight has proven invaluable.

“One of the holes in our infrastructure was a meaningful backup system. In fact, when the Verteks team performed the initial assessment before launching the managed services program, they pointed out that our backups were painfully lacking,” he said. “We had limited our backups to our most important servers but even then we weren’t backing up every server due to the nature of the backup software we were using. Plus, our teachers had all kind of work product stored on their local machines. A hard drive failure would have been a nightmare.

“Verteks helped us develop a strategy for backing up all the teachers’ data onto a server, and then implementing new hardware and software for backing up everything in the data center. We have snapshots going back several months — I was able to restore some critical data for our vice principal because of that.”

When the school’s firewall license came up for renewal, Verteks recommended WatchGuard because it provides more comprehensive security. The WatchGuard solution could be tailored to the school’s needs, such as protecting the tablets and ensuring that students cannot access inappropriate content. Verteks also helped ensure that Meadowbrook was taking appropriate steps to protect credit card data.

Verteks has completed many other projects for Meadowbrook Academy, including implementing a new phone system and consolidating several physical servers onto virtual machines. Through Verteks’ expertise, insight and commitment, the school has developed a robust IT infrastructure capable of supporting its 21st-century education initiatives.

“As more and more of what we do becomes electronic, we have to have ongoing help,” said Stelogeannis. “We could not go where we’re headed with technology without Verteks.”

“So many of the things Verteks does … you can’t really put a number on,” Maze said. “I appreciate the value of what Verteks has brought because we’ve grown tremendously and we’re not slowing down.”