How open source saved a school district's IT department

California district slashes expenses, improves productivity with open source software

Thin clients not only save power and energy, they prevent kids from messing with the systems by installing programs behind the firewall, while allowing them to save homework with flash drives, Carver said.

The district also burned the Novell edition of OpenOffice onto CDs, sending the disks home with students so their homework files would be compatible with systems at school.

Carver said she hasn't run into any major technical problems with open source software, though she initially faced a challenge convincing teachers to use programs like OpenOffice.

"Most people come from [schools using] Microsoft," Carver said. "You get a fight in the beginning, and once they're using it, they love it."

Carver was a fifth-grade teacher immediately before coming to Windsor, and has experience as a network administrator and contractor for Apple, IBM, Wells Fargo and Chevron.

Carver has some advice for IT executives considering open source: "research, research, research," she says.

For Windsor, it was a year of "analyzing the cost, analyzing the savings, my IT time, my staff time, our uptime, our down time, and our security," she says.

In related activities, Windsor upgraded from DSL to a fiber network, and hired a local business to perform off-site backup.

Carver would like to expand her use of open source, but says there are numerous proprietary applications schools in general must use.

"I don't want to deal with [renewals] every year and I don't want to use most of my budget to pay for licenses," she said.

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