Miramichi school district turns to D-Link for more network power

With 21 schools and three alternatives sites to serve in rural and small urban centres in New Brunswick, including 436 teachers, 7,000 English-speaking students and 600 First Nations students, geography is a challenge for School District 16 in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick.

Geography, however, isn’t limiting the district’s commitment to providing a rich technology experience to its students. Every classroom has a SmartBoard connected to projectors and an infrared sound system, classroom computers, and every school has a Polycom conference facility. Classes are also taught in sound and video editing using programs such as Adobe Creative Suite.

As well, with a small IT staff to serve a very diverse district, tools to facilitate remote management and remote software installation have become a necessity.

It all adds up to a need for a lot of network throughput said Kelly Jacques, information systems manager for School District 16. Already a long-term D-Link Canada customer, Jacques said they’d reached the limits of their 10/100 megabit switches.

“We’ve had a lot of success with D-Link equipment and weren’t looking to change that,” said Jacques. “But we were at a crossroads were we were creating images to run Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite and other applications that were over 8GB in size.”

That was becoming increasingly time-consuming on their old network, causing Jacques to turn to D-Link’s XStack 3400 series, which offered 10GBps as well as redundant connections so if one switch fails, the whole network doesn’t come down.

The increased throughput has allowed Jacques to move to a new remote management tool as well, moving from IBM’s Remote Deployment Manager to an open source application called Fog.

While before he would have to upload each image, which at 30 images of 8GB each could take awhile, now he can push out the image to all 30 computers at once, and have them connected to the network in just 17 minutes.

“That’s really great for us because we just don’t have the time to image computers one at a time,” said Jacques.

To help upgrade its network, Jacques turned to MicroAge Bathurst, a local D-Link Canada solution provider. Kevin Levy, business account manager with MicroAge Bathurst, said they’ve been a D-Link reseller for 15 years, almost since they entered the market, and they’ve played in the public sector space for 10 years now.

“For the public sector, D-Link offers a very good pricing alternative to other products in the market,” said Levy. “(With others) we had to pay for support and firmware upgrades and buy maintenance. D-Link’s next-day replacement and firmware are free, so there’s tremendous value here.”

MicroAge Bathurst has worked with School District 16 for eight years, but as a public sector organization, Levy said every year they re-evaluate their purchasing, and D-Link consistently emerges as the best value for money.

“D-Link makes an effort to give excellent education pricing that has been unmatched,” said Levy. “It’s the ability of the new XStack switches to stack and allow the number of users with a fibre channel backbone that gives them the speed they require now, and for future needs.”

Selling in the public sector is a very competitive arena, said Levy. While in the private sector you can meet with people and develop relationships, in the public sector there’s a strict tendering process.

“The bidding process allows vendors from across the country to tender, but our main focus is to give knowledge, value and pricing,” said Levy. “With tendering, dollar value is usually the final determinate, and usually over the years that has favoured D-Link.”

The education space is one of the key verticals D-Link Canada is looking to focus on as part of its vertical-oriented channel strategy said Nick Tidd, D-Link Canada general manager and North American channel manager for D-Link.

“The opportunity for our partners here is tremendous,” said Tidd. “We see a constantly changing and evolving vertical market with wireless solutions, teleconferencing, physical security and IP cameras, and video.”

With its product range and its partner base, Tidd said D-Link is one of the few vendors with the breadth of technology to deliver solutions across that range, whereas with other vendors, a reseller would need to engage multiple manufacturers.

“It’s growing every day. The partner community is gravitating to us more every day as we come forward with case studies like this, and, frankly, a number of them are shocked,” said Tidd. “When you look at the complexity of the network in Miramichi, it really causes the partner community to pause, and say there is something with this vendor I need to take a look at.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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