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Empowering Education: How OpenText Solutions Transformed Lowell Area Schools - Case Study

by   in Portfolio


In the face of a significant network upgrade, Lowell Area Schools (LAS) were confronted with the imperative task of selecting a platform capable of meeting their evolving needs over the long haul. Eric Stanek, the network administrator for LAS, emphasized the responsibility associated with utilizing taxpayer funds: "When you’re using taxpayer money, you have to look at all the alternatives to make sure you’re making a prudent decision and investing their money wisely." Within the confines of a constrained budget and limited labor resources, LAS, like many other public schools, sought a robust enterprise-level platform that could adapt to their requirements. Stanek underscored the necessity for a solution that demanded minimal IT intervention, stating, "We need a platform that requires minimal attention from IT staff." Such a platform would afford LAS the opportunity to redirect their focus towards enriching the educational experiences of their students and supporting their educators effectively.


Following a meticulous assessment of available options, which encompassed considerations of solutions from Apple and Microsoft, LAS arrived at a resolute conclusion: OpenText stood out as the optimal fit for their unique environment. Eric Stanek expressed their confidence in this decision, stating, "Other solutions couldn’t measure up to what we could achieve with a combination of [...] Open Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise." He further highlighted the pivotal role that factors such as performance, reliability, and total cost of ownership played in their deliberation process. Stanek emphasized, "We get the best of both worlds: the strength of Linux, which offers superior performance and flexibility, along with Novell’s (now part of OpenText) strong track record." Presently, the school system operates a diverse array of applications, including OpenText GroupWise, GWAVA, NetIQ eDirectory by OpenText, and open-source solutions like FreeRADIUS, Squid, and SquidGuard. These applications run seamlessly on a six-node cluster comprising OpenText Open Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Leveraging Xen technology, the school runs multiple Windows-based applications as virtual guests on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server-based machines. Furthermore, the school harnesses the capabilities of OpenText iPrint within Open Enterprise Server to enhance printer accessibility across the entire school system.

Continuing their strategic deployment of OpenText solutions, Lowell Area Schools (LAS) has seamlessly integrated OpenText ZENworks into their infrastructure, revolutionizing endpoint management across their eight campuses. With a sprawling network encompassing 2,000 endpoints, centralized management became paramount for LAS. Eric Stanek attested to the transformative power of ZENworks, stating, “With ZENworks, we can quickly see if a user is having an issue, even before they report it. We can remotely log into their machine to see exactly what’s occurring. And if we can’t resolve the problem quickly, we just reimage the machine and get them back up and running swiftly. Because we spend less time in the field and more time on higher-value tasks, we can be more proactive in a reactive environment.”

The application distribution features of ZENworks have emerged as a boon, particularly within LAS’s computer lab environment. Stanek elucidated, “A user just double clicks and the application installs and configures itself. It’s that easy.” Such streamlined processes not only enhance efficiency but also empower users to access necessary resources promptly.

Moreover, LAS relies on ZENworks' identity-based capabilities to manage user rights effectively. Stanek emphasized the uniformity of experience across various access points, stating, “Regardless of whether a student or teacher is logging in from the classroom, the lab, or home, they’ll see the same environment, based on their role.” This consistency fosters a cohesive user experience while ensuring security and compliance within the school system's digital ecosystem.

In their efforts to maintain network security, LAS utilizes the policy-driven automation functionalities offered by ZENworks. This proactive approach aims to prevent potential risks associated with unauthorized software downloads, thereby ensuring the integrity of the computing environment across the community. Additionally, ZENworks serves as a valuable asset for LAS in analyzing software and hardware usage patterns. By leveraging ZENworks, LAS gains valuable insights that inform their decision-making process for future replacement cycles, optimizing resource allocation within the school system.


Since transitioning to a Linux-based solution, Lowell Area Schools (LAS) has experienced a notable transformation, achieving a more adaptable and dependable platform to meet users' computing requirements. Eric Stanek succinctly captured the impact, stating, “On a budgetary level, our Novell (now part of OpenText) environment is one of the lowest-cost budget items, yet it provides the greatest impact on our users.” LAS has successfully maintained the reliability users expect while significantly reducing costs. Stanek attested to the stability of their network, remarking, “Our network has been extremely stable. It’s like a rock. And because Open Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server enabled us to consolidate from 20 servers to just six, we’ve saved roughly $50,000.”

Furthermore, LAS has positioned itself for future readiness, staying ahead of the curve in exposing students to open-source applications. Stanek emphasized their environment's adaptability, stating, “We now have a readiness for the future. We’re ahead of the curve when it comes to exposing students to open-source applications. Our environment is easily extensible, so we can continue to support new applications to enhance the classroom experience.”

In addition to OpenText solutions, ZENworks has proven immensely beneficial for LAS, increasing uptime while significantly reducing administrative costs. Stanek emphasized the ongoing value of ZENworks, stating, “ZENworks continues to pay for itself every day. It also provides a huge impact to our users, increasing uptime while reducing administrative costs. I think it's the right choice for any school district looking to enhance reliability within a tight budget. ZENworks is truly in a class by itself.”

In summary, LAS has not only achieved cost savings and network stability but has also set a foundation for ongoing innovation and adaptability, ensuring an enriched educational experience for students while optimizing operational efficiency within budgetary constraints.

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