Important Information for all Staff about new email accounts

For release: June 14, 2018

Addressing Privacy Issues:  This is an exciting time in our district’s technology update process. We have been working hard to make our systems more secure and to improve compliance with BC provincial privacy laws. One of the steps in that process is switching our e-mail from the Google platform to Office 365. The reason for this switch is that Microsoft has secured a server in Ottawa that allows us to keep all of our correspondence and files within Canada and therefore not subject to the U.S. Patriot Act.  

All SD64 staff will be provided a new email account with a domain at sd64.org before June 30, 2018.  During the coming school year and in the future, all professional exchanges between school district staff, as well as the storage or sharing of documents containing student performance or other information about students will be stored and shared in Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite or other compliant platform.  Google mail, drive and documents will no longer be an acceptable storage or sharing tool.  District calendars and systems will be converted to the Office 365 Suite. 

Moving Forward:  A huge thank you to the Fernwood staff for assisting in examining the Office 365 tools this spring.   Moving forward, our team of technicians and educators will be available to assist you to set up your devices with your new e-mail address, and to forward e-mails from your Gmail account to your new one (leaving a copy in your Gmail account archive.   In each of the next two weeks, an update will be emailed to your current email address responding to questions that you may have, including, “What do I do with my many documents and systems set up in the Google Suite?”     

Microsoft’s Office 365 is also know as “O 365”.  Features include: 

  • Can be used online to share and collaborate 
  • Can also be used offline to compose, edit and store 
  • Contains familiar apps such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook Mail and Calendar 
  • Has comparable tools to Google Suite such as One Drive that facilitates storing and sharing online 

You will find Microsoft Office 365 will be a robust tool to support learning that complies with BC’s stringent privacy laws. 

Next Week’s Update 

  • Responding to Frequently Asked Questions 
  • How to address useful documents and processes currently in the Google Suite  

Please address any questions you have to cnuyens@sd64.org with a Subject of “O365 Questions”. 

Change always has challenging aspects, and this will be no different.  Working through them together we can address the challenges and make adjustments as needed. 

Best regards as we wrap up our work with students for the 2017-18 school year .
 

Doug Livingston, Director of Instruction – Learning Services 

The Holidays are here!

It seems crazy to think that today is the first day of winter. As I sat in my work van waiting for the Bowen Queen to dock at one of our more remote schools (Saturna Island), it dawned on me that it felt like only yesterday I was biking the local mountains in the peak of summer.

I suppose it will be spring before we know it. It’s been a really great start to the school year for our tech team. Whenever we think there’s an end in sight for all the work we’ve done, there’s always a guarantee of something new. We now move into infrastructure project mode – aka.. all those projects you don’t have time to do during the work week when your infrastructure needs to be online and working for the masses. While it’s also time for us to relax & enjoy time with family and friends, it’s a rewarding time for our team to look back & reflect on a year of success and overcoming massive obstacles.

Here’s to the new year. Thanks for everything, 2017!

What we’ve been up to!

It’s been a little while since we’ve shared any updates.

While you may see us running around in and out of schools, what happens behind the scenes? Lots!

We’re thrilled to confidently say this fall has been one of the best for our team – the time and investment into our infrasturucture has paid off for our team & helped our students & staff stay connected reliably to local and online resources.

We’ve been implementing a significant number of improvements to our Wifi system – something which we’ve seen great results from in terms of bandwidth and reliability. We’ve been learning and implementing a feature called ‘network shaping.’ Simply put, we can focus our users experience towards apps that encourage learning – rather than things that detract (Facebook video streaming, gaming, social media). We’ve also tuned our Student & Staff wifi networks appropriately to ensure these changes represent their users needs.

Our team has also been focusing on security and redundancy of our data, records, student data & backups.

The big focus this fall has also been around security. With so much focus in the IT world on becoming security focused, we’ve taken pre-emptive steps to ensure our network, the devices & infrastructure is patched, updated & we have appropriate security policies on our firewalls & servers. The world of IT is ever evolving, so must we.

We’re thrilled to be a part of such a unique & wonderful district, we welcome the challenges & projects our team tackles on a daily basis. Here’s to another fall school startup!

But… it was summer yesterday!

Fall certainly has moved in quickly. It was just last week I was hiking, biking & enjoying the beautiful sunny fall days of +20C. Long gone are those days. I woke up this morning to frost & slight snowfall/slush.

It’s been a relatively smooth back to school – we had a number of infrastructure projects over the summer – many of which involved replacing aging old servers, switches & backup systems. Our high school was our crowning acheievement – we were finally able to retire the 8+ years old server that was running file services, student data & more. What a difference new technology makes!

Additionally, we updated a wealth of items in our datacenter. We’ve addressed heating & airflow to ensure our server rack is being efficiently cooled. We’ve also installed a new, taller 60U server rack to handle years of further expansion.

All in all, a great summer full of projects. Looking forward to continuing improvements going into fall/winter.

Summer Projects

Summer break is around the corner!

That means it’s goodbye to the 2016-17 school year! It’s been an amazing year full of new challenges, adventures, learning opportunities & more. While this is generally the ‘busy’ time of year for our tech team, it’s also an opportunity to vacation, explore the great outdoors & enjoy that awesome weather!

To ensure our staff who will be working in some of our schools over the summer keep updated, we’ll be both posting online & emailing to advise of any possible outages. This is the only time of year our team has the opportunity to make those ‘big’ improvements we weren’t able to do during the school year. We’ve got a lot of exciting new upgrades planned to help further our growth of mobile devices, including iPads & Chromebooks. Additionally, we’re furthering our support to strengthen our BYOD (bring your own device) policy. This translates into a more efficient network, faster speeds & quicker access to the tools you need to get the job done!

We hope, above all, everyone has a wonderful break. Remember to get outdoors & make some memories. We look forward to seeing everyone in the fall!

-The SD64 Tech Team

Security Update

With news of ransom ware late last week hitting big systems and corporations around the Globe, our team investigated the possible impact on our district and servers.

It’s been advised to our team from the Ministry to implement a series of updates on our servers around the district to ensure the latest vulnerabilities have been patched. Additionally, we’ve taken precautions to ensure our datacentre & school firewalls are also running the versions of Wildfire (built in anti virus) & security policies to protect against attacks like this.

As always, we encourage all users to regularly update their passwords for their personal accounts, email and online resources. Additionally, never click on links from senders you do not recognize. We encourage our staff to keep their antivirus updated – and to inform our tech team of any concerns they may have.

Thank you.

NGN is complete!

After what seemed like a project that never ended, our district has finally transitioned our last site Windsor House and completed the transition to our Next Generation Network.

For those of you who’ve been following our journey, this marks a large milestone for our team in having all our school sites upgraded to a faster, more reliable fibre network. The journey hasn’t been without hurdles & challenges, but we’re pleased to be on the other side.

For those who haven’t followed our journey, or have no idea what an ‘NGN’ is.. it’s been a nearly two year process to upgrade our school sites from their aging ADSL internet connections to fibre. Additionally, new hardware & configurations now allow our tech team to use sophisticated monitoring tools & remote diagnostics to assist. This also allowed us the chance to master plan and built a brand new datacentre that securely houses our servers that run our whole network.

We’re very proud to have finally crossed the finish line and move into newer projects. Who knows what the future will bring!

-The tech team

We have a new home!

In playing with some of the capabilities of our new datacentre during late summer, we saw an opportunity to move to a new ‘local’ platform hosted right here on Salt Spring turf.

So, without further ado.. *drumroll* Our new SD64 HelpDesk! Although it’s still very much in beta/testing.

Our hope is that our users will have access to resources and information faster by having things hosted locally – and remove reliance on third parties hosting our websites halfway across the globe.

We’ve got a long road & lots of work left to do.. but we’re excited to see what happens over the next few months as we develop this new platform.

Wow, it’s Fall again!

Wow, what a summer it’s been!

    To say our tech team has been busy has been an understatement! Although we all got some great Holiday adventures fit between our busy projects, we also hit a number of big milestones this summer.

First off, we have successfully transitioned all but one of our school sites to the new NGN Network. In addition, our 2 biggest sites, Salt Spring Middle School & Gulf Island Secondary, are worth noting of finally joining the new network.

Secondly, we assisted in moving & wiring our new Windsor House school site in North Vancouver. They’ll be starting their school year with a fast new network, a new fleet on notebooks & speedy Wi-Fi.

Thirdly, we worked with our partners at JAMF Software to setup our new Mobile Device Management server for our iPad users, which will allow downloading and updating of iPads to be a smoother and easier experience… more on this soon.

We also finished a number of smaller, invisible refinements across the district, including our new redundant backup system for all our servers. This will act as the new central way to protect and ensure the privacy of our district data. We’ve also optimized Wi-Fi across all our school sites, and based on your feedback, improved many of the weak spots or dead zones in classrooms. We’ve improved wiring, labeling & cooling in many of our wiring closets and server racks, as well. These changes will improve reliability & performance.

Additionally, we’ve completed work on the labs in your schools as well, ensuring updates & antivirus, browsers, etc are all working top notch.

We’re heading back into the 2016/17 school year and feeling more confident than ever – thank you to everyone for supporting us the past year and a half through these big projects. We couldn’t have done it without your support!

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