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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taming the password beast

What is my password for Google Apps? What is my username for Schoology?  

We all live with the pain of trying to remember usernames and passwords every day and the problem is getting exponentially worse. Schools are adopting applications for staff and students at a record pace, and with every adopted application the username and password pain train grows worse. 
The Clever Login Screen

Now picture our youngest learners, who increasingly have to sign in to access educational resources. For them, remembering user credentials and typing them in correctly can be a time consuming exercise in aggravating frustration. Now multiply this times a classroom full of students, and it’s enough to drive a teacher insane. The amount of instructional time wasted on logging in is immense and there seems to be no end in sight. 

Schools need solutions to the login mess, so they can focus on learning, rather than flushing expensive classroom time down the drain, as students try to get logged in to applications. The fastest moving new entrant to the K-12 market is Clever, which is rapidly expanding their portal based SSO to be the front-end solution for districts to simplify username and password management. Other more complex and versatile systems, like Stoneware webNetwork, can also help schools tame the password beast and get students and staff focused on what really matters. I’m sure we’ll see more of these solutions unveiled at next week’s ISTE conference!

 This blog entry is cross posted with the great folks at SchoolCIO

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The best purchase we have made in recent years – iSupport. Taking help desks to another level

In a previous post I mentioned the need for overworked school IT staff of a top notch help desk system.  I also laid out what my staff and I felt were the major features we needed from a system to help our staff provide better and more efficient service to our customers.

I usually shy away from writing outright product recommendations, but given how great of a product we ended up with, I wanted to be sure and share this with other school districts and any other growing IT department that has needs that go beyond a basic help desk ticketing system.

After many months of requirements gathering, web research, and product demos, we ended up selecting our new service desk, iSupport.  iSupport is only in the business of selling and supporting their awesome help desk offering.  They do  one thing and they do it extremely well.  And lest you think they stole the name from that other “i” company, iSupport has been in the help desk business a very long time and focuses on making a very good product better with every release.

I am not going to get into the feature set of the product – let me just say it is robust and more configurable than almost any product I have ever seen.  There is almost always a way to make this system fit your needs and processes.  And if you can’t figure it out, the BEST tech support I have received is just a phone call away.  If you want to know about features and functions, try visiting their site, requesting a trial, or perusing some of their Youtube videos.

Our implementation of iSupport is not done – we have a great start with incident management, a parts store, parts charging, knowledgebase, end user portal, automated reporting, and several custom incident templates, email notifications, and more.  Next up we are looking to roll out a service catalog and purchasing handbook.  The great part is that we are able to move almost all of our customer interaction right into iSupport, so that they only have one place to go when in need of assistance.  At the end of the day, proving our customers the best service possible is our goal, and iSupport is helping us to do that better.

This blog entry is cross posted with the great folks at SchoolCIO