This is part five of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide”, then “Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment”, followed by “Windows 8 in Education: setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in education” and finally “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Guide for BYOD in Education”.
The Windows 8 deployment guide for education
This guide contains advice on how to deploy Windows 8 in education – covering the technical aspects that an IT team will need to know to easily and securely deploy Windows 8 to existing and new computers in a school, TAFE or university. There are a number of key deployment strategies discussed, including deploying standard images on every machine, and light-touch or zero-touch Windows 8 deployments. Even if you have been deploying Windows computers for years, and have a standard mechanism that you’ve used successfully for all of that time, I would still recommend reviewing the alternative mechanisms that have been developed for Windows 8, to ensure that your chosen model is still the most efficient – for both your IT team, and for your users. This is especially critical in a world where users have an expectation of more individual control over their devices, their choice of software, and their modes of use. The way you choose to deploy Windows 8 to your users is going to be one of the first decisions which could ultimately decide how happy your users are with the IT system that you provide – and that’s becoming more key as teaching staff have increasing control over their own use of technology, and whether or not they use your corporate systems.
As an aside, I used to work for an organisation where the IT team had so tightly controlled what users did, that the impact was that users increasingly ended up building an alternative IT system through a combination of mobile devices and mobile internet services – the upshot was that IT had significantly less visibility and control of users’ activities than if they’d had given users a little more control and flexibility in the first place. And when your users are switching to using third-party web services for their day-to-day activities, you give up huge amounts of control. I’ve heard of scenarios of teaching staff bringing servers into their classroom to allow their students to use collaborative environments, because the IT system provided centrally blocks access to the apps and web-based servers they want to use. The lesson for me from this is that sometimes IT’s insistence on too much control actually leads to radically less control!
The three primary methods for deploying Windows 8 in education
You can install Windows 8 onto devices within your institution in many ways. Although deployment strategies for enterprise customers typically apply to educational deployments too, certain requirements make educational deployments unique. All educational environments need to provide not only for administrative staff but also for teachers and students, each of whom has special requirements for their computing environment. Historically, many education users have chosen to deploy a single image to their computers which includes the operating system, all the required application software, drivers and updates. However, the recommended strategy now is to deploy a ‘thin image’ which includes the operating system only, and then to deploy applications, drivers and updates after the initial deployment.
Either way, you then need to pick one of three primary methods for deploying Windows 8:
- Manual installation
- Image-based deployment
- Automated installation
This deployment guide for education talks you through each option, including which tools are available from Microsoft to help you make it easier, and the factors that will help you decide between the options available. The four strategies discussed are:
- High-touch, with retail media
- High-touch, with a standard image
- Lite-touch, for higher volume deployments
- Zero-touch, for very high volume deployments
To pick the right one, you’ll need to consider how many computers you are deploying to, where your computers are based, what skills are available in the team doing the deployment, which of the combination of free and licensed Microsoft deployment software you have/want to use, and whether or not you’ll also be deploying standard applications at the same time.
For each option, the Windows 8 deployment guide for education then steps you through the things you’ll need, the decisions you will have to make, and the steps to take – and provides a deep set of reference materials for you to use.
The final chapter also guides you through the tools available for managing institution-owned computers, so that you can see the benefits, limitations and requirements of each option – and so helping you with the ongoing lifecycle management of your IT systems.
Pretty obviously, this guide isn’t for everybody – it’s really the thing that will light up the faces of the IT team as they dive down into what quickly becomes an acronym-lovers guide to IT (if you get excited about whether to choose between ADBA, KMS or MAK for Windows activation, this guide’s for you!). But the authors have done a great job of providing good overviews, without throwing too much detail too quickly; and then they have also provided reference links to much deeper detail.