The Calgary Catholic School District IT team cut the resolution time for common technical issues from hours to a few minutes by using Elastic.
With the move to Elastic Cloud on AWS, the district was able to streamline financial planning and enable the IT team to adopt an operational expenditure model.
Elastic Cloud improves operational efficiency and security to ensure uninterrupted access to learning systems
Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) is one of the oldest and largest school districts in Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1885, it has a staff of 5,400 and educates 56,000 children in 117 schools spanning kindergarten through high school. Students of all ages benefit from the use of information technology in the forms of software or web-based learning tools and computer hardware including laptops, tablets, and PCs.
CCSD also relies on technology for its school information systems and day-to-day business processes. All of CCSD’s systems and applications are supported by an IT team of around 60 people which presented challenges around scaling for the future.
Meyer and his team are responsible for managing all devices, user access, and common productivity tools such as email. On the back end, they also manage server storage, networking, backups, and help desk tools.
One of the biggest challenges the IT team faces is consistently providing secure and available technologies to students, teachers, and administrators. When issues arise, the team must conduct a thorough and swift investigation to correctly identify and resolve the root cause. In the past, they were often reactive instead of proactive as at least one team member had to check multiple systems to diagnose an issue, and each incident could take two to three hours to resolve. For a lean team, it was a significant drain on resources and reduced the time available to improve services for the district.
Meyer and his team researched the market for a solution and became engaged with Elastic's strong user community. They selected Elastic to streamline incident diagnosis and help protect school systems.
CCSD runs its Elastic environment on Elastic Cloud on AWS to improve operational efficiency and eliminate risks from severe weather events and other threats to on-premise deployments. In the past, the organization’s on-premise data center nearly experienced serious damage during a severe flood.
"Luckily, we didn't lose power, but we came close to a major incident. It encouraged us to find cloud-based alternatives wherever possible. Elastic showed us how easy it is to migrate to Elastic Cloud and we made the move without hesitation," says Meyer.
Working with a cloud-based solution also simplifies financial planning.
Elastic Cloud has enabled us to move to a streamlined operational expenditure model. The cost is very reasonable and predictable based on our data use. I'm responsible for a large portion of the IT budget so this makes my life a lot easier.
CCSD's configuration ingests data through Elastic's data processing pipeline that ingests and transforms logs from multiple sources, including the organization's security systems, before sending them to the built-in search and analytics engine. Data visualization dashboards in Elastic also plays a key role by helping the CCSD's technicians easily monitor systems and identify the root cause of a problem so that it can be fixed quickly.
We considered other solutions, but they would have been difficult to operate and maintain, especially for a small team. Other proprietary solutions were too costly. Elastic not only gives us value through excellent ease of use and fast detection and resolution speeds, but also provides dedicated support that guarantees optimal performance.
With Elastic in place, the IT team developed a 'single pane of glass' management console that collects all information about an end-user from the Elastic database.
Instead of sending two or three people to track down the cause of a problem, a helpdesk technician can simply enter a name and the system returns all needed information such as the device, access point, the number of faulty log-in attempts, and so on. Fixes used to take hours. With Elastic, they now take a few minutes.
This result has had a positive impact on students and teachers. If a teacher experiences technical issues at the start of an hour-long lesson, they can be back on track in minutes instead of having to recalibrate the entire period. Security issues can also be addressed with minimum disruption, ensuring that students and teachers can study and teach in a protected environment.
Elastic provides a huge amount of training and educational materials that give team members the confidence to quickly jump on problems and resolve them. It means that everyone from technicians to senior analysts understands their role and can play an active part in helping students and teachers.
The IT department benefits enormously from Elastic's flexible support packages. "Relationships are key for Calgary Catholic. We're a small team so we don't have a lot of time to be changing relationships and moving to new platforms quickly. When we make decisions we focus on the long term and pick really good partners – and that's what Elastic has proven to be so far. Our account manager has been a big part of that too. He's always on the ball responding to me and my team and getting us answers quickly," says Meyer.
He recalls one incident where the account manager immediately set up a call with an Elastic engineer. "The engineer walked our team through the issue and helped them fine-tune our Elastic environment. The fact that we can get assistance so quickly saves us considerable resources in the long run," says Meyer.
In the future, Meyer sees enormous potential to connect more of the organization's systems to the Elastic database. The more that are connected, the greater the potential for the IT team to proactively manage the learning environment and business systems.