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EdTech Update




« Augmented reality | Main | Big6 and tech skills - revised »

Where are the savings in using GoogleApps?

In a lot of ways, I am a cheap SOB. I hate spending money stupidly. I think it's my taxpayer side that loves GoogleApps for Education as much as my teacher side.

Savings by using Google Apps, really generally moving to a more cloud-based model of providing computer services ? Let me count the ways for our district (7200 students, 800 professional staff, 3000 supported computers in use (1000 staff, 2000 student).

  • No internal mailserver and mail back-up costs (hardware, software, maintenance).$12,000 (We were due for a replacement and running out of storage capacity)
  • No student/staff document file server costs (hardware, software, maintenance). $84,000 (28 servers and server OS at $3000 each on a 5 year replacement.)
  • Less need to upgrade computer OS's since apps are browser-based. $150,000 ($50 upgrade x 3000 computers)
  • Less printing -paper, copiers, toner, printer salaries, etc. $400,000 (Reduction of 20% in photocopying each year.)
  • Less need for commercial productivity tools like Office or iWork (do elementary kids really need these?) and the cost of upgrading to new versions. $100,000 ($50 x 2000 computers)
  • Ability to use lower powered computers (thin clients, netbooks) in more situations and a reduction in number of separate configurations needed for machines. $1,000,000 ($500 lower price of 2000 computers) Eventually resulting in...
  • Reduction in tech support costs. Or more properly stated, slower increase in the need for more tech support. $250,000 ($50,000 position eliminated)
  • Less tangible savings in time, portable storage/transport devices, mailing hard copy documents. Indirect savings to users.
  • More work out of staff members when they are able to conveniently work from home. (I am SUCH an administrator!) Priceless!

These are rough and admittedly optimistic estimates, but I think you can see the general trend. Even if only 50% of my estimated nearly $2M in savings is realized, that averages out to close to $200,000 per year. (Out of a $1.2M budget.) I am not suggesting reducing tech budgets by this amount, but I can sure think of a lot more interesting things (like kids' computers, a more robust wireless network, and more bandwidth) to spend tech dollars on.

Yes, I need to pay $7 a year per administrative, possibily teacher, e-mail account for archiving and retrieval. Not bad, though, considering.

I was intrigued by Miguel Guhlin's suggestion that since GoogleApps has posted that it will require a recent webbrowser (Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above) that it is making some computers obsolete.

Hmmmmm, what sort of computer is needed to run Firefox 3.x? (Forget Explorer, boys and girls - the apps, tools and stuff are so much better for Firefox there is no comparison.) From the Mozilla site:

Windows Operating Systems

  • Windows 2000
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Vista
  • Pentium 233 MHz (Recommended: Pentium 500MHz or greater)
  • 64 MB RAM (Recommended: 128 MB RAM or greater)
  • 52 MB hard drive space

Mac Operating Systems

  • Mac OS X 10.4 and later
  •  Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processo
  • 128 MB RAM (Recommended: 256 MB RAM or greater)
  • 200 MB hard drive space

Might I humbly suggest that schools that have mission-critical computers that don't meet these minimum requirements are not practicing "sustainable" technology practices. (Dang, it's that management stuff instead of leadership stuff again.)

Maybe we need to take a lesson from farming. There is an economic and ecological philosophy called “sustainable agriculture.” The folks who practice this method of farming believe that more should not be taken from the land than can be naturally replaced by it each year. By rotating crops, returning the used harvest to the fields (in usually a rather aromatic form), and having reasonable yield expectations, a farmer can leave the next generation a field in as fertile a condition as he found it.

Schools can and should practice “sustainable technology.”  This practice involves:

  1. Not purchasing more technology than can be regularly maintained, upgraded and replaced.
  2. Rotating the technology.
  3. Having reasonable expectations.

More details on my theory of sustainable tech.

If I am missing something - big or little - let me know. Thanks!

The Progressive Farmer now Uses a Mechanical Manure Spreader to Increase the Productiveness of His Land.

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Reader Comments (21)

Great post. I think your analysis if fairly accurate.

I also think the fact that a student's files/work is now available seamlessly through the Internet at both school and home with no chance of software incompatibility is huge!

Just one much more bandwidth do you need to pull this off?

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Chlup

I had to reflect on my last job after reading rule #1 of sustainable technology. When an addition was put into that school it was a building administrator's idea to create a 60 computer "mega lab" as they called it. Of course, no other building has something this size, so there was no district funds to put 60 computers in it. When the time came to replace the lab, we received our allotted 31 stations, then put in grant applications and spent building instructional dollars to get the lab numbers up (think it was at 56 when I left this summer). Looking back on it this is going to be a pain in everyone's neck come replacement time. I think this all happened because leadership was looking at short term, sort of populist goals of bringing more computers into the building. More computers doesn't always make things for technology's sake. How might that building money have been better spent...looking back on that I cringe at my passivity to the whole situation. My wife's school had a discussion on being a 1-to-1 school without any talk about how their school would change. 1-to-1 is great if you decide to go the project base learning route...if you just treat a laptop as a typewriter and a portal to the internet, I think you just spent a lot of money, not changing anything for the better at your school.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathan


February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDee

tbh, anything Miguel writes about technical issues is more likely to be wrong than right. He's pretty consistent that way.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Are you actually planning on eliminating local storage of files? Which I think means quitting Word, Excel, etc and using Google docs for these instead? I love Google docs for sharing work, and for having anywhere-access, but my experience of the tools is that they're still crude for making presentable documents and for crunching numbers.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Herman

Tom, you cut me to the quick! Since my blog is often about technical issues, and I produce more content than you, I make more mistakes...I'm wikipedia, you're Encyclopedia Brit....


February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

Try putting MSOffice 2007 or any other MS version on those specs and see how much fun the resulting experience.

But seriously, on a reasonably spec'd machine, try installing Google Apps Desktop (found on Google Pack @ ) and then enable Offline function for your local storage and un-tethered access. The Apps desktop can be put on any computer but the Offline function is best limited to a single private computer and is ideal for a laptop/netbook that does not always have Internet access. Offline function is also available in the browser without installing the desktop Apps.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRusty Meyners

I'll be teaching in a 5th-6th grade building next year and have already been wondering about the Docs because my own experience with Google Docs has been positive.

Our students currently save their works to a local server inside their own folder (created by me most of the time). Unfortunately, all student folders are "free game" for others who sit at their particular computer and, yes, we have had many student folders and their contents changed, sent to the Trash, and even deleted "accidentally".

Our students 5/6 students do not have individual passwords or email accounts. Do they need that to participate with Google Docs?

Would each student's folder containing their own work be "safe" from others?

I'm looking at it all from a management standpoint.


February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob Follmuth

BF - not sure about Google Docs, haven't had that much interaction with it yet, but....could you not set up your computers so that you have multiple log ins, thereby creating individual documents folders?

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I love the idea of Google Apps but am unsure about the legalities when using with children under 13. Do you have knowledge of elementary schools using this? Do students have email accounts?

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Great post, very thought provoking. We are having trouble accessing some Google apps here in China as the government gets a bit sensitive about people 'collaborating'. They have even blocked Facebook, Twitter and Diigo- can't work that one out - not to mention blogs (yes this one too). Anyway, your post made me think about the benefits of getting all staff and students onto VPNs (virtual Private Networks). Going through a VPN, I can access anything. Perhaps, the cost of a good subscription like Witopia ($60 a year) would more than pay for itself if it offsets the costs of needing stand-alone software. HMMM

February 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGerard Dutton

Hi Andy,

Bandwidth is concern for sure - not just of Apps but for increased video streaming, VOIP, and about everything else.

We are estimating that our 1000 Apps users are using on average about 8mg or our 40mg to the cloud. And this is the full meal deal - e-mail, Docs, sites, chat etc.

Bandwidth will be a big consideration in deciding what we turn on for students. I am also thinking our packetshaper will help in this area as well.

Some of the cost savings will need to be reallocated to more cloud access for sure.


Hi Nathan,

We have a new elementary school coming online this summer and will have some of the same issues. Not sure what the solution is other than starting early in a replacement schedule, Or delay the purchase over a few years. Nobody likes those choices though.


Hi Tom,

This comment borders on trollishness IMHO.

If you want to pick on Miguel, be specific.



Hi Bill,

My plan is that we will always need some internal storage for very large files - especially video.

The Docs part of GoogleApps for Education allows users to upload and store Office files without converting them to Docs, so people can still use Office and use Docs for off site storage/back-up.

I agree that Docs has fewer features than Work or Powerpoint. But I would look at this from the standpoint of skills we want kids to master - just how many CAN'T be taught using Docs? And too many "features" in a program hurts sometimes as much as it helps.

All the best,


Hi Miguel,

I asked Tom that if he wished to criticize you, to be specific rather and trollish. I don't care what other people say about you, you're still my buddy!


Hi Rusty,

Thanks for the info. There is also Gears that works well with Apps.


Hi Bob,

Students can, of course, have individual Apps accounts that will give them the same services as adults get. If they are in a sub-domain, one can choose which Apps kids get. Giving them Docs access would eliminate the shared folders problem you now have.

User accounts would need to be created for each student - an export from the Student Information System, most likely.


Hi Lyn,

Since the contract is with the school, not the individual, I don't see any legal issues in using this with younger kids. You can decide whether to turn on the email function for any specific subdomain. Kids can still use Docs without having an enabled email account.


Hi Gerard,


My reading of your problem is that is polticial, not technical or educational or financial! Were DOPA to have passed in the US, we may have been in the same situation.

Good luck!


February 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

If education is about the learning and technology is a tool, then Google Docs is one great way to support teaching and learning.
And it helps those strapped budgets as well. Do we need techno flash, or solid dependable ways to share information? The wider the variety of applications, the more we model flexibility and problem solving. So let's get those students using the cloud, save money on software, and move on to deeper thinking, which is where education needs to be!

Thanks for the info...I'll send this on to our administration.

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermtyrol

I agree, why do schools need to be in the business of maintaining email servers and SAN's. If Google is willing to make this service available to schools for free is it not a waste of tax payer dollars to maintain the in-house versions of these services?

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hi Brian,

Provided good service is retained in switch, I definitely agree.

All the best,


February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

My wife and I managed to get our last school to take on Google Apps (we're on the international scene), but our current school has been a bit slow or scared to take this on. We have students from grade 3 to grade 12 with Gmail accounts, so they are benefiting from all the apps, but it has been quite a process. Google makes it very difficult to create multiple accounts from one IP address. In the grades where Google App use has been combined with deliberate instruction and teacher "buy in" (grades 3-6), the results have been staggering. Unfortunately, still, the powers-that-be cannot see how such "remarkable" results could be transferred to teaching roles and meaningfully replace an archaic and arcane Outlook system. Thanks for this article - I will add it to the list I use to push the envelope - and no, I'm not worried about them scrolling through the comments ;)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul McKenzie

Hi Paul,

I cannot imagine implementing GoogleApps on a student by student, teacher by teacher basis. All the management features would be missing.

You really need to go into this in a district-wide approach. If people are tied to Outlook/Exhange, there are ways that one can get these things to play nicely together.

Good luck!


February 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug,

What service are you considering for the archiving/retrieval for admin?

I'd be keen to know why this is necessary and your thoughts on why/why not to do this for teachers.

We are considering this move in Hong Kong


February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Hi Justin,

At $7 per user per year, I am looking at Gagglenet. Kathy Shrock gives it high marks.


February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

In our school we are using a lot of these new technolgies to save money including the so called GoogleApp. Additionaly we are also using open source software. Well, I can tell you that apart the first days where we have to get "accustomed" the them we are very happy with the patch we have chose!
Blogger of Windows tricks

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

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