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The “total cost of ownership” of Google Apps for Education

Dr. Thomas I. M. Ho is the Director of Technology Integration and Support at Traders Point Christian Schools. He joined Newmind as a fellow for the HECC 2015 conference.

In my previous post, Looking back on a year with Google Apps for Education, I recounted our journey over the last year as we have piloted and adopted Google Apps at Traders Point Christian Academy. In this post, I will evaluate what we have learned through this experience.

Our original motivation for adopting Google Apps has been our quest to lower the total cost of ownership of our legacy environment based on the Microsoft Windows ecosystem and the hardware needed to maintain it. It is difficult to completely draw any conclusions because of course we’ve still had to continue maintaining our installed base of Windows software and hardware on the side.

In other words, “the jury is still out” until we get out from under our entire installed base of Windows software and hardware, but the continued presence of Windows in our environment does give us the opportunity to compare the cost of maintaining each environment.

The inherent benefit of Chrome OS

In this head-to-head comparison, the contrast is most evident in the cost of maintaining the hardware/software “desktops” because Chrome OS requires virtually no “care and feeding” for operating system updates nor does it require conventional malware protection (a Chrome device can still fall victim to things like browser hijacking, though most threats can be avoided by using protective extensions).

After we migrate our corporate email from Exchange to Gmail (with Google Apps), we expect even greater economies due to a lower workload to support the mail server, spam filtering service, and other requirements for supporting Exchange. Eventually, we also intend to migrate our Windows network file system to Google Drive, but that will be one of the last vestiges of Windows to go.

Maximizing the effectiveness of Google Apps

In fairness, we should also calculate the “cost” of maximizing the effectiveness of Google Apps. In particular, there are several third-party tools that we use, but these “costs” fall in a different category because those tools are needed for any ecosystem, whether it’s Microsoft Windows or Google Apps. For example, in any K-12 educational environment, it’s necessary to filter web content to protect students. With Google Apps and Chromebooks, it’s possible to protect students no matter where they are accessing the Web as long as they are on Chromebooks.

In our case, we chose GoGuardian for Admins which has proven to be a cost-effective tool for protecting our fleet of managed Chromebooks with Web filtering, YouTube filtering, and theft monitoring among other capabilities. More recently, we have realized the necessity to monitor student Chromebook use during class sessions as well. After considering Hapara Highlights as well as GoGuardian for Teachers, we’ve decided to try GoGuardian first because it’s evident the setup will be much easier, especially for domains which have already adopted GoGuardian for Admins.

Faced with the task of administering GoGuardian in addition to the obvious need to administer Google Apps for Education, Also worth considering is a cost of time and effort of administration itself, and you can see this in our log of admin activities over the course of a year.

The results of those logs show you need to make an effort in order to take full advantage, but the costs that we would have once applied to basic OS updates and license fees are now shifting to the costs of security tools and the ability to customize the learning environment. Google Apps for Education may be free, and it brings a massive inherent value, but definitely think about budgeting for that customization and security to make the most of your devices.

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