DEMAND GENERATOR: Arlin Sorensen, Heartland Technology Solutions

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Heartland Technology Solutions turned a network infrastructure upgrade into an opportunity to create a state-of-the art technology experience for the Tri-Center Community School District in western Iowa. That experience includes Internet telephony, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server and an IP surveillance system.

>> UPSIDE FOR THE VAR: Not only does Heartland have a steady relationship with the Tri-Center school district, the project has become a model generating business with other districts.
>>  THE CUSTOMER VIEW: The Tri-Center school district wants to be on the cutting edge of technology, and solution provider Heartland gives it the information and experience it needs to stay ahead.
>>  VENDORS REPRESENTED: Heartland started with HP servers and continued to upgrade. Also used Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, Class Server; 3Com NBX IP telephony system; Axis IP surveillance cameras.


When the district decided to give e-mail to all students in grades 6 through 12, Tri-Center needed a network that could handle that load as well as the growing needs of the school community. With 875 students in three schools—from pre-kindergarten to high school on the district's 40-acre campus—and with more than 100 staff members, it was time to upgrade the district's Hewlett-Packard ProLiant ML350 servers. Tri-Center turned to Heartland, Naperville, Ill., since the two had worked on the previous network beginning in 1998.

"This most recent project came about from a vision that [School Superintendent] Brett Manninga and I shared to take their district to a whole new level in the technology area," said Arlin Sorensen, president of Heartland. "We wanted to enhance the experience that these kids were going to have and that the staff was going to have."

After a trip to Ingram Micro in Buffalo, N.Y., to do some research, Heartland, a 15-year HP reseller, added HP DL360 serial-attached SCSI servers with ProCurve switching. The campus is now networked for wireless access and has six computer labs, for which it purchased 100 notebooks. The SharePoint and Class Server installations are in progress, and Heartland will be training teachers in January.

The school is seeking a grant to cover the $100,000 cost of a 3Com NBX Internet telephony system. "It's not just a phone system—it's a communications solution we're going to be using," said Sorensen. "There is an add-on package that will automatically dial parents of students that are ill for the day and notify them without having a staff person have to go through that list and dial all day. It will also be used to notify for bad weather, early outs and no school."

After recent break-ins resulted in the theft of some notebooks, the school also opted for an IP surveillance system, using cameras from Swedish manufacturer Axis Communications.

Sorensen said the biggest challenge in creating the solution was finding funding. However, working with Ingram Micro, Heartland was able to create a three-year payment plan for the district.

The upgrade has made the district more attractive to potential Iowa students, who can choose which school to attend. "A number of students now open-enroll into the district, and certainly technology is one of those drivers," said Sorensen.

Manninga is grateful to Heartland for helping make his vision of a technologically advanced district a reality. "It's not just service—it's expertise and the drive in taking us further each time," he said. "As we've expanded and upgraded and improved, we've had them right along beside us making those things happen."

Heartland is also reaping the rewards, as Sorensen has taken representatives of five other schools to tour the Tri-Center district, and all five have hired Heartland to do similar projects.

"More than anything, it's just the fact that they've always pressed us to go further. There's always more on the horizon. More that we can do, more that we can provide," said Manninga. "If you're identified as a technologically current and cutting-edge type of school system, then you can't just become complacent."

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