It's E-Rate season...That means signed contracts in hand with our vendors of choice for Internet, phone, and other technological infrastructure issues if we'd like to receive federal reimbursement for large percentages of our costs related to Internet access. It also means that it's a fine time to review our contracts and make sure that our service providers are giving us precisely what we need.
This is the first season when the district will have both a Technology Director (that's me) and a hard-core Business Manager (she knows state procurement law inside and out and has certainly been around the block a few times), both of whom can work together to extract the best deals and service from our vendors. In the past, to some extent, it's been every building for itself, with a let's-keep-things-running mentality. Now, we obviously need to keep things running, but we have a chance to do things better and possibly for less money.
In fact, we'd be sorely remiss if we didn't look at other vendors. While the state has negotiated contracts with a wide variety of companies and organizations, there is plenty of room for competition. It's one thing to stick with a vendor we know well year after year. It's another thing to ignore our options.
As we've found through a few conversations with vendors, we can realize drastic increases in bandwidth for nominal increases in cost. Without a level of due diligence, we would have been stuck with creaking, groaning T1s and Frame Relays, when cable, DSL, and other options are available to us.
This is a pain, no doubt about it, but you owe it to yourself and your organization to take advantage of this time every year and see just what is available in an incredibly competitive world of telecommunications.