School Loop: Providing IT resources built for educators

About School Loop

School Loop is a software provider of web portals and grade systems for K-12 schools and teachers. Founded and built by educators, School Loop works closely with educators to give them the services needed to support schools and students.

Industries: Education, Technology
Location: United States

About Nortal

Headquartered in Seattle, Nortal is a global software development consultancy that builds scalable CI/CD, automation, and serverless computing solutions for corporate and enterprise clientele.

School Loop offers services including web portals and grading systems for K-12 schools, teachers, and administrators. In considering migration options, the education technology provider wanted to reduce operating overhead for its legacy hardware while improving platform performance and reliability for customers.

Google Cloud results

  • Creates cost savings by eliminating investments in local hardware refreshes
  • Eliminates downtime caused by workloads exceeding local server storage via Google Cloud scalability
  • Reduces load times for teacher gradebooks via improved Google Cloud Platform performance

Moved 139 TB of data with less than three hours of downtime

Built by educators for educators, School Loop works to solve IT challenges for school districts by providing easy gradebook systems and web portal creation tools for teachers, parents, and administrators. To continue offering accessible web products to schools, the company needed to solve several technology stack challenges.

“We were coming to a point where we had to do a major hardware refresh,” says David Kensiski, Director of Technical Infrastructure at School Loop. “The logistics of upgrading our local servers were limiting, our network interfaces needed to be replaced, and our infrastructure also had to be upgraded. Continuing with our legacy approach would have required a lot of capital.”

By migrating to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and working with Google Cloud Infrastructure Specialization Partner Nortal, School Loop has realized performance gains and cost savings that allow the company to reallocate resources previously slated for hardware refreshes into development and future growth. All said, School Loop migrated 45 servers, 130 terabytes of data, and billions of files to GCP to better serve its 4 million users.

For example, Compute Engine provides virtual machine instance management, Cloud Storage offers scalable data volume administration, and Virtual Private Cloud helps administrators handle workload and project networking. GCP was especially helpful in simplifying operations and driving efficiency through the centralization of controls into a single location.

For School Loop customers, the scalability and speed of GCP behind the scenes provides valuable flexibility for previously time-consuming tasks such as storing and accessing student homework assignments. For the company’s IT managers, they can easily automate quality assurance tests, add more CPU resources on demand, and dynamically grow storage volumes to respond to changing customer requirements.

School Loop ran into service outages caused by efforts to automate memory management that could exceed the memory capabilities of its legacy servers on a weekly basis. On GCP, these failures can be solved with a simple update and reboot instead of having to purchase and install additional servers, thus resulting in virtually no outages or disruptions.

Among teachers, gradebooks were previously a frequent pain point as student grade updates created demanding workloads that could slow load times for School Loop’s legacy backend systems. By leveraging the performance gains and efficiency of GCP, School Loop eliminated these delays and improved the product experience for customers.

“I haven’t seen a single performance complaint from customers since we moved to Google Cloud Platform,” says David. “Gradebook performance and service usability has improved significantly following our migration to Google Cloud.”

Throughout the migration process, Google Cloud Infrastructure Specialization Partner Nortal has been a vital partner for School Loop. The company helped School Loop construct an infrastructure-as-code setup with Terraform and Ansible that supports various infrastructure management tasks, guiding administrators from initial architecting to deployment. Nortal also worked with School Loop staff to develop ways to integrate platform needs like sending daily emails to more than 55,000 teachers and administrators using the tools.

Before the migration, School Loop was running on a legacy system that was not cloud compatible and required specialized migration tooling. As such, it needed a partner with expertise in both GCP and the legacy system, which it found in Nortal. Nortal made the transition easier through its custom migration tool that was able to help move School Loop’s legacy database system with countless small files. With Nortal’s guidance, School Loop migrated 37 databases and billions of files over several weeks with only three hours of downtime in the final three hours.

“It would have been much more difficult, especially given our timeframe, to have had a successful migration without Nortal,” says David. “Nortal and its consulting services that helped set up the Terraform and Ansible infrastructure were instrumental in enabling us to achieve our goals.”

“Previously, scaling would’ve meant navigating challenges such as server heat management and waiting for months to install local storage upgrades. On Google Cloud Platform, we get a lot more performance and flexibility so we can deliver better services to teachers faster.”

David Kensiski, Director of Technical Infrastructure, School Loop

About School Loop

School Loop is a software provider of web portals and grade systems for K-12 schools and teachers. Founded and built by educators, School Loop works closely with educators to give them the services needed to support schools and students.

Industries: Education, Technology
Location: United States

About Nortal

Headquartered in Seattle, Nortal is a global software development consultancy that builds scalable CI/CD, automation, and serverless computing solutions for corporate and enterprise clientele.

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