Every industry has its unique set of network security challenges. In retail there’s dealing with credit card data and PCI compliance. In healthcare you need to deal with patient data and privacy requirements. Suffice it to say, the education sector has challenges that one might not initially consider and yet are very challenging in their own right.
Public school budgets are often strained today, forcing many IT managers to ‘do more with less’ and with growing security threats and booming IT innovation this is especially challenging. And while larger universities and campus-based schools may have larger budgets, they have larger challenges. Here are five network security challenges facing schools and campuses today:
1. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – The growing use of tablets and mobile devices by educators and students as they move to new ways of teaching and learning creates numerous network security challenges. BYOD device management is now a major need in districts and at campuses across the country. Just like any corporate organization, schools now need to think about network access policies, managing passwords more carefully, and understand how mobile devices are connecting to their networks.
2. Web 2.0 – Today’s students are more connected through social media than ever before and the Internet is playing an increasing role in education as teachers use it as part of their teaching arsenal. IT managers need to be able to allow access to certain sites and applications while restricting others. Finding this balance is not an easy challenge and requires new network security tools like Application Access Control.
3. Secure Remote Access – Student and teacher collaboration are playing an increasing role in education in today’s connected world. Today, students collaborate on projects and teachers provide feedback through cloud-based tools and by accessing school networks. IT managers need to be able to provide secure remote access to the tools that teachers and students are connecting to.
4. Multi-Point Access Solutions – Today, especially in campus environments, it’s not uncommon to have tens of buildings all connected to a single network. Being able to manage a distributed environment and its inherent security challenges needs to be simple and intuitive.
5. Identity Management – IT managers today need to be able to ensure that only authorized students and teachers can access computer and network resources. It’s through identity management that schools are able to effectively manage their acceptable usage policies and provide adequate control over access to applications.
There are many other challenges that education sector IT managers face, but these five are prevalent today and yet weren’t that long ago. Fortunately there are network security companies offering highly sophisticated unified threat management (UTM) tools and solutions, like WatchGuard. They’re flexible, powerful, robust, affordable, and can go a long way in easing the network security challenges facing schools and campuses. And, because the threat landscape is always changing, UTM solutions need to be designed to be able to easily add new network defense capabilities through security subscriptions, so costly hardware upgrades are not necessary.