Today we announced that a leading K-12 school in the Dominican Republic is using WatchGuard’s Unified Threat Management (UTM) solutions, and WatchGuard Dimension, to secure its network, keep student data safe, control web access, and more.
In addition, if you missed the recent post titled, “5 Ways UTM Security Can Help Schools,” click here to learn more about bandwidth usage, reporting, wireless and more.
Schools contain. Educators teach. Students learn. Simple, right? Well you’d think so, but as modernization occurs right in front of us, the methods of teaching are evolving. Students face new distractions in the form of always-connected devices, technology in their pockets, and social sharing applications that consume endless hours of time. But, these same tools that make today’s students the communication generation (thanks parents) are also the tools teachers are increasingly using to help educate.
This new influx of technology into schools has turned what used to be fairly simple networks, into advance networks that need to protect student data, manage access, and deliver performance for in-class technology applications. Security is a big part of this network ecosystem. And, as districts roll out new technology, security is moving beyond just protecting, allowing administrators to strategically manage access so students can get the information they need to be successful, while eliminating the distractions.
Gone are the days of the guy with the big key ring watching over the school grounds. Today, technology is a major component when working to keep kids productive and safe. In the security appliance world, Unified Threat Management (UTM) platforms hold the keys to success. Here are five things to consider when selecting a UTM solution and why they matter:
It’s clear that UTM solutions can help educators to better assist students in their learning career. Don’t take my word for it, check out the small excerpt below from a recent case study with the Walker School District in Georgia:
Because of the increase in classroom productivity due to WatchGuard’s innovative technology, students are learning more and performing better on exams.
“Since all the kids are staying on the ball with what they’re supposed to be doing in the classroom, our testing scores have gone up. We’ve had some of our highest testing scores this last year that we’ve ever had,” said Bob Swanson, Walker School District Network Administrator.
Test scores reports have been so attractive that Walker Schools has seen an increased number of student registrations from outside the district. Students who previously attended private schools have now switched to Walker Schools after seeing the innovative learning environment that has been created with the help of WatchGuard.
Check out the entire case study at http://www.watchguard.com/tips-resources/casestudies/watchguard-network-security-solution-provides-safe-environment-for-walker-schools.asp
Some additional education case studies include:
This post was written by Mark Romano, director of field marketing at WatchGuard Technologies.
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.
When a tornado tore through Walker School District’s data center in 2011, the devastation took 95% of the district’s technology infrastructure. Turning tragedy into opportunity, the administrators worked to rebuild and support the district’s commitment to creating amazing educational opportunities for their students. This meant technology that could support key educational resources, and provide access to online and internal applications, while keeping students and staff secure.
In regard to key applications, the school has partnered with NASA to bring online a lunar observatory at its Science and Technology Center, where students can use and learn from NASA technology. In addition, to teach students about sustainable food growth, Walker Schools has created a ground breaking k-12 aquaponics program, the first curriculum of its kind in a U.S. school system.
In order to meet the technical demands of the district’s 11,000 users, Walker Schools deployed WatchGuard XTM 2520, WatchGuard XTM 1050 and WatchGuard XTM 525 integrated security platforms to power its network.
The key element for the Walker administrators was being able to implement a system within a tight budget, yet still deliver speed, easy administration, and cutting-edge security, which they found in WatchGuard.
This commitment to providing a solid technology backbone for the various programs the district offers has resulted in the district achieving higher test scores since implementing WatchGuard’s solutions. In fact, the improved student performance have been so attractive that Walker Schools has seen an increased number of student registrations from outside the district. Students who previously attended private schools have now switched to Walker Schools after seeing the innovative learning environment that has been created with the help of WatchGuard.
Investing in WatchGuard’s unified security solution ensures Walker Schools will receive tremendous long-term value through high-quality hardware. Walker Schools has seen a vast increase in speed and bandwidth capability as well as a reduction in malware and virus outbreaks. The new solution has been able to handle heavy network traffic seamlessly, increasing response time within the student information system. Choosing WatchGuard is predicted to benefit the district with continued use for the next five to ten years.
The district has assured its students a solid platform to build their futures and WatchGuard is pleased to be a part of that growth and development.
“Information security” is not just for businesses looking to safeguard their intellectual property, financial data or customer data. It is also a vital component of ensuring that students around the world maintain a positive learning environment. As we detailed in our last post, the ability to support numerous devices per student, enable access to public websites, and still maintain a commitment to student and teacher privacy is a battle school districts face globally.
As Catholic Regional College in Melton, Australia has found out, WatchGuard’s Unified Threat Management (UTM) platform enables it to offer its students secure browsing, but also delivers the performance to handle the bandwidth demands that are key in today’s learning environments.
The school, which serves more than 950 students, has committed itself to delivering a 1:1 student to computing device ratio for its students. Three years ago, the College network was much smaller and all activity was governed by Catholic Education Office rules. Making changes to policies or access control was difficult. But, recent growth in the College’s enrollment made a higher throughput option necessary to meet student and staff needs.
To meet these challenges, the school deployed two WatchGuard XTM solutions.
The flexibility and management WatchGuard delivers has enabled the school to support the introduction of new services for the school community. For example, parents were provided access to the school network, enabling them to view student grades and potentially sensitive welfare information. As any breaches of privacy could have legal ramifications, keeping this information secure is critical.
Now, everything running in and out of the network runs through the WatchGuard appliances, from data to the phone and security systems. With the System Manager and central console the school can see what’s going on in real time and take action.
Initially deployed just for its firewall capabilities, the team quickly deployed a second WatchGuard XTM 1050 at a central location to leverage the complete feature set available in the Unified Threat Management (UTM) platform, which includes IPS, AntiVirus, URL Filtering, AntiSpam, Application Control and more. The WatchGuard appliance also supports the school’s expanding range of IP addresses, increased throughput demands, and the need for Network Address Translation (NAT).
This is based on a true experience in the Washington State Public Schools.
My sister yells from down the hall, “Wow, Katie. Come here!” The tone in her voice tells me my ear is about to be flooded with 15-year-old girl drama.
“What’s going on?” I ask with an exaggerated exhale.
“Just look,” she says, nodding her head slightly towards the computer screen.
I stare and wonder why she would suddenly believe I have any interest in ranking sports teams. It doesn’t take a college basketball enthusiast to recognize the bracket that causes so much angst around the water cooler every year. The entire month of March consists of predictions, victories, upsets, bets, and team loyalties; not to mention an inbox flooded with pool invites.
“Oh, did you win a March Madness pool?” I ask trying to hide my complete lack of interest.
“No, Katie,” she says coarsely. “It’s May Madness. Some boys at my school started it. The ‘top’ girls are ranked from ugliest to prettiest. Same idea as March Madness, just…people.”
My jaw drops in disbelief, wondering how the seeding of college basketball teams has relegated to rankings of young and impressionable high school girls. How are the words “ugliest” and “prettiest” thrown around as though they define a person? She continues to explain that the “May Madness” bracket had circulated around the school earlier that day and in a matter of hours every girl at the school knew how pretty or ugly the boys thought she was.
The harsh reality is all the security in the world cannot stop some of the cruel behavior that goes on in the high school, middle school, or even elementary school hallways, but WatchGuard recognizes that proactively protecting students online is key in putting an end to cyber-bullying.
How does WatchGuard help stop May Madness from happening in schools?
Simply. WatchGuard Extensible Content Security (XCS) blocks or flags cyber-bullying, slander and comments through traditional email, webmail (such as Gmail) and Internet sites including Facebook and Twitter. Along with a commitment to help in the efforts to end cyber-bullying, WatchGuard has made school computer and internet safety a priority. Our WatchGuard website has a dedicated “Education” section with various resources such as; WatchGuard Internet Safe Search, Webinar: Planning Your Defense Against Top Security Threats in Education, and promotional savings for educators.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Yea, I don’t know, it’s just mean.” She says softly.
My heart feels for her as I remember the pressures that come along with being a 15-year-old girl and the idea of a cyber-bullying is a hard concept for me to grasp, let alone relate to.
Not knowing what to say, I lamely respond with an overused utterance that well-meaning people use in these situations, “You’re right, it is mean, but this does not define you or any of those girls.”
“Yea, I know. This is just how it goes, I guess.” She says with resignation.