Best in Tech: Tech Security
Administrators weigh in on their layered security solutions.
Managing networks, school computers, and timely notifications to all district stakeholders can be a daunting task. Our reviewers take a look at a few options for automating today's management priorities in order to save district leaders worries, time, and possibly some cash, too.
Reviewers: Mark Harrell, pre-engineering instructor, Franklin County Career and Technology Center, Frankfort, KY (left); Joseph Jacks, coordinator of technology services, Tyler ISD, Tyler, TX
Products We Use: NetSupport School 10, NetSupport Student, NetSupport Tutor, NetSupport Tech Console, and NetSupport Name Server
Goals: "We needed to effectively manage and monitor our computer lab students," says Harrell. "I needed something for technicians to access all computers at once," Jacks adds.
How We Use It: "NetSupport allows me to show students step by step on their screen how to perform operations," says Harrell. In Jacks's school, "Teachers use it to remotely aid students with assignments, push files down to student desktops, and to take control of student workstations when they need to gain the entire class's attention."
Learning Curve: "Tech support couldn't be any better," raves Harrell. "Anyone can learn how to use it in a short amount of time," agrees Jacks.
What's Next: "The big push is going to be standardizing the install of NetSupport across the school district, even in portables," says Jacks.
Reviewer: David Calabrese, technology director, Memphis ISD, Memphis, TX
Products We Use: Total Traffic Control, which includes Security Manager and Web Access Manager
How We Use It: "By using Total Traffic Control, we are able to ensure that our computers and network run properly while safely connecting students to the world outside their small towns. It lets us set filtering policies based on the education-specific categories that we need, or by individual, as well as deploy comprehensive antivirus protection. It is easy to manage. I can do everything I need-effectively and transparently. Plus, the system is affordable for our district."
Response: "We definitely gained a certain level of peace of mind for administrators and for the tech department."
Learning Curve: "My Lightspeed engineer helped with installation by creating a batch script that removed previous install leftovers. I'm finding that Security Manager in Total Traffic Control caught things that our previous antivirus software didn't catch. When something is suspicious, the product alerts me right away, and either quarantines or deletes the file. We haven't had a single virus outbreak this year."
What's Next: "With a layered approach, continue using the Total Traffic Control suite."
Reviewer: Paul Basileo, coordinator of instructional technology, Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, NY
Products We Use: SchoolVue Classroom Management Software
Goals: "We use the product both as a classroom management tool and a technical support vehicle."
How We Use It: "Our support staff is able to remotely control systems, cutting down on the time spent in servicing software issues. We also distribute updates, patches, and fixes through the software."
Response: "While no product is perfect, especially those relying on network discovery, we are pleased with this product and the features available to us."
Learning Curve: "It has been a very easy transition from tools we've tried before."
What's Next: "I hope the technical side of the product continues to evolve to allow for better and faster control. We are also looking at integration with Microsoft's Active Directory and other network-based products (virus or desktop protection)."
Reviewers: Jeffrey Hatcher, technology director, Miller County School District, Colquitt, GA (left); Cheryl Berry, coordinator of technology, Spartanburg School District #1, Campobello, SC
Products We Use: Smoothwall Network Guardian and UTM-1000 devices
Goals: "We needed Web security to ensure full compliance with cipa and other federal and state requirements," says Hatcher. For Berry, "Our need for additional bandwidth prompted us to look for a new security product. We needed something that would cache a certain percent of our Web traffic, then prove and report it."
How We Use It: "We replaced our previous solution with two Smoothwall UTM-1000 devices in a failover configuration, gaining the additional features we needed while actually reducing our Web security costs," says Hatcher.
Response: "With Smoothwall, we went from failing [in security] to an overall rating of an A," says Berry. "It made all the difference."
Learning Curve: "While the old system would take hours to run a single report, with Smoothwall it only takes three mouse clicks to view the live logs and find what sites are most visited," says Hatcher.
What's Next: "The Smoothwall system has become integral to our planning for network upgrades," says Hatcher. "We're looking to add their e-mail security services next," says Berry.
Reviewer: Charles Stewart, business manager, Vandalia-Butler City Schools, Vandalia, OH
Products We Use: PublicSchoolWORKS EmployeeSafe and StudentWatch suites
Goals: "We wanted a way to implement, manage, and track student and staff safety issues, in addition to a means that would better organize all of our safety documentation. The notification system was an added bonus."
How We Use It: "The system completely automates the communication, tracking, reporting, and record keeping of staff training, accidents, and tasks-from staff reminders to supervisor follow-up and completion. We also use it to track compliance tasks, including drills, inspections, IAQ, chemical hygiene requirements, material safety data sheets, and other safety management. The notification system automatically alerts staff when an accident occurs. It allows them to respond to any safety concern right away."
Response: "We like that we can turn the tracking, management, and communication of safety issues over to PublicSchoolWORKS. Admins can focus on their own day-to-day responsibilities and are alerted only when we need to get involved. Our people complete safety requirements in a timely fashion."
Learning Curve: "It took time to become accustomed to it, but it was made easier because the implementation was managed by the PublicSchoolWORKS staff."
Reviewer: Kathleen Kennedy, executive director of communications and community relations, Oklahoma City Public Schools, OK
Products We Use: AlertNow, a service of Blackboard Connect
Goals: "We chose AlertNow because our old phone-messaging system didn't meet our needs. The superintendent wanted to be able to get messages out immediately to parents. It had to be a priced right, easy to use, and Web based."
How We Use It: "AlertNow was built into our strategic plans for the district. We use it to reach our audience-all parents, staff, and students. For inclement weather notifications, our parents now hear it from us first rather than waiting for the media."
Response: "Our principals love it as much as the district level does. I'm 100 percent satisfied and the superintendent is, too. Parents like to hear the messages coming from the voices of leaders of the school or district. It has greater impact and the response is greater as well."
Learning Curve: "There are templates and scripts for all the situations that have occurred and could occur in our district. We modify to fit our needs. Even our non-technical principals can use it. We had training sessions that helped a lot, too."
Your District Networking And Management Buying Guide
1. Classroom Management
iPrism Web Filter allows school users to securely access the school network from off-site locations.
Netop Vision6 gives teachers complete control over classroom computers from an easy-to-use console that shows each student's computer screen.
2. Alerts, Notifications, and Crisis Management
Honeywell Instant Alert
Instant Alert was created specifically for K-12 schools to communicate daily information, such as newsletters.
Offers emergency messaging and helps schools increase parent involvement.
National School Safety and Security Services
The group offers safety consulting services for preventing school violence and reducing safety risks and liability.
ParentLink does attendance, emergency, and user-driven messaging. It can deliver grade notification, and transportation and lunch/library alerts.
PIER System (O'Brien's)
PIER's multimode mass notification features provide the ability to deliver notifications to thousands of people in seconds.
Rapid Responder helps schools collect, organize, and disseminate critical information needed by first responders.
REACT delivers emergency or routine messaging for staff, parents, and students.
Combines conventional and Web 2.0 tools to help schools or districts communicate with and engage the community in a cost-effective way.
SchoolReach offers parents notification using automated phone, e-mail, and text message broadcasts.
Options include translation, list management, interactivity, and classroom messaging.
Send Word Now
Send Word Now's alerting service provides two-way, on-demand emergency messaging across a variety of platforms.
TeleParent can be used for notifying thousands in seconds during a crisis, or for polling parents about open house.
A software-based service that allows you to contact and inform staff securely and quickly.
3. Network Support
Check CDW-G's resource centers for guiding district networking and security strategies.
Helps plan and provides tech support services for connected learning environments.
Motorola provides K-12 wireless solutions for high-bandwidth e-learning applications, such as streaming video
4. Guarding the Gateway
Astaro Command Center
A central management application that offers instant hardware reports and security trend information, as well as monitoring and managing all devices.
Barracuda Web Filters
Barracuda Web Filters protect against Web-based threats, such as viruses, worms, and spyware.
Bloxx Web Filters
Bloxx's Tru-View Technology filters inappropriate and harmful content, as well as bandwidth consumption and productivity.
Faronics Deep Freeze
Deep Freeze prevents against unwanted workstation changes-whether they are accidental or malicious.
GFI (formerly Sunbelt) VIPRE Enterprise
An all-in-one endpoint malware protection that combines antivirus and antispyware.
iBoss Web Filters
Phantom Tech's filters provide a turnkey solution to network security.
Kaspersky Lab provides customizable protection at every level of the network.
M86 Secure Web Gateway
M86 is a multilayered strategy for combatting the risks of malware, spam, cyberbullying, and anonymous proxies.
McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator
Provides unified management of endpoint, network, and data security.
Sophos Security and Data Protection
Integrates endpoint, e-mail, and Web security, and network access control.
Symantec Altiris Client Management Suite 7.1
Automates time-consuming tasks to reduce costs.