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6 Critical Steps to Bolstering Your School’s Network Security

The ongoing revolution in digital technologies has made the learning process easier and more interesting for students of all ages. As your IT environment becomes more mature, however, you need to give some thought to how you will protect your systems and devices from attackers.

Don’t worry. There’s good news, too.

A little bit of common sense can go a long way when following cyber security best practices. Let’s look at some of the most important actions that you can take to make your school’s network more secure.

  1. Antivirus and Anti-Malware Solutions

Teachers are migrating more of their lessons and resources online, which means that your school’s network security is critical. Your network as a whole is becoming a more tempting target for cybercriminals who are looking to make a little profit—or just want to have a little fun at your expense.

For example, “ransomware” applications like the 2017 WannaCry attack lock up your own files and data and refuse to give you back access until you pay a hefty sum to the attackers. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other nasty software can wreak havoc on your school network, making computers shut down or behave erratically.

In order to keep your network protected, install strong antivirus and anti-malware software that can quickly detect and quarantine suspicious applications. These applications should run scans of the entire network on a regular basis.

  1. Software Updates and Patches

The devastating 2017 Equifax breach, which revealed the sensitive information of 143 million people in the U.S., occurred after attackers entered the company’s network through a security vulnerability with a patch already available for months.

As you add more devices to your school network, it becomes more and more imperative to make sure that each machine has installed the latest upgrades. Patch management software can help you keep track of each device’s status. Additionally, it can alert you to any critical vulnerabilities that need immediate attention.

  1. BYOD Security Policies

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have the potential to greatly enhance the classroom learning experience. However, they also carry great risks when you allow students to bring in their personal devices.

Because the administration has no oversight of how students behave on their own laptops and tablets, you could be opening a security “backdoor” every time that these devices connect to the school’s network.

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Related: They Stole You?

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To guard against the potential dangers of personal devices in the classroom, create and enforce a strong BYOD (“bring your own device”) security policy. For example, students might have to install an app that monitors their Internet activity while connected to the network at school. It’s a small price to pay to bolster your school’s network security.

  1. Third-Party Vetting

Many schools choose to work with third-party IT vendors because they don’t have the in-house knowledge or experience to build a robust IT infrastructure themselves. While this can greatly enhance your capabilities, it can also expose you to additional risk.

Just like students’ personal devices, vendors with inadequate security training may accidentally open a backdoor into your school network. The devastating Home Depot and Target data breaches both occurred due to a third-party vendor with lax security practices.

It’s important to do your research when speaking with potential IT vendors. Once you’re drawing up the contract, make sure that both of you are on the same page by including cyber security best practices in your service level agreement (SLA).

  1. Data Backups and Encryption

Schools represent a highly enticing target for attackers. This is because they possess a great deal of personal and sensitive information about their students and employees. Still, in the event that hackers do break into your network, all is not necessarily lost.

By backing up your data at regular intervals in a separate location, like on a server in the cloud, you can protect it from loss even if your systems are compromised by a ransomware attack. In addition, if you encrypt the data that you store on your on-premises servers, it will be useless gibberish. Even in the hands of the attackers, unless they have the decryption key.

Encrypting your data should be a secondary line of defense if a data breach does occur. Data encryption will help you remain compliant with legislation such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) because the breach only exposed the encrypted information and not the actual underlying data.

  1. Training and Education

The best defense is a good offense, especially in cyber security. All too often, schools and companies have issues with breaches and malware. This can all be because one person clicked on the wrong link or opened a malicious application.

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Related: 4 Ways to Avoid Internal Security Threats

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Students, teachers, and administrators should all be trained to recognize the common signs of phishing emails and other scams. For example, phishing emails usually create a false sense of urgency and have frequent spelling errors. In addition, the email address of the sender is likely incorrect. Links in the body of the email may superficially resemble the correct website, but point somewhere else upon closer examination.

Bonus Step 7: Partner with a Scholastic IT Expert

Everything we mentioned above will take ample coordination and research. It’s a delicate game of balancing the necessary network security components to secure your school and staying within your IT budget.

Luckily, that’s where we can help.

We’re experts in optimizing schools to have the best possible security solutions that work for their needs. Let’s have a chat and explore more of what you’re looking for.

4 Must-Have Modern Technologies for Schools

Advances in digital technology aren’t just affecting the way that we work and live—they’re also improving how students learn in the classroom. 82% of teachers agree that students who use technology for education are better prepared for their future careers.

The good news is that adoption of these new-fangled technologies seems to be on the rise. In a 2016 survey, 60% of teachers said that they planned to increase their use of technology during the upcoming school year, and three in four said that they use technology every day with their students.

This article will go over four of the most transformative digital tools that are helping students of all ages learn more and perform better in the classroom.

  1. Interactive Whiteboards

Often called SMART boards after their largest manufacturer, interactive whiteboards are large displays that imitate the function of a whiteboard — without the need for messy chalk or smelly dry erase markers.

For one, interactive whiteboards are more “fun” to use than chalkboards, boosting students’ interest and engagement. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to easily incorporate multimedia into their presentations, from text and audio files to videos and images. Teachers can even record lessons and save them for future playback.

  1. Laptops and Tablets

Laptops and tablets are a vital part of students’ digital lives. It’s only natural that they’re taking a more prominent place in the classroom.

In 2017, sales of Apple’s iPad to schools rose by 32% when compared to the previous year. Chromebooks, which are Google-issued basic laptops that run the Chrome operating system, made up just under half of all device sales in the education sector. More than 30 million children in the U.S. use Google apps for education such as Google Docs and Gmail.

There are a variety of benefits and use cases for laptops and tablets in the classroom. These include taking notes, watching lectures, finding useful information during lessons, collaborating with other students via Internet forums, allowing students to download and submit assignments online, and more.

Related: How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

  1. Class Websites

Students need access to a class website as their one-stop shop for learning. Class portals can host everything from lecture videos and homework assignments to blogs and discussion forums. These can allow students to help each other and share their ideas about what they’ve learned.

Depending on the institution and the tech-savviness of the teacher, this website may be custom-built. It could even be hosted on a third-party content management system such as Google Sites or WordPress.

  1. Augmented and Virtual Reality

The latest release of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, iOS 12, includes support for augmented reality for the first time. While still not widely used, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) offer tremendous learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

By overlaying additional information onto real-world inputs, AR devices make it easier for students to learn through experience. For example, students looking at the night sky through AR glasses could see the names of the different constellations. It would be a great way to view more information about the stars in our galaxy.

Final Thoughts on Technologies for Schools

Regardless of the specific technologies for schools, all schools should seriously consider investing more in their IT infrastructure in order to improve educational outcomes for their students. By partnering with a managed education services provider, you can improve the predictability, efficiency, and security of your school’s IT resources.

 

Outgrown Your Staff? Technology Can Help

Managing your school’s budget can be a difficult task. Every dollar helps you improve the education being offered and helps you compete in the marketplace. But when you grow as a school, sometimes you face constraints in staffing and tools that can cause bottlenecks in your processes. The key to having successful education IT that helps you reach your goals may lie in the cloud. Here are a few ways technology can help you when you’ve outgrown your staff.

Unity with Tools

One of the simplest mechanisms for handling growth is by unifying tools across the board. Whether you choose Google for Education or something similar, you can ensure a technological knowledge that is shared among your entire staff. This means that when classrooms expand, your staff has the knowhow to make adjustments quickly and easily.

Make Collaboration Easier

One of the essential steps for growth in any school (or business, for that matter) is planning for maximized collaboration. By analyzing how your staff interacts with each other, you can eliminate bottlenecks in your workflow. Among administrative positions, this becomes extremely important, as hiccups in communication can lead to unnecessary time loss and missed opportunities to serve students.

Retarget Your Budget

Growing means getting a grip on your budget. Choosing the right technology program for your school can help you save in the long run. With cloud-based technology you move from capital expenses – that can take a huge hit when trying to staff for growth – to operating expenses, giving you more predictability in your budgeting. Likewise, moving to managed education IT services can shift the burden to the provider, giving your staff the ideal situation where they can focus on what’s most important: the students.

Growth, Without the Growing Pains

The goal of any school is to achieve growth that helps enrich the student experience. But that growth must be carefully considered. Adding new students should be an exciting, affirming statement to your institution. With the right technology in place, you can do so without the need for more manual processes and the addition of supportive staff that could greatly impact your bottom line.

Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

The EaseTech Education IT Solution

The challenge is clear: to have technology and instruction function together in a way which positively complements the learning experience.

With managed education IT services, you get custom policies and procedures, technical planning and assessment, curriculum alignment and established education IT standards.

For two decades, we have been helping private and public education systems in the region integrate, deploy, manage and effectively incorporate technology into their curriculum goals. With a deep understanding of both technology and contemporary instructional environments,  we help bridge the divide that can result from proper management and involvement of IT into the education system.

Regardless of where you are in the process of incorporating technology into your institution, be it planning, execution or IT management, EaseTech works with you to understand your challenges and achieve your objectives. Call us today for a consultation.

Put Your IT Dollars to Work

In the world of private schools, technology can not only pave the way for how students learn and interact with the world’s collective information but can also give your school a competitive edge in a saturated market. With tight budgets, education IT can be a little tricky. But with new innovations in the education market and the right team to ensure you reach your school’s goals, you can put your IT dollars to work for you.

Cloud technology opens a world of benefits to help you gain new exposure in the market, with powerful tools, innovative productivity and collaboration, and the cybersecurity you need to keep students safe.

Tools for Productivity and Collaboration

Whether you’re K-12 or at the university level, the goal is to inspire students to learn. Streamlining that process through the cloud gives you a much wider range of options to excite the students.

When you take education to the cloud, you find that your tools grow far beyond the chalkboard. By migrating to Google for Education, for example, you greatly improve how your students learn. By connecting online, students have smoother access to teachers, with the ability to ask questions, get clarity on assignments and more. Class discussions become more productive in threads, with detailed records of conversations for studying. Collaboration in the classroom skyrockets with the cloud, giving students an educational hub for meeting and working together.

And then Cybersecurity

A key factor in creating an effective education IT program is ensuring that your system is always safe. There are inherent risks with any internet connection, but there are some common sense security best practices you can follow, as well as some bigger picture ideas that will help ensure a safe learning environment for everyone.

A proper ID management program for your students and staff is one of the first steps in securing your school’s network. This will include unique usernames and complicated passwords for everyone. Likewise, firewalls and antivirus software will help layer your system with defenses. You also want to frequently test your system for gaps in security. A weak system is not something you want to discover after it’s too late.

EaseTech Managed Education IT

When you’re planning next year’s IT budget, you want to know you’re getting the tools you need to meet your goals. Part of this is making sure you are paying only for what you need, with the right technology. With technology, it’s extremely easy to go over budget.

That’s where managed education IT services come into play. If you’re fine-tuning an existing technology program, implementing a 1:1 iPad deployment, or starting from scratch, a managed education services provider is an ideal partner to help you reach success.

Learn More: Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

At EaseTech, we’ve spent years helping schools rebuild their technology, streamline their IT budgets and innovate their education offering. Call us today to see how managed education services can help your school.