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A lesson in network planning

IT departments in the education sector have long faced a familiar set of challenges when planning, deploying and maintaining campus networks. These include increasingly tight budgets, a lack of skilled resources, lengthy approval processes and rapidly evolving technology requirements. But as schools and universities move swiftly to adopt digital-first education models, a new generation of challenges has emerged.

Together, these growing pressures are forcing network administrators to rethink the network – and it’s not just planning for the ‘right now’ that is so critical. IT must also peer into the future to ensure their networks are equipped for emerging technologies as well as student, faculty and staff network demands.

On the ground, we are witnessing firsthand the impact of innovative technology in and out of the classroom and there are three new challenges we’re seeing time and time again.

1. Managing device density across the campus

The ubiquity of cloud, mobility and BYOD initiatives is changing the way educators teach and work, and the way students learn and research. Students are free to roam and teachers, untethered from their desks, can deliver more personal and engaging learning experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) is playing its part in the ongoing proliferation of devices too. The school network must be robust enough to manage (and secure) these connections.

Without intelligent tools to seamlessly and securely manage the process, device onboarding can quickly turn into a time-intensive burden for already stretched teams. Once they’re on, attention needs to shift to effortlessly monitoring the devices and addressing any network issues before they impact the end user. Solutions like Aruba AirWave deliver real-time data insights and enhanced visibility across the network, and Aruba ClearPass helps streamline the secure onboarding of devices. The solutions have been designed to put the power back in the hands of network administrators to deliver the quality of service required for today’s learning environments.

2. NAPLAN goes digital

With over one million students participating each year, the annual National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing period is a significant milestone for the education sector. Up until 2018, the IT department could consider themselves largely exempt from the blood, sweat and tears associated with those two weeks in May. However, the 4-year transition from paper-based to online testing has put the microscope firmly on their ability to deliver a faultless network experience for this critical period.

By 2021, all schools will be required to deploy the NAPLAN Online client, a locked-down browser that allows students, potentially hundreds at a time at a single school, to sit tests in a secure environment. This shift is applying significant pressure as schools work to onboard countless devices and deliver consistent, reliable connectivity. Many schools are not yet able to deliver the infrastructure – devices, bandwidth, and networks – to deliver an optimal experience when students need it most.

The design and planning of a high-density Wi-Fi network within a campus environment is a complex task without also having to cater for NAPLAN Online.

What if you could “pressure test” your environment to simulate the sort of stress NAPLAN Online will apply to your network in advance? Aruba’s new User Experience Insight Sensor can simulate a high load scenario within your network and provide actionable insights in real-time. These insights are delivered by an easy to understand dashboard. These insights can help you validate your network’s readiness or provide you with the information to remediate gaps in your network’s performance.

3. Notifiable Data Breaches Act

Schools and universities collect a dizzying array of sensitive personal data – including student and parent information, exam results, health information and more. Just like the wider enterprise community, schools are not immune to data breaches. In fact, according to NTT’s 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report, the education sector is the most cyber-attacked industry in Australia1.

Historically, breaches have been under reported in the education sector. However, in February 2018 the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme came into effect. It’s now mandatory for Australian schools and tertiary institutions to notify individuals whose personal information is involved in a breach.

Understanding what is involved in managing personal data and a school’s obligations in this situation can be a difficult path to navigate alone. Many of our education clients have engaged us to undertake security assessments to better understand their exposure to this risk, and to determine the level of understanding within their own staff on how to mitigate cyber threats.

A school phishing case study

Proving the old adage that the biggest security threats are from the inside, a recent phishing simulation on The Southport School’s staff delivered eye-opening results. Of the 298 emails sent, 174 were opened and 96 were clicked resulting in an alarming 64 people sharing their full credentials. If this was a real-world attack, the consequences could be catastrophic – business disruption, costly remediation, reputation damage and loss of trust from affected individuals. To reduce risk, comprehensive training was provided to help staff identify threats and develop their individual phishing detection skills.

Ready to embrace The Anywhere Classroom?

Data#3 is a proud partner of Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, whose next-generation network solutions are tackling today’s challenges head-on, and preparing for what tomorrow brings. To learn how your school can embrace the opportunities that cloud, mobility and emerging technologies are offering, get in touch with a Data#3 Network Specialist today.

1. The Educator Online [2018]. Education the most cyber-attacked industry – report. [Online] Available at: https://www.theeducatoronline.com/au/news/education-the-most-cyberattacked-industry–report/257032

Tags: Aruba AirWave, Aruba ClearPass, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Education, HPE Aruba, K-12 Education, Mobility, Network Security, Networking, Next-Generation Wireless, Notifiable Data Breach (NDB), Tertiary Education, The Anywhere Classroom, Wireless Infrastructure, Wireless Network

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