An organizing solution was found to manage mobile devices being used in Florida's Hillsborough School District, reports Greg Masters.
While the number of students passing through Hillsborough School District in Florida may be on par with what it was a decade ago, the number of mobile devices used to access textbooks, homework assignments and the like has more than doubled in that time.
And, being the eighth largest school district in the United States – with 267 sites spread throughout the Tampa-St. Petersburg area – one is talking about some big numbers.
The task of finding an integrated solution suite that would allow the educational institution to protect and manage its IT environment with a broad set of tools and services fell to Sharon Zulli, the district's manager of the technology customer services and support department.
It was not merely the doubling of endpoints that was a concern. Students, faculty and staff were also clamoring for choice in the mobile devices they could use on the network. Zulli and her IT staff of about 80 people wanted something that could be automatically and coherently managed. “We needed a centralized means for delivering software to faculty, staff and students,” she says. “Imaging and reimaging and provisioning were all factors.”
While online reference material, assignments, lessons, collaboration and multimedia were once an exception in K-12 educational environments, this is no longer the case. And, with many institutions offering fully virtual learning environments – in addition to states mandating that K-12 schools provide one or more online classes before graduation – the importance of protecting the infrastructure, information and identities of students, faculty and staff has become not just a priority, but a necessity.
Zulli and her team looked at a variety of solutions. The district had been a Symantec shop for many years so it compared Symantec offerings with other popular solutions. Presentations were made to the school district's technology steering committee. Possibilities were examined against the current deployment, and end-user familiarity played a role in the decision process. A procurement bid was conducted to make the final selection based on input from the tech steering group.
And the winner is...
Zulli says the decision came down to a positive experience working with Symantec that led the district to choose a suite of offerings from Symantec/Altiris.
Symantec Protection Suite Enterprise Edition is a single solution offering endpoint security, combined with messaging protection and web security, says Bill Hansey, senior global product marketing manager of Symantec. “Centralized visibility and control are achieved with Symantec Protection Center enabling policy enforcement, consolidated reporting and real-time intelligence to increase security posture while reducing upfront and ongoing costs.”
Another component, Symantec Mobile Management, is used either on-premises or as a hosted solution. It provides both a means for central administration and self-service delivery of apps, plus technology to wrap apps with identity and protection policies to ensure business data remains secure from deliberate or accidental loss, says Brian Duckering, senior manager of enterprise mobility at Symantec.
The solution handles both app and device management in the same product, Duckering says. “It is also unique in addressing many other core requirements for solving enterprise mobility, like strong authentication, single sign-on across both native and cloud apps, and an ecosystem of third-party app developers providing Symantec-protected apps.”
Additionally, from a single console, the Altiris Client Management Suite from Symantec secures and troubleshoots systems with greater efficiency on more platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux and virtual desktop environments, says Travis Grandpre, senior product marketing manager at Symantec. “The suite automates time-consuming and redundant tasks to minimize efforts and costs associated with deploying, patching, supporting client systems and software.”
Further, the Altiris Asset Management Suite from Symantec improves visibility of assets at every point in the lifecycle, says Andrew Nicholson, product marketing manager at Symantec. “The solution helps organizations understand what they own and need in order to eliminate the purchase of unnecessary software and hardware, prepare for audits, avoid penalties and fines due to non-compliance, proactively manage vendor contracts, and align resources to ensure IT investments are optimized and business-aligned,” he says. “At a glance, asset managers can see the relationship between people and their assets to help plan for and manage change.”
The tool provides a single place for purchases/contracts, a single definition of software and a single interface for different users, says Nicholson. “In contrast, many of our competitors must leverage a partner to achieve a small portion of feature overlap, such as being able to correlate data with contracts.” Also, the offering seamlessly integrates data with the Altiris Client Management Suite and Server Management Suite. “This further enhances the value of the solution using the same familiar console,” says Nicholson.
Another ingredient in Hillsborough's (left) implementation is Symantec ServiceDesk. This runs in a user- and role-based portal to facilitate communication among all stakeholders to resolve incidents, perform root cause analysis of systemic problems and manage change for an IT organization, says Mark Greer, senior product marketing manager of endpoint management at Symantec. “Many Symantec customers have also taken ServiceDesk beyond IT to manage incidents and change in other parts of their organization (e.g., facilities and HR).” The tool, he says, solves the systemic problem many help desk and service management tools have, which is to enable customers to do deep customizations and have those customizations carry over following a software upgrade.
Deployment of all these elements went smoothly, says Zulli. She admits that there have been some obstacles and challenges, but her team has always managed to work through the issues, often with assistance from Symantec or its partner, Advanced MarketPlace. And, she says, once in place, the suite of tools has been easy to manage, and her team continues to discover more functionality.
Across the district
In many areas, Hillsborough also uses Altiris Power Management to shut down computers in order to comply with the district's power-saving initiatives. “We can monitor and meter software to ensure compliance,” says Zulli. “Being able to easily deploy software updates maintains standard software versions. With online assessments, we can also create a secure test environment by pushing out required software and settings.”
The deployment of the Symantec tool set reaches across the district's entire network.
The next goal is to upgrade to Altiris Notification Server 7.0 and to implement the Altiris Service Desk for better integration and support.
As for the future, Zulli says that as mobile device use accelerates and the possibility of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs evolve, another of her team's focus will be on mobile device management. For that eventuality, they are exploring technology from Symantec.