Sep 27 2018

Smart Solutions Help Campus IT Teams Do More with Less

Amid budgetary pressures and escalating service demands, automation and services support can change the game for technology staff.

A recent New York Times article highlighted the financial struggle that many institutions are facing, with no sign that pressures will soon let up. “Continual belt-tightening is creating a number of negative outcomes,” says Eric J. Barron, president of Pennsylvania State University. “Henry Houdini was never bound this tightly.” 

Colleges are, in many respects, between a rock and a hard place. Budgets may be shrinking, but institutions still must deliver the high-quality connectivity students expect and the information security defenses needed in this era of persistent threats. For institutions feeling the fiscal pressure, technology integration may be the answer to relieving stress without sacrificing the goods.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out 3 perks of network management on higher education campuses!

Automated Security Tools Add a Smart Defensive Layer

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are quickly proving their worth when it comes to cybersecurity. Task automation serves double duty for IT teams, taking some of the burden off their shoulders, while evening the playing field against more advanced hacking tactics. Hackers are using AI too, after all, so it pays to beat them at their own game. In particular, according to Cisco’s 2018 cybersecurity report, the use of automated botnets by cybercriminals and network intruders is becoming a bigger problem. 

Automated security tools let IT teams set up parameters for the system to search throughout the network, alerting staff when a potential threat is detected. Unlike occasional vulnerability scans, these systems run constantly, alleviating the need for an IT member to manually sift through logs to identify discrepancies.

Clarke University’s IT team installed Aruba ClearPass to monitor network use, giving team members greater visibility and freeing them to work on other projects while the software does the heavy lifting. The University of South Carolina had similar success with its adoption of FireEye’s automated endpoint security system. They were able to find and respond to a potential breach much more quickly, decreasing the time it took to complete an investigation from eight hours to two, according to CISO James D. Perry II. For smaller teams especially, that extra time can be crucial.


Service Providers Extend IT Teams’ Reach

Another strategy that helps to ease the pressure is enlisting help from an outside service provider. Nearly 80 percent of universities that responded to a survey from eCampus News said they have incorporated Software as a Service (by far the most popular adoption of any cloud service) into the mix. 

With a service provider hosting applications, IT teams no longer have to be responsible for backend upkeep, freeing up time and resources for other areas. Similarly, Integration Platform as a Service “can help your institution modernize from legacy systems and applications, and offer robust data integration and greater flexibility and agility in building those integrations,” according to EDUCAUSE. “By moving solutions off-site, you can do more with less, including supporting a smaller IT organization that focuses on brokering rather than developing services.”

iPaaS services like Microsoft Azure helped smaller institutions like Ithaca College, which has completed 20 iPaaS integrations since 2017, EDUCAUSE reports. Ithaca saw a 75 to 95 percent increase in efficiency, even as it reduced its staff of integration developers from five positions to two.

Finally, integrating point-to-point solutions can be a financially frustrating experience, EDUCAUSE reports: “According to Gartner Group, for every dollar spent on an enterprise application, organizations spend four to five dollars adapting and integrating that application. Further, Gartner reports that 35 percent of all IT spending goes to integration.”

That finding makes clear the right solution can go a long way to save not only time, but also money — helping IT teams breathe a bit easier and keep more in the coffers for projects down the line.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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