Florida's Hillsborough County Public Schools system takes a holistic approach to endpoint security.
In 2012, the Tampa Bay–area district signed a three-year contract to manage 85,000 endpoints across 254 schools using a broad range of products in SymEd, a solution Symantec developed specifically for K–12 and higher education.
The offering, which is based on Symantec Client Management Suite, consists of Altiris asset management software; the ServiceDesk help desk tool; and App Center, Symantec's mobile device management offering. The package that HCPS uses also includes Symantec Endpoint Protection (anti-virus); Symantec Network Access Control software; and Business Critical Services, the company's support service.
"We started with Symantec anti-virus software in the early 2000s — after the Blaster virus hit us and we had to shut down the network — and kept expanding from there," says Sharon Zulli, manager of the HCPS Technology Customer Service and Support Department.
"It also helped that we were already Altiris users when Symantec acquired Altiris in 2007," she continues. "As we see it, all our security needs are covered, all of these products work together, and it's something we don't have to worry about for a few years."
SymEd allows the IT department to manage security from a centralized console, Zulli explains. What's more, the solution's many features provide functionality that HCPS didn't have in the past. For example, if a client's anti-virus software isn't up to date, the network access control software won't allow it to access the district's production network. If IT staff discover that there's a problem with the anti-virus protection, Symantec lets them deploy new software remotely.
"The remote deployment capability is really important to us, especially when you consider that the district serves an area of about 1,000 square miles — just under the size of the state of Rhode Island," Zulli says. "We also get frequent reports on which machines have experienced virus activity."
The MDM tool, meanwhile, gives IT staff the ability to conduct remote wipes or lock a machine if it's lost or stolen. Zulli acknowledges that mobility is a constant challenge but appreciates that the MDM software allows her staff to manage both district-issued tablets that many administrators use and the tablets that students and teachers bring to school. "We're still mostly in the pilot stage with the MDM software," she says, "but Symantec App Center supports Android, Windows and other platforms, so we feel pretty confident that we can handle the increased load."
What's more, through the automated tools in Symantec's Altiris, Zulli and her team can push out online test links in a secure environment in about two hours. This lets the district comply with county and state online testing requirements and also support individual teachers who wish to offer online tests in their courses.
"There's a testing lab in every school that can handle 26 to 52 students," Zulli explains. "What we do is push an icon to the district-owned desktops in the lab. The district really appreciates how efficiently the IT department can provide this service."
"By eliminating the malware outbreaks that once plagued our schools, Sophos Endpoint Protection has helped to deliver tens of thousands
of dollars in direct cost savings. It's freed the district's technology staff to participate in initiatives that deliver far greater educational benefits to students."
— Larry Bennett, Director of Technology, Durant (Okla.) Independent School District
"Network security is an ongoing conversation for districts, and today's leaders expect the technology department to function as a partner rather than a service provider in achieving district goals. Having strong endpoint security measures in place gives the IT team time to help schools focus on effective teaching and learning instead."
— Dr. Diana Mitchell, Executive Director of Technology, Harrison School District Two, Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Absolute Manage provides comprehensive visibility and control over all endpoints in our district, across all platforms, from within a single console. Through the software's power management capabilities, we were able to reduce energy usage by 79 percent, saving an estimated $53,000 a year."
The percentage of organizations that plan to add new layers of endpoint security defenses in the near future
The percentage of survey respondents who say that notebooks and other data-bearing devices pose a significant security risk because they aren't secure
The percentage of organizations that had at least one potential data loss incident over an average six-day period