Manteca Unified School District (MUSD) in Manteca, California, is committed to providing its more than 25,000 students with a safe environment, where quality education establishes the foundation for life-long learning. Crucial to maintaining such a safe environment is a comprehensive security solution that protects systems and networks from the gateway to the desktop. When Sean Colt joined the district as director of information technology in February 2006, he essentially was given a clean security slate to work with—MUSD was pulling its email services, help-desk support, and other IT systems out of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and bringing it all in-house. Colt’s tasks were to establish the IT infrastructure for the central district office as well as 30 schools and other sites, and then put in place a comprehensive security solution to protect it all. “The timing was right to put into place technologies for security—for intrusion detection, anti-virus, and spam,” Colt says.
Education sector has unique security challenges
Colt, who previously worked in the financial services industry, says the education sector has some unique security challenges. “You have the administrative staff, or what I call the business side, where we essentially run the school business,” he explains. “Then you have the school side, where you have the faculty and staff. We have to support both. But it’s challenging to mandate standards or to hold teachers or principals accountable to IT policy. Any restrictive security measures could be perceived as controlling or limiting the educational environment. Yet from the IT perspective, you’re trying to insulate and protect kids from going to inappropriate sites.”
MUSD has had to contend with other security issues. Prior to Colt coming on board, the school district’s systems succumbed at least once a year to a virus outbreak. It usually happened at the beginning of the school year, when students and teachers came back to school and accessed the network with laptop computers that IT had no way to monitor or secure during the summer break. Then there were problems with bandwidth and productivity, as faculty, staff and students would use IM or file-sharing programs.
In his previous job, Colt had used McAfee security solutions and was happy with how they performed. So, in his new role at MUSD, he turned to the security experts he already trusted to build a comprehensive security solution from the ground up. “The driving force in deciding to go with a McAfee solution was the centralized management offered through McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator® (ePO™),” Colt says.
Multiple McAfee solutions protect students, staff, and faculty
Colt confirms he was fortunate to be able to implement a comprehensive McAfee solution from the start. “We rolled out McAfee Network Security Platform (formerly McAfee IntruShield® Network Intrusion Prevention System), McAfee VirusScan® Enterprise, and McAfee Vulnerability Manager (formerly McAfee Foundstone®) all at once,” he explains. “So immediately, we caught all the people doing IM. We caught the people sharing files. We found and fixed a lot of security flaws and stopped a lot of spam.”
"It's rare that you can take something out of a box sameday and within a couple hours get it configured and start seeing a value-add."Sean Colt
Director of information technology, Manteca Unified School District
As a result, what could have been a challenging transition away from the SJCOE was a quick and seamless experience for Colt and the users he oversees. “ePO enabled our system administrators to quickly ramp up to manage the entire solution,” he explains. “And we’ve been able to gain visibility into our network with some of these tools. For example, we couldn’t attribute high network-bandwidth usage to any particular behavior until we could run a scan and find out there are 300 people running file-sharing programs. To be able to proactively drop those connections, and then proactively identify those machines that are doing that, is an eye-opener.”
In the process, Colt was able to establish standards for users to follow. He likens it to being a shepherd. “You first get control of the flock, and then you start going in the right direction. Some people will get outside of that, and we can run a report and identify that person. Previously, it would have to be an accidental discovery—we’d have to almost stumble upon it.”
Fast installation, faster results
With assistance from McAfee, the installation of each solution took just a matter of hours, and the impact was almost immediate. “It’s rare that you can take something out of a box same-day and within a couple hours get it configured and start seeing a value-add,” he says. Colt adds that within a week, McAfee Network Security Platform eliminated all filesharing and IM activity, and the annual virus outbreaks have since been reduced to zero.
Network bandwidth has been especially freed up. Colt explains: “The uptime has gone up, the downtime has gone down. Our bandwidth, which was previously saturated, is now manageable. We haven’t added any more capacity within our network, yet we’re light-years ahead of where we were. Before, we were maxed out. Now, we’re running at about 70 percent, even though we’ve added several schools.” He estimates that bandwidth has increased at least 20 percent.
McAfee security solutions help MUSD IT support the school district’s mission. “We’re proactive in providing an environment that’s safe for kids, by eliminating the use of certain keywords and restricting chat,” says Colt. “Staff or students that use the network at MUSD are protected from foul language, inappropriate sites, and inappropriate instant messaging.” In the end, all this security helps MUSD achieve its overall mission of protecting the district’s students while providing the best education possible.