However, across the campus security landscape, providing remote access presents a host of challenges to educational institutions. Schools that provide safe and secure access to various applications from remote locations must do so while optimizing IT efficiency. If thousands of people are simultaneously accessing servers and using computer labs, this may cause a heavy load on computer systems. With low-grade processors and overloaded servers, system delays occur frequently, disrupting the learning process.
Additionally while providing online services such as student registration and reserving classrooms, the need to prevent IT security breaches must be the number one priority as cyber-attacks become increasingly more sophisticated and targeted. With the economic slowdown persisting around the world, schools’ technology budgets are limited, yet campus IT departments are still expected to deliver safe and high quality service, mitigate risk and reduce security vulnerabilities.
Federal funding programs like E-Rate provide some assistance toschools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access through discounts, but IT teams are still challenged to provide secure environments with constrained resources.
As campus leaders survey the challenges of maintaining and securing computer systems under tight budgets, which technology investments should they consider when planning the future of learning at their institution?
Secure remote connectivity is one of several technologies that help educational institutions optimize resources, keep administrative costs down, increase productivity and enhance the learning process. It has been gaining wide acceptance and is now considered an essential part of a comprehensive IT security infrastructure. Secure remote access benefits educational institutions in a number of ways.
Reduced Investment in Technology Infrastructure
Because remote access services are located on the remote access solution provider’s servers, and not the school’s servers, schools can save money without the need to invest in hardware to host data. Secure remote connectivity optimizes existing server resources and reduces total cost of ownership. It can make the use of incompatible systems (e.g., Windows vs. Mac) a seamless interaction. For example, Panuhou School, a private K-12 school located in Honolulu, Hawaii, utilizes Windows-based computers to perform administrative tasks, financial management and student grading. However, in campus computer labs, Punahou invested in Apple computers.
The incompatibility of the systems did not allow access to a significant number of files, causing delays and frustration for the IT support staff. To alleviate the problem, the school implemented a remote access solution that allowed platform-independent connectivity to network their Mac workstations with the Windows Terminal Server running their Senior Systems program. Without this remote access solution, the school may have had to spend money by investing in additional computers to solve the incompatibility between their systems.
In addition to decreasing the cost of the technology infrastructure, secure remote connectivity has the potential to improve the availability of IT support staff since only a Web browser is needed for client access. This frees up IT staff to focus on the myriad of additional responsibilities such as ensuring the availability of other systems, applications, networks & servers, rolling out new equipment and updates, performing back-ups and providing user training.
With secure remote access to campus PCs and computer labs, students can access course materials, files and software applications anytime from any location on or off campus via an Internet connection - extending the classroom beyond campus buildings and hours. Remote access’ extension of the classroom further accommodates the learning style of today’s highly connected student interested in e-learning and distance learning. With secure remote access, students can use their preferred PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device to collaborate with peers on projects, making the learning process more flexible and tailored to their needs.
Reduced Security Concerns
Many educational institutions experience thousands of data breach attempts every day. According to the associate dean of research policy at University of Wisconsin, Bill Mellon, the amount of attempts to penetrate university systems originating from foreign countries has reached up to 100,000 per day. As cyber-attacks increase, educational institutions also struggle with the combined challenge of protecting sensitive data such as Social Security Numbers, grade information, and credit card numbers and allowing free access to research conducted by the university.
With rising security concerns, it is vital that universities implement remote access solutions as part of a comprehensive security strategy that includes firewalls, anti-virus software and intrusion prevention services.
Ability to Quickly Scale Services to Match Demand
Many secure remote access solution providers allow universities and schools to purchase resources as needed. For example, if the institution experiences significant growth, it can easily increase the capacity of their remote access solutions. In an opposite circumstance, they can scale down services if their needs decrease.
Over the past few years, secure remote access has gained significant momentum in many industries, including education. As the protection of data, adherence to strict budgets and the satisfaction of faculty and student needs become more important, secure remote access is a reliable solution for educational institutions. A robust secure remote access product is much more than a technological trend; it is an essential part of a campus computing infrastructure that has the power to solve countless problems for universities and schools.
About the Author:
This is a guest post by Siegfried Plommer, Director of HOB GmbH KG, a software based remote access solution provider. It was reviewed and accepted for publication without fee.