IT Science Case Study: Enabling Remote Learning for a School District

eWEEK IT SCIENCE: Like many organizations seeking the benefits of digital transformation, Morgan School District wanted to migrate its IT infrastructure to the cloud and enhance its overall cybersecurity posture across all its schools. Easier said than done.

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Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Enabling Remote Learning for an Entire School District 

Name the problem to be solved:

Like many organizations seeking the benefits of digital transformation, Morgan School District in Utah wanted to migrate its IT infrastructure to the cloud and enhance its overall cybersecurity posture across all five schools in its jurisdiction. As part of that, the small IT team wanted to simplify processes, reduce workload and centrally manage all applications and services through one console with frictionless deployment. It sought out Infoblox for a solution.

“The more IT teams can make tasks invisible to the end user, especially in a K-12 environment, the better the solution implementation will be received by users and by everyone,” Ven Savage, school district network operations manager and the project manager, said. “The beauty of Infoblox is that it simplifies my team’s entire setup. I can manage everything from a single pane of glass and better protect our students, faculty and staff – and my own family – now working at home.”

When COVID-19 shut down schools, the staff quickly distributed laptops and added to their IT checklist content filtering to keep students safe in their remote learning environments.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution:

In evaluating solutions to cover five schools with more than 3,000 students, the team looked for centralized control and visibility into their networking and security operations. As a byproduct, the team would be able to eliminate duplicative tools and reduce time spent on investigating false positives.

“Filtering products for schools typically aren’t great, and the ones we’ve had in place aren’t enough for our schools,” Savage said. “We spent so much time dealing with so many false positives. I set up our filtering to happen at the DNS level, which is different from other solutions. It’s more effective and successful at eliminating false positives.”

List the key components in the solution: 

Morgan School District is using Infoblox’s:

  • DDI solution to simplify and optimize DNS, DHCP, and IP address management that make all network interactions, whether on-premses or hybrid multi-cloud, possible; and
  • BloxOne Threat Defense, which harnesses DNS to detect and block malware and to maximize existing security investments to extend protection across the entire IT infrastructure.   

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned:

“The deployment was pretty straightforward for us,” Savage said. “We’re not a large organization, so moving to Infoblox was really seamless. Our DHCP and DNS deployment was done within a day. As far as BloxOne Threat Defense goes, once we got that up and running, we were able to get rid of the old filter system within a day as well. Day-to-day operations has been a much easier process for us.”

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project:

The IT team used Infoblox’s DDI solution to deliver continuous uptime, which in the COVID shutdown requires the network scale to accommodate heavier bandwidth and traffic that teachers and students now depend on for remote learning. Layering on BloxOne Threat Defense reduced false positives from eight to 10 per day to one in six months, freeing up the small team’s time to cover actual IT needs.   

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Photo: Julia M. Cameron, Pexels