For years, schools have been fighting to keep students from bringing their own laptops, phones and tablets to school – mainly because of security and access control. How can you stop students from using these devices for activities that are not allowed on school grounds, especially when connected to a school network?
Technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, however, making it easier and more possible than ever for BYOD security to match and exceed the concerns that many educators and administrators have and to prevent problems from developing or worsening. Here are five such obstacles and how many K-12 environments are tackling them.
Access Policies – How do you keep students from accessing the Internet through wireless networks and downloading or using things they shouldn’t? Most schools have implemented access controls and use firewalls and access points in the building that limit what students or faculty can do by their credentials.
Online Threats – Online threats or breaches of security are a concern for any IT department, especially in a school where students now have access to those systems. Most modern BYOD security networks protect against this both passively and actively.
Personal Data – Powerful firewalls, strict access controls and maintenance of the systems used for BYOD schools is needed to ensure grades, salary info, test scores and test drafts are all protected against outside access.
Infrastructure – The infrastructure of a BYOD school needs to be protected in all of its forms – physical, virtual and cloud. Especially if faculty and students will have access to files from home, which would require login from an outside network, the infrastructure needs to be robust enough to keep data where it is and not allow unauthorized access.
Cost of Management – Beyond BYOD security, many administrators worry about the cost of managing everything. Fortunately, this is often not an issue. While setup can be costly, the overall decrease in cost from not needing to maintain or replace as many desktop or laptop computers in the school district often results in a positive net gain. Policies are often unified across multiple districts or schools as well to make it easier to train new faculty and maintain the systems with a small IT staff.
All of these things are very real concerns for educators, administrators and IT staff members in school districts around the country considering whether to implement a BYOD policy. However, with the right vendor and a clear idea of how to enforce the right policies, BYOD security can be maintained very effectively.
The key is to have a plan in place, choose a vendor with the experience and technology needed to maintain your access policies,and have a clear plan in place for when any of these policies are breached or when a problem develops with the infrastructure. In most cases the result has been very positive, with very low incident rates (below 1% in most schools) and across the board rave reviews from teachers and administrators.