Leverage the Cloud to Boost Efficiency

By Kim Tracy  |  Posted 02-02-2012 Print Email

The IT team at Northeastern Illinois is severely overburdened with the challenge of managing existing IT services while also addressing new educational and operational requirements, says Kim Tracy, Executive Director of the school's University Technology Services. Enter cloud computing. "By moving IT services to the cloud, we can offload the complexity of the current IT environment and improve services to our faculty and students and provide the best learning experience possible," he says.

Our staff is severely overburdened with the challenge of managing existing IT services while also addressing new educational and operational requirements. Enter cloud computing. By moving IT services to the cloud, we can offload the complexity of the current IT environment and improve services to our faculty and students and provide the best learning experience possible.

Our first foray into cloud computing began with messaging security. Phishing and spear-phishing became onerous problems for the university, and dealing with them consumed much of our IT staff's time and energy. Our first response was to crank up inbound filtering with our previous appliance-based solution; however, this inevitably increased the number of false positives.

Network bandwidth was also a problem with our prior appliance-based solution. With more than 16,000 active mailboxes, and spam accounting for 80 percent of all mail, this translated into significant traffic. To handle the load of incoming mail, we purchased more network bandwidth, only to have it "eaten up" a few months later. Rather than have 200,000-plus spam messages pounding at my mail gateway everyday--and dealing with the resulting bandwidth issues--I wanted to make this someone else's problem by moving to a cloud solution.

To deal with this, we turned to the Symantec.cloud service. We are currently experiencing a number of targeted phishing attacks and have been working with Symantec to improve the ability to successfully block these targeted attacks.  We are pleased that these attacks have not resulted in NEIU's e-mail getting blacklisted by ISPs because of the number of compromised accounts caught by the service. Our e-mail is protected and going through.

Upgrade for Long-term Benefits

In the past, NEIU struggled with periodic security attacks, but since upgrading to this endpoint protection system--which offers advanced defense against all types of attacks for both physical and virtual systems--we haven't experienced quite so many malicious intrusions. The next step will be to further upgrade to Symantec Endpoint Protection 12, which provides enhanced virtualization support, a necessary feature since we plan to virtualize additional servers in the future.

Upgrading our identity management solution is also a key next step to providing unified access across all types of applications and different mobile devices. With a next-generation identity management solution in place--including seamless integration with our ERP system--we will be able to provide a personalized view based on the identity of the user. And while the potential impact of mobile devices and apps in education is just beginning it is inevitable, and we need to be prepared to meet these demands.

Instituting an IT consolidation program to simultaneously break down organizational silos, reduce costs, improve backup and tighten messaging security involves meticulous planning and the careful allocation of resources. However, by implementing a forward-looking strategy, CIOs can not only improve IT effectiveness but help an organization meet its operational goals.

About the Author

Kim Tracy is Executive Director of University Technology Services for Northeastern Illinois University.



 

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