Security | News

Walker County Schools Upgrades Firewalls, Rebuilds Data Center After Tornado

A Georgia school district is continuing to refine its network security after living for a couple of years with an infrastructure that had to be rebuilt after being eradicated in a tornado. Walker County School District is continuing its use of WatchGuard Technologies security products. It recently upgraded its firewalls from WatchGuard's XTM 1050 to the XT 2520.

In April 2011, the building housing the district's information and technology center (as well as a planetarium) was knocked in by a 70 mile-per-hour tornado, then pelted with rain, turning the contents of the structure into a wet and moldy mess. The district rebuilt the data center, which serves 20 sites with 9,300 students and 1,500 staff and upgraded its infrastructure to address new and future technology needs in the district — including increased mobile device usage in the classrooms.

At that point, Walker County replaced its Cisco Systems firewall with products from WatchGuard. The use of the XTM firewalls has consolidated security functionality onto "one platform," said Network Administrator Bob Swanson, "so we can more easily deploy and manage our network security, without sacrificing performance."

The newer firewalls have allowed the district to give students access to the specific resources they need and to better control access to student searching through Google, Yahoo, and other sites. IT can also block student access to social media outlets while still providing access to those sites by administrators and staff.

Swanson suggested the last two years of technology initiatives have played a role in generating better testing scores. "Since all the kids are staying on the ball with what they're supposed to be doing in the classroom, our testing scores have gone up. We've had some of our highest testing scores this last year that we've ever had," he said.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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