School Districts Protect Networks with New Appliances

Two school systems have gone public with their use of firewall appliances to implement content filtering software and wireless access points. Franklin County Schools in Alabama and Chester School District in New Jersey are both using appliances from the Seattle-based WatchGuard Technologies, which sells firewalls, access points and other security products.

The Alabama district has been using WatchGuard products since 2000. Franklin County's current firewall is an XTM 1525-RP, which has 25 Gbps firewall throughput and 10 Gbps virtual private network throughput. On top of that the school system has added a subscription to WatchGuard's security suite, which offers gateway antivirus, spam blocking, web blocking, intrusion prevention and application control. The district also has deployed AP200 wireless access points, supporting 802.11a/b/g/n in its seven locations. To serve residents in its rural area, the district also runs a couple of access points on the edge of its school grounds to provide "guest" Wi-Fi access.

"The school board can't afford to hire a huge staff, so it's essential to have a system and appliances that are easily manageable, and that's what WatchGuard does for us," noted Tim Burks, network administrator at Franklin County's district, in a prepared statement.

Chester School District has about 1,200 students and 400 staff members. After an evaluation of solutions from a handful of network providers, the school system chose WatchGuard's XTM 850, with 8 Gbps firewall and virtual private network throughput. That's armed with application control, web filtering, spam blocking, gateway antivirus and intrusion prevention. Shortly after deployment, the system helped IT staff catch students attempting to go onto disallowed websites. With the use of Active Directory authentication and WatchGuard reporting tools, IT was able to identify the responsible students and forwarded that information to the administration for follow-up.

"The ease of access to information and the intuitive platform provided by WatchGuard has freed up valuable time that, in the past, was spent monitoring and maintaining the previous device," said Dean Anderson, Chester's technology director, in a press release. "Now, more time can be spent where it matters — supporting the staff and students."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.