How to tackle the most challenging areas of IT in education

October 24, 20194 Minute Read

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Colleges and universities have a challenging road ahead regarding digital transformation. IT in education must keep pace with the latest trends in technology, ensure smooth campus operations as demands for bandwidth and computing resources increase, and somehow squeeze all of their pressing strategic priorities out of a lean budget. Here are a few areas education IT professionals should assess when looking to secure and streamline tech at their institutions.

1. Security—look to automate

As Security Boulevard reports, higher education institutions are increasingly being targeted in cyber attacks. Georgia Tech suffered a massive breach in April 2019 when an unknown hacker or group of hackers broke into a web application, infiltrated a key database, and made off with the personal information of up to 1.3 million current and former students, faculty members, staff, and university applicants.

In light of these growing risks, it’s perhaps no surprise that information security strategy comes in as Educause‘s top IT challenge for 2019—the fourth year running. IT chiefs at higher education institutions must fend off sophisticated threats in a complex, multi-device campus environment with limited budgets. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, but efficient IT security systems and processes can make the job easier.

Higher education IT teams can improve their cybersecurity posture by automating key security processes. For example, they can take advantage of innovative printers that automatically detect malware attacks in progress, notify IT about potential incursions, and self-heal after the fact. Professionals can also tap print security management software to monitor all networked printers for compliance with security policies and automatically remediate any issues they find.

2. Legacy infrastructure—upgrade ASAP

Higher education IT professionals also have to contend with legacy infrastructure that, due to budget limitations, may have been pressed into service for longer than is ideal. Aging systems harbor significant hidden costs, hamper productivity with unplanned downtime, consume an inordinate amount of IT staff resources, integrate poorly with newer platforms, and pose a dangerous security risk to the entire IT environment.

Finding cost-effective ways to refresh devices in the campus IT fleet can go a long way toward addressing these challenges. Higher education IT leaders can engage a managed services provider to update printers regularly and replace any units past their prime that represent more of a burden than a benefit from a resource perspective as well as a security standpoint.

At the same time, campus IT professionals can leverage the analytics in an MPS solution to identify usage patterns and spot opportunities for cost savings, trim expenses, and win accolades from their colleagues in the finance team. Newer, more reliable hardware combined with predictable, contract-based pricing means fewer question marks in your budget. With a more concrete idea of your print expenditure, you can more easily allocate funds to innovation from the beginning rather than wait for a budget surplus that may never come.

3. User privacy—don’t cut corners

As the Georgia Tech incident shows, privacy concerns aren’t restricted to the realm of business. And as Educause points out, colleges and universities rely on sensitive private information to perform a wide range of fundamental tasks, from registering students to hiring staff to conducting research. Students, faculty, and staff have understandable concerns about the privacy of their personal information in an era of seemingly endless high-profile breaches, and campus IT teams know they need to make this issue a top priority.

One way to address the urgent challenges facing IT in education is to adopt technologies that offer privacy by design. A good example is the pull printing feature found in MPS solutions. It encrypts files in transit, shielding any data contained within the documents from prying eyes. Then, once a document arrives at a printer, a user must provide their personal authentication in the form of an ID card, PIN code, or both in order to claim their print. This way, no one can gain unauthorized access to private information, such as students’ grades or financial aid applications. IT can even limit access to specific printers, ensuring that only assigned users are even able to send documents to them in the first place.

Higher education IT professionals are juggling multiple priorities, innovating the student experience, protecting the security of their environments, and updating aging legacy tech. These goals can be tricky to accomplish with a lean budget, but IT leaders at colleges and universities can make significant progress toward them by leveraging technology solutions that make their IT environment more efficient and secure.

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