Security VAR Enters The Education Market
This VAR plans to showcase a recent networking security job at a 5,000-student school district to gain additional sales in the education market.
VARs are constantly searching for ways to increase sales. Moving into a vertical market is an option to do so by gaining access to a new customer base. VAR M5 Systems (M5) began in 1990 as a small VAR of PC accounting software and today creates custom solutions concentrating on the networking and security market. M5 recently penetrated the education market with a networking security job at Cottonwood School District in Cottonwood, AZ, that has 5,000 students.
Astaro, a vendor of Internet security hardware and software, informed the VAR that Cottonwood had shown interest in Astaro products at the May 2007 Networld/Interop trade show. M5 contacted Cottonwood and set up a meeting to discuss the school’s needs. At the meeting, Michael Seidner, owner of M5, and two Astaro representatives discussed which Astaro product would best fit Cottonwood’s needs and what benefits the school would reap from the installation. M5 followed up by phone for a month before winning the job.
At the time M5 started the project, Cottonwood was using separate firewall and content filtering components. The school was paying more than $7,500 per year in maintenance fees and wanted the capability to further monitor students’ use of the Internet and control the content students were viewing. The ability to easily and effectively monitor the students’ use of the Internet has become a growing concern with educational facilities as technology has advanced. With Cottonwood’s separate firewall and content filtering components, for example, the school district was not able to restrict students from downloading music. Renewal of the service agreement for Cottonwood’s content filtering component was approaching, and Cottonwood decided on M5 to integrate an all-in-one networking security solution. “Cottonwood was using multiple components for those functions and had to manage those components separately,” says Seidner. “An all-in-one solution offers more functions and the ability to manage all of them from one device.”
Streamline Security With UTM
M5 installed the Astaro Gateway 425a, which is a UTM (unified threat management) device. The Gateway 425a encrypts e-mails to ensure communications are secure and filters incoming e-mails to reduce spam. It provides a firewall, as well as content filtering, antivirus/antispyware, and URL filtering features.
Cottonwood has a segmented VLAN (virtual local area network), meaning the network is broken up into groups to contain broadcast traffic. The Gateway 425a had to be configured to be compatible for communication with Cottonwood’s segmented VLAN. The configuration took M5 two days.
The Gateway 425a has a preinstalled operating system and software, so once compatibility with the VLAN was established, Seidner was able to install the product in one afternoon. “The Gateway 425a doesn’t require in-depth technical knowledge because it offers point-and-click system administration,” says Seidner. “We were able to complete training in about four hours.”
Since installing the Gateway 425a, Cottonwood has set up filters based on time periods, user log-in, and user groups to ensure that no one is viewing content that is unacceptable in the school setting or a risk to the system. The school district is able to monitor both inbound and outbound traffic, meaning staff is able to filter both what information users can access, as well as links embedded in e-mails. Cottonwood now has the ability to filter content from millions of Web sites. This includes sites for downloading music and instant messaging, which are popular with students. Cottonwood expects payback on the installation within two years.
M5 is planning to install Astaro Report Manager at Cottonwood as an addition to the Gateway 425a. A software package for installation on Windows-based servers, Report Manager is a reporting portal that includes more than 800 report templates. It retrieves and analyzes data from the Gateway 425a and allows Cottonwood to view more detailed reports of usage and set up alerts for instant knowledge of security violations.