IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS: Which One is Best for Your Business?

As more and more organizations consider switching their business assets to the cloud, it is important to understand the differences between the three models of cloud service: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). By comparing IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, you can choose the best model for your organization.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

As you can see with the below diagram, with an on-premises, non-cloud system your organization takes care of everything, from the servers to the software. With IaaS, your servers and storage are taken care of with virtual, cloud servers. With PaaS, cloud service providers also supply the middleware. And with SaaS, third party providers supply everything, including the software.

IaaS_PaaS_SaaS

Let’s take a deeper look into each option.

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS is sometimes referred to as “your data center in the cloud.” With the IaaS model of cloud services, third party providers host virtual hardware equipment such as servers and storage systems. IaaS providers may also take care of associated services such as ongoing system maintenance, data backup and business continuity.

Organizations that use IaaS are typically billed on the amount of storage they need, which are tabulated by the hour, week or month, depending on the service contract. This makes IaaS platforms highly scalable IT resources. If your organization grows, you simply need to pay for more storage rather than buy costly hardware. If your organization shrinks, you can reduce that storage. You also don’t need to maintain an IT staff solely dedicated to run servers.

This model is particularly attractive to small businesses and startups that may be growing, and companies that experience temporarily high workloads, like retailers during the holiday shopping season. However, you have to be careful to monitor your usage. In the metered world of IaaS, you only want to pay for what you need.

Examples of IaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine (GCE).

IaaS offers many advantages, including:

  • Easy to automate storage, networking, servers and processing power
  • Avoids wasteful spending because server/storage is based on consumption
  • Clients retain complete control of their infrastructure
  • Highly scalable

PaaS: Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service (PaaS) delivers a platform to clients, which lets them develop, run and manage their business applications. Like IaaS, PaaS comes with virtual servers, storage and networking. But with PaaS, developers also have the tools to build customized software without having to worry about operating systems, software updates, storage or the underlying infrastructure.

PaaS is a pay-as-you-go service.

PaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Resources can easily be scaled up or down as business changes
  • Saves time and money with developing or deploying in-house apps, and significantly reduces the amount of coding needed to create them
  • Streamlines application management, and lets multiple developers work on the same project more efficiently

Examples of PaaS include Google App Engine, OpenShift, AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Windows® Azure.

SaaS: Software as a Service

When you consider IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, Software as a Service is likely the most familiar to you. This is the most common cloud model used by businesses, and provides a wide variety of individual software applications such as email and collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), billing/payroll processing, sales management, human resources management, financial management, database management, enterprise resourcing planning (ERP), content management and document editing and management.

Organizations typically pay for SaaS applications via a subscription fee on a monthly or annual basis, often based on the number of people using the application, or the number of transactions that are run. Because of this fee structure, one of the major advantages to SaaS is its ongoing scalability and the ability to add or subtract users as needed. Since the apps are delivered via the web, SaaS also eliminates the need to have IT staff available to download and install applications on each individual computer, and third party vendors manage all potential technical issues. This allows IT staff to spend their time on more pressing, organizational matters.

Examples of SaaS include Google Docs (and many common Google apps such Google Calendar), DropboxTM, Cisco WebexTM and Salesforce.

SaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Applications can be accessed anywhere, and on mobile devices
  • Organizations can access many applications, including those used infrequently
  • Apps are always kept up-to-date; no need to install patches or updates
  • Scalability and cost savings

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Each cloud model, whether you are considering IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS offers specific features and functionalities. Whether you need cloud-based software for storage options, a platform to develop customized applications, or complete control over your entire infrastructure, there is a cloud service option for your organization.

Still not sure? At Single Path, we work with many small-to-medium sized businesses, school districts and other organizations to help them find the cloud services best for them.

Contact us to learn more about how to move your assets to the cloud.

Six Major Benefits of Using Technology in the Classroom

Benefits of Using Technology in the ClassroomThere are many benefits of using technology in the classroom, and its use gets nearly universal acclaim from educators. According to the study Education Technology Use in School, from Gallup and the non-profit NewSchools Venture Fund, more than eight in 10 teachers (81%), principals (88%) and administrators (92%) agree that they see “great value in using digital learning tools in the classroom.” Even higher numbers of teachers, principals and administrators see great value in using tech tools in the future.

The benefits of using technology in the classroom isn’t merely anecdotal. An analysis published in Review of Educational Research found that classroom technology led to statistically significant performance improvements in English language arts (ELA), writing and middle school science (though science scores improved more for boys than for girls). Also, students from low-income backgrounds and homes where English is a second language saw improvement in scores across a variety of subjects. In some cases, these students improved test scores in writing more than their better-off peers.

The benefits of using technology in the classroom are many, and are significant. Those benefits include the following six:

  1. Better Access to Learning

No longer does the size of the school dictate the amount of resources available to its students. Regardless of where a school is located, how big it is, and how well funded it is, a world of knowledge is available to nearly every child (and teacher’s) fingertips. As business technology review site TrustRadius puts it, “With information at the tips of our fingers, learning is now boundless.” Tech-savvy teachers can even use technology to present ideas beyond the chalkboard or written page, such as by introducing activity models, and interactive controls for students.

  1. Increased Teacher Collaboration

Technology lets teachers collaborate and share ideas and lesson plans online. There is a vast and vibrant global teacher community, giving proactive educators many opportunities to tap into new ideas and strategies, and to provide students with additional resources. According to the website Schoology Exchange, one of many collaboration sites for teachers, “The beauty of collaboration is not only the ability to tap into various perspectives and ideas, but also to share responsibility for our students’ learning. The more people invested in a student’s education, the better the chance that student has to be successful.”

  1. Improved Parental Involvement

Most guardians today have extremely busy schedules and may not have the time to assist their children with homework, or come to class for parent-teacher conferences. With technology tools, however, parents may be able to meet with teachers via web conferencing, or check their child’s attendance, assignments and grades through web portals like PowerSchool.

  1. Money-Saving

Technology can be pricey, but it can also open the door to educational experiences that would otherwise be impossible, or cost significantly more money. For example, virtual field trips and virtual labs let students explore new frontiers without leaving their desks, and electronic documents, emails, electronic textbooks and other online resources lets schools save money on books, paper, printing and more—while still providing students with enriching educational resources.

  1. Students are More Engaged

According to the Center for Teaching and Learning, “Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences.” Fortunately, technology can play a major role in providing new and playful ways to learn. For example, videos or live streaming content can offer students a new perspective, and make a concept or subject easier to understand. These videos are often more entertaining and engrossing than classroom instruction. Per the Education Technology Use in School survey, more than half of all students say that technology makes school more interesting, 42% of students would like to use technology more often at school, and only 8% said they would like to use technology less.

  1. More Personalized Learning

Customized, personalized learning is critical to student success. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Digital Education (CDE), personalized learning is the No. 1 educational technology priority around the country, including digital curriculum in classrooms, computing devices in classroom, and professional development in personalized learning practices. The Education Technology Use in School survey reports that most teachers (57%), principals (65%) and administrators (73%) think digital learning tools are more effective than non-digital tools for personalizing instruction.

Getting the Benefits of Using Technology in the Classroom with Single Path

While technology can improve learning, students need access to that technology regardless of income levels and other factors. At Single Path, we work with schools and school districts across the country to ensure they can take advantage of all the benefits of using technology in the classroom. Our educational consulting services help schools make smart technology choices, and implement them effectively. We help provide technology that engages students, and puts schools on a better path to forging students’ futures.

Contact us to learn more about enhancing your school’s performance with technology.

 

What You Need To Know About Windows 7 End of Life

If your organization uses Windows 7 you are probably already aware Microsoft plans to discontinue this popular operating system beginning January 14, 2020. Windows has taken every opportunity to remind you of the Windows 7 End of Life event. After January 14, Microsoft will no longer offer technical assistance or software updates for Windows 7, including updates that help protect PCs from new cyber threats. If you’re a Windows 7 user, what does this mean for you, and what do you need to do before January 14?

Why is Windows 7 End of Life Happening?

Microsoft says they need to end Windows 7 support so they can focus on newer technologies. Windows 7 is 10 years old after all, which is about 200 years old in tech-years. But Windows 7 also remains incredibly popular, with recent reports showing that Windows 7 is still being used on more than 37% of all PCs.

Microsoft actually started the Windows 7 End of Life process by ending mainstream support on January 13, 2015. At that point they stopped adding new features and honoring warranty claims. However, they have still provided regular patches and updates to ensure security issues and bugs are fixed. That will no longer happen after January 14. The termination of support for Windows 7 comes just after Microsoft introduced Windows 10, and Microsoft wants you to upgrade to the new system, boasting that their Windows 10 software is the most secure Windows ever. But should you?

What’s the Big Deal? I think I’ll Keep Windows 7.

While your Windows 7 operating system will still work after January 14, the lack of security patches is a real concern. As PC Place points out, “The biggest issue with continuing to use Windows 7 is that it won’t be patched for any new viruses or security problems once it enters End of Life, and this leaves you extremely vulnerable to any emerging threats. What’s more, if a large number of people continue to use Windows 7 after the End of Life date, that could actually be a big incentive for malicious users to target viruses and other nasties at Windows 7.”

That Sounds Bad. What Are My Options? 

  1. Upgrade to Windows 10

Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is by far be the easiest transition for your organization in response to Windows 7 End of Life. As TechRadar reports, “because both operating systems are made by Microsoft the upgrade process is relatively easy, and in many cases you can keep your files on your PC. This means you’ll experience the minimum of disruption when upgrading to Windows 10.”

And most reviews of Windows 10 have been positive, with the new system offering a number of new features including facial recognition, faster start-ups, “ink-accelerated technology” with a stylus, and new editing tools for photos and videos.

One of the biggest problems, however, is the possible expense involved—and purchasing the new operating system is only a fraction of that cost. You see, you might also have to buy everyone a new computer. As Microsoft says: “The best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10. And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC. While it is possible to install Windows 10 on your older device, it is not recommended.”

Here are the minimum hardware specifications for Windows 10:

  • Processor:1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card:DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display:800 x 600 resolution

If all of your organization’s computers have those specifications, you’re set for your Windows 7 End of Life software purchase and transition. If not, however, you need to upgrade your hardware before you switch. And while prices continue to go down on many computer models, this can still be a sizable investment.

  1. Upgrade to a different operating system

Windows may be the most popular PC operating system, but it’s not the only one. For example, Linux has been around since 1991, and is a completely open source system (meaning it is free). Apple is also an option, although that will also necessitate brand new hardware, and many of your programs might not be compatible with their operating system.

Still, you might want to look into other options, especially if the expense of converting to Windows 10 is out of your budget.

  1. Upgrade to Windows 10, Slowly

While there are some advantages to simply pulling the Windows 7 End of Life band-aid quickly, it’s also possible to dip just one foot into the water. If you simply can’t make the switch before January 14, Microsoft is offering Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. These will continue to deliver updates and patches for Windows 7 business users after January 2020. However, these extended security updates aren’t free, and Microsoft is charging a per device fee. Current pricing is $25 a device for the first year of updates, $50 per device for year two, and $100 a device for year three, with no guarantee updates will be offered beyond that date. However, this approach may allow you the flexibility of updating or purchasing new computers in phases, and reducing a single year financial hit.

I’m Not Sure What To Do!

That’s what Single Path is here for. Choosing new technology applications for your school or business can be a difficult decision, especially when resources are limited. We are continuously meeting with companies, schools and other organizations to provide guidance on their Windows 7 End of Life choices, and help them make smart decisions, evaluate their current tools, and to continuously re-evaluate them. And our large menu of security solutions can help protect you from cyber threats, or rebound if you are hit by one. With considerable experience working with small-to-medium sized businesses, plus schools and school districts, we can help you operate with confidence.

Contact us for more information!

The Why and How Behind Protecting Student Data and Teacher Data

In May of 2017, The Economist declared that data has replaced oil as the most valuable resource in the world. This means organizations that keep a lot of data, such as schools, are at significant risk from those trying to steal it. Districts and individuals who follow best practices for protecting student data and teacher data, however, can help stave off many threats.

The Numbers Behind the Why

In 2018 alone, K-12 schools reported 122 cyber attacks, resulting in “the theft of millions of taxpayer dollars, stolen identifies, tax fraud and altered school records,” per an article in Campus Safety magazine. Just one of those attacks affected 500,000 students and staff in the San Diego Unified School District, where names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing and home addresses, phone numbers, health information and legal notices were stolen.

Those 122 cyber attacks were just the successful ones. In May 2018, the K-12 Chief Information Officer at the Kentucky Office of Education Technology testified to Congress that four billion attempted attacks had been launched against Kentucky’s education data infrastructure over the last academic year. It was also reported that phishing attacks had increased 85 percent from the previous year (see our previous blog posts on phishing techniques, Part 1 and Part 2). 

Why Teachers are at Risk

Teachers are targets because of the vast amount of demographic and administrative data that the school or district collects including teachers’ names, addresses, dates of birth, photos, Social Security numbers, banking information, performance data, health conditions, education credit information, and work records. Stealing this information can lead to identity theft and financial fraud. For example, recently hackers infiltrated the Cleveland school district’s payroll system, and were able to steal a large number of employee paychecks. Hackers did the same to teachers in the Atlanta Public School district.

Why Students are at Risk

Like teacher data, student data is also vulnerable as schools collect an ever-growing amount of information to meet state and federal requirements. Protecting student data is important as it can be particularly attractive to hackers due to clean credit histories and the availability of hard-to-collect information such as students’ mothers’ maiden names. How profitable can hacking be? According to a report from the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, a child’s Social Security number can be sold for $25 to $35 on the dark web. Multiply this by hundreds or even thousands of students, and one school’s data base can be worth six figures.

How To Start Protecting Student Data, and Teacher Data

Protecting student data, and teacher data, is an ongoing job that involves a lot of time and resources. At the very least, you should incorporate the following seven best practices for protecting student data, and teacher data, as soon as you can.

1.    Secure Devices

While network protection may seem like your first priority, protecting your physical assets is just as important. A stolen computer can include a goldmine of data. As we wrote in a previous blog post, “The mere presence of physical safeguards will strongly discourage malicious acts and provide peace of mind for those in the school.” Keep unused computers locked safely, and track all the hardware you have. You can’t protect what you don’t know you have.

2.    Encrypt Everything

Encryption scrambles text to make it unreadable by anyone other than those with the keys to decode it. By keeping back-up files as well as emails and shared files encrypted, hackers will be unable to read them, should they gain access to them.

3.    Make Strong Passwords

As we’ve reported previously, 60% of people use the same passwords for everything and 81% of data breaches are due to weak, default or stolen passwords. Too many people repeat the same password over and over, so if one password is stolen, many sites are compromised. Other users choose passwords that are easy to remember, but also easy to guess. A password manager can be a critical tool in creating impossible-to-replicate passwords.

4.    Back-Up Data

The easiest way to thwart a ransomware scheme is to have a back-up of your data. Back-ups also protect you from any sort of disaster, whether natural or hacker-originated. Cloud computing can make backing up data, and restoring it later, much easier. Complete cloud migration now can eliminate a lot of headaches later.

5.    Educate Staff

Most data breaches stem from human error. For example, the 2017 Equifax data breach, one of the biggest in recent memory, was blamed on a single employee failing to follow security warnings. Even the most senior IT professional can make a mistake, but the more someone knows about threats, the less of a chance they will fall victim to one. That’s why training your staff on best practices, such as how to spot a phishing email, or what not to divulge on social media, can make a big difference.

6.    Educate Students

Not all students may fully understand the criminality of cybercrime, whether they are attempting to hack a school’s network or conducting a DDoS attack as a prank (which is exactly what happened to the school district in St. Charles, Illinois). Per an article on educational tech news provider EdSurge, “Students could potentially piggyback onto unsecured WiFi networks without ever leaving school property, making them susceptible to cybercrime. Providing lessons in ‘digital citizenship’… can go a long way to help protect school assets and the student’s identity.”

7.    Call Single Path

Most districts have limited expertise or resources to plan, implement and share the processes needed to protect their teachers and students. Often, a third-party provider will best be able to monitor, manage and protect the school or district. At Single Path, that’s exactly what we have done for many school districts, such as Great Lakes Academy in Chicago. Our comprehensive suite of services, including managed cloud services and security offerings are designed for businesses and schools to assess, prepare and protect against risk. Let us help you start protecting student data and more.

Ask us how to get started! 

Why DDoS Security is Critical for your School (and what is DDoS, anyway)?

If you regularly follow our blogs, you’ve read about the dangers of Phishing and Ransomware, but there’s a third method of cybercrime that can be just as damaging: a DDoS attack, or “Distributed Denial of Service.” A DDoS attack occurs when a hacker takes control of thousands of computers and aims traffic at a single server, overwhelming its network to knock it offline or slow it to a crawl. Without appropriate DDoS security protocols, an attack can cause mass and immediate disruption.

EdTech Magazine reports that DDoS attacks “are on the rise. For schools, the attacks can shut down websites, phone systems and prevent users from accessing the internet and applications.” Here are some recent examples of school-related DDoS security issues in recent years,:

  • The Miami-Dade County Public school system was unable to provide online testing for three days after a series of DDoS attacks crippled their new, high-touted computer-based standardized testing system.
  • Minnesota Department of Education twice had to suspend its state testing when a DDoS attack kept students from logging into its online assessment system.
  • The St. Charles, Illinois school district lost online access for employees and all of their 13,000 students. According to a report from eSchool News, “the hackers cut off the entire district’s internet access for four hours at a time and then repeated the process 10 more times over the following six weeks.” Eventually, two students were charged in the attack.
  • Rutgers, Arizona State and University of Georgia have all been victims of recent DDoS attacks. After an attack, Rutgers spent $3 million dollars and raised tuition 2.3% just to upgrade their DDoS security, and then became a DDoS victim again less than a year later.

The Simplicity of a DDoS Attack

Many schools, even those that are on the alert to cyberthreats, may not be paying much attention to their DDoS security. But it doesn’t take a cyber-genius to launch a DDoS attack. You can find relatively simple how-to videos on popular sites such as YouTube. The ease of launching such an attack, combined with inadequate DDoS security, makes this scheme popular with a wide variety of groups as a form of protest, as an act of “revenge,” as a distraction from another cyberattack, or even just for “fun.”

The lack of DDoS security can also harm schools through their vendors or partners. In September of last year, millions of families across 45 states were impacted by a DDoS attack on the app Infinite Campus, which provides a “Parent Portal” allowing parents and students the ability to check grades and other information.

How To Implement Your DDoS Security

Schools have become a target for cybercriminals, accounting for 13 percent of all data breeches in the first half of 2017, which involve nearly two billion student and parent records. But schools can incorporate numerous strategies to increase security, including their DDoS security, such as by switching to cloud networking, monitoring cyber-traffic for abnormal patterns, and adding backup internet service providers to keep networks up and running. School districts can also upgrade their firewall protection and their network architecture. Sounds like a lot of work? It can be.

That’s why Single Path partners with schools to help protect their IT technology from hackers, and to make upgrades and changes as easy and as turnkey as possible. We consult and implement, provide continual monitoring, and can also educate your staff on data security best practices. We also provide a wide variety of Managed/Cloud Services. DDoS security can be challenging, which is why you need a team like Single Path to help protect your organization from harm.

Ask us how to get started!

 

 

 

How to Create Your School Cyber-Threat Strategy

Cyber-threats are on the rise in our school districts, which often lack the resources to protect themselves, the training to use the resources they have effectively, and even the knowledge to identify which resources are needed.

We wrote about the cyber-threats facing schools in our last blog post. But these problems are epidemic to school districts across the country. As reported by technology and digital learning news source Edscoop.com, “A recent trend in cybercrime indicates that online attackers are increasingly targeting a demographic they know people will rush to protect: K-12 students.” The article details more than three dozen large-scale breaches of student data from cybercriminals from January through October, 2017.

The risk of a cyberattack will only continue to grow, so establishing a holistic cyber-security strategy is critical. Any strategy should include the following elements. Many of these are highlighted in a recent document published by the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization comprised of 70 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems.

1. Physical Security and End-Point Security

On-premises security isn’t only needed to protect students, but the network and computer devices housed inside the school. Using a school-owned computing device is often the easiest way to get access to confidential information. Data centers and control rooms need be locked and monitored. Classroom or office equipment may also be vulnerable to theft, so modern, video surveillance can be a powerful tool, as is locking away machines when not in use, and carefully tracking equipment and reporting lost devices promptly.

2. Employee Training and Network Security

Your network is only as secure as the staff who uses it; an unsecured password can be all a cybercriminal needs to get into your network and see, abuse or share sensitive information. Employee training for proper security protocols is critical for network security, especially for staff who use personal devices in 1:1 environments.

Monitoring who has access to information is also a critical component of network security. As reported by the online security and risk management magazine CSO, “Given the high volume of users entering and exiting a school’s network, establishing the means to identify who can and can’t gain access and which resources they have access to is crucial. For effective cybersecurity, schools should use solutions that can easily identify users and then dynamically assign access to network segments accordingly.

3. Application Security

Hackers can also gain access to your systems directly through your software applications. Downloading and installing regular updates and patches are critical, as we reported in a recent blog post detailing a Cisco networking hack that cut off Internet access and infected more than half a million devices. In that case, those who did not download security patches were left considerably more vulnerable. For that reason, your staff should only use software from trusted sources.

4. Cloud/Data Center Security

With schools moving more and more towards cloud-based solutions, the security of their cloud-based data is a critical component to security. We have touched on the advantages of using cloud computing in a number of past blog posts, including “12 Reasons to Move Your Business to the Cloud”. Cloud computing makes accessing information easier, but demands strict security processes and protections. Still, the benefits far exceed the risks (for many of those risks please see our post, “9 Facts to Know About the Risks of Moving to the Cloud and How To Manage Them”) as cloud computing provides significant back-up security should your data be destroyed or become inaccessible due to disasters both natural and hacker-made.

At Single Path, we are well versed at working closely with school districts to determine their vulnerabilities, providing solutions, and even training staff to ensure policies and protocols are understood and followed. We’re always eager to discuss our many products and services, including Security Solutions and all our Managed/Cloud Services. Let us help you chart a more secure and safer path for your organization.

Ask us how to get started!

Cyber Incidents for K-12 are Rising. Is Your Student Data Vulnerable?

Data leaks are becoming so commonplace it seems like we’re almost becoming immune to them. Another ransomware attack on a business. Another virus crippling a network. Another identity theft scam. But then something happens that shakes us up and reminds us … this is not okay. Such as when an attack hits a little too close to home. For example, this—hackers are now specifically targeting schools.

CNN reported that a school district in Montana was forced to shut down more than thirty schools for three days after hackers infiltrated their network. The hackers sent threatening text messages to staff and students. School Superintendent Steve Bradshaw explained, “The messages weren’t pleasant messages. They were ‘splatter kids’ blood in the hallways,’ and things like that.” The messages also included disturbing references to “Sandy Hook.” But the hackers weren’t done. They also demanded up to $150,000 in bitcoin or they would release stolen school records. At least three other states were hit with similar school data extortion attempts.

Malicious hackers are going after schools because of a combination of weak data security and available information that is ripe for exploitation. As schools rush to incorporate technology in their schools, security protocols are sometimes afterthoughts. Vulnerable information can include social security numbers, birth dates, medical records and financial information.

An attack leaves one school district $10,000 poorer

Can your school afford to send ten grand to a hacker? Leominster Public School district officials recently had to ask themselves that question. A hacker attack left this Worcester County, Massachusetts school district unable to access email, health services, food services, library services, help desk and file services, backup services and more. The attackers demanded $10,000 to decrypt the files. Despite FBI warnings to never pay ransomware, the district felt they had little choice but to pay up. “If we had not used the option of paying the ransom for the decryption of our files, we would most assuredly be in for a much longer recovery at a much higher cost,” said Leominster Superintendent of Schools Paula Deacon. “In the case of one of the file servers, there were over 237,000 files which were encrypted, covering all departments in Central Office.”

According to an article in the Leominster Champion newspaper, the school is now making changes to their network to remove vulnerabilities including replacing old computers. The cost of this overhaul? More than $435,000. 

It’s a bigger problem than you think

How many school cyber incidents do you think have occurred in the last two years? Ten? Twenty? Try more than 330 (and growing)! In an attempt to categorize, defend and combat these threats, EdTech Securities has published a map that includes all manner of school-related cyberattacks including data breaches, phishing attacks and “other occurrences that lead to school and personal information being exposed.”

Check out the Interactive Map

The amount of exposure and consequences of those incidents vary widely. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a number of cyber incidents including: 

  • Hackers in Iowa’s Johnston Community School District released school and parent information along with threats to kill the children. A hacker claimed the information was released to help child predators.
  • Hackers stole $56,000 worth of paychecks being sent via direct deposit to Atlanta Public School employees
  • Hackers stole $75,000 from employees of the Fulton County School district in Georgia

One state gets ahead

Many school districts are realizing the threats of a cyberattack are all too real, and are proactively working to protect themselves. Schools in Indiana are leading the way. As reported by Indiana Public Media, the Indiana Department of Education has targeted thousands of dollars in cyber funding for certain schools. Schools can apply for matching grants of up to $25,000 to build up their cybersecurity systems and improve 24-hour system monitoring. Says Chief Technology Officer John Keller, “Cybersecurity is a layered concern that goes across really all sectors. I mean, it’s not just a teacher thing or a school administrator thing, it’s our students, our staff.”

What you can do

Waiting until a cyberattack hits can be costly to schools and devastating to the families or staff whose information is breached. Fortunately, there are many resources available. For example, the U.S. Department of Education provides a number of cyber-resources and documents related to Security Best Practices, from a Data Breach Response Training Kit to a Data Security Checklist. But it can be daunting to read and figure out exactly what you need to do, especially without a partner to help guide you.

At Single Path, we work with schools across the country to help them uncover and tighten up weaknesses, implement security measures, and create recovery plans if the worst happens. We can help overhaul your entire system, as we did for Great Lakes Academy in Chicago, provide training like we did for Saint Anne Parish School in Barrington, Illinois, and offer any or all of a full range of security offerings.

Ask us how to get started!

 

EdTech: How to Invest Wisely

ed-tech
OK, you’ve made the decision to invest in new EdTech resources. Now what? Not only do you have to wade through the nearly overwhelming array of tools at your disposal, but there are so many other things to consider. How? When? Why? What?

In a previous blog post we discussed the four main steps when choosing technology for your school. They were:

  • Set your goals
  • Evaluate your tools
  • Align professional development with your goals
  • Evaluate and re-evaluate

While each of these is a critical component of your EdTech decisions, we’d like to present a fifth step when choosing technology: ROI. Or, better yet ROE, Return on Expectations…or, as we prefer to call it, Return on Education.

ROE vs. ROI

While ROI (Return on Investment) is generally computed from purely monetary considerations by businesses when investing in new equipment, educators must rely on other, harder to define metrics. Simply, cost alone won’t determine the effectiveness of your EdTech.

To use ROE, you not only need to determine your specific goals, but uncover ways to measure them. Otherwise, how can you gauge success? If your goal is student achievement, will you measure it through standardized testing, grades, or some other means? If your goal is to increase student engagement, will you measure that through increased attendance or graduation rates? How will you measure improved teacher performance?

Per the online source The Journal, “ROI is calculated by measuring benefits in dollars. But schools are not in business to make money, and should not measure success in terms of dollars. The business of schools is learning. Of course, if technology projects save money or improve efficiency, then a business-focused ROI is useful, but in general it is important to define the “value” of learning in education.”

How To Measure your ROE

With each and every EdTech expenditure must come the expectation of reward or improvement, but the goal of each new tool can vary widely. The more time and money you put into a tool the more results you should expect from that investment. Only by measuring its effectiveness, and continuing to measure its effectiveness, can you know if the investment was a wise one. Then you can decide if it is worth the effort to continue with that tool, or move on to a different one.

Don’t forget, that your initial investment is not the only cost. Do you need to increase your broadband capabilities or incorporate new hardware? What is the cost of training your educators on using the new tools, and is ongoing training needed? When defining the total monetary costs, consider the total expenditures and time needed over a four-year span to determine the true expenses of your investment.

Creating Metrics

According to a post from educational consultant The Flipper Group, here are the 5 Key Indicators of School Performance:

  • Student Achievement
  • Discipline Referrals
  • Attendance Rates
  • Graduation Rates
  • Teacher Satisfaction

Fortunately, each of these can be measured, whether from statistical comparisons to developing questionnaires and observation (such as in the case of Teacher Satisfaction). Before looking at these numbers, however, you must set your goals. Keep them realistic, but also lofty. Often you may create a range, determining the minimum number for success, but also striving for a ‘best case’ scenario. Once you reach that minimum number, keep aiming for better and greater results.

Define, Define

As discussed in an earlier blog post, defining goals is a critical component of gauging technology’s success. In that post, we referred to a study by the Center for Digital Education, which came to the conclusion that schools should, at minimum, strive to meet these five technology goals:

  • Make learning engaging and individualized
  • Measure student progress against college and career ready standards
  • Connect teachers to tools and individuals who can help them become effective
  • Provide broadband connectivity for students
  • Use technology to become more productive, improve student learning and manage costs

When looking at your EdTech investment, consider each of these points to determine which your new tool will improve. Then, set your method to evaluate them.

We know that defining those goals is not always simple, and neither is setting the gears in motion for measuring them. Finding the right path for your EdTech can be difficult. At Single Path, we work closely with school districts, to help them navigate that path. We provide custom IT solutions for K-12 schools and districts, working closely to help them understand the technology options and choose the right ones. We help implement them, ensure mastery of them, and help maximize their potential. At Single Path, we pride ourselves on not just being an IT resource, but a true collaborative and consulting partner providing advice and ongoing service and support.

Ask us how to get started!