The Criticality of Network Monitoring in Education
K-12 education leaders are striving for better learning outcomes, while IT decision makers in education commonly view using technology to improve education and student success as the highest priority. As a result, digital education technology is revolutionizing how educators instruct their students.
How Information Technology in Education Today Is Changing
Gaming, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, remote learning, and collaboration are all technologies that will increasingly play a role in classrooms to make learning more engaging and improve digital literacy for students. K-12 schools also continue to invest increasingly in Safe School initiatives such as card readers to verify identities, manage which visitors can go where, and set timers to control access. They’re also rolling out and upgrading video surveillance deployments and investing in enhanced notification systems.
Today’s higher education students are extremely connected mobile users with high expectations. From online courses and flipped learning models to makerspaces and robotics, college students want to engage with the newest technology and expect schools to invest continually with a limited budget. All these demands are in addition to the ongoing pressures of IoT, BYOD, cloud, and the use of analytics to better understand student behaviors and preferences. Data and threats continue to multiply, and so does what’s at stake for schools.
Especially post-COVID, education institutions know that they must invest in critical infrastructure such as the network more than was ever necessary in the past. Whether the IT department is taking on online learning, a financial system, trying to sell tickets for the orchestra concert or the football game digitally, the network is at center stage, supporting the technology initiatives in education today.
New Ed-Tech Introduces New Challenges, from Primary School Through Higher Education
It’s not just the technology needs and initiatives that have changed in primary and higher education. So too have the challenges these initiatives are introducing, and the network is becoming more critical as a result.
- Security and Compliance 🔐
First, while security has always been important, it’s being recognized as such to a greater degree today – and goes hand in hand with compliance. Schools operate under immense pressure to demonstrate that they can protect student privacy (FERPA) and safety (CIPA), as well as comply with HIPAA and PCI standards (depending on the school).
- Overtasked IT Team Members and Underutilized Tooling👨💻⚙🖥⏳💸
In addition, while education institutions appear to be investing more in people and tools than they did in years past, multipurpose technicians can still be found at the IT department, particularly in K-12, and the pressure to do more with less continues. This is true in higher education as well, as the demand for greater efficiency is on the rise.
While funding is perhaps more accessible, it’s still not necessarily plentiful, and IT staff tend to pick up the tools that are cheapest, often resulting in a chaotic abundance of disparate solutions that are generally poorly managed. This is daily life for an IT professional in an education institution.
- Limited Visibility👁🗨❌
Lack of visibility into different layers of the organization makes it difficult for both IT staff and management to share and consume data.
Plus, the threat of downtime always looms, whether because of a power outage or interference with fiber. If, for instance, a university manages a domain of over 100 buildings, there’s a constant threat of downtime without the right tooling to be alerted of and respond to them.
- Complicated and Unpredictable Change Management ⚙🔥
When someone makes a change, whether on the network, a server, or on an application, parts of facilities are impacted that no one foresaw or planned for. Understanding where a change is going to take place and how it will impact other parts of the infrastructure is key – IT can no longer fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to change management.
School Network Monitoring Software Is Well-Poised to Support the New Education Technology Initiatives
Obviously, the network has become mission critical to the daily operations of education institutions, but the network alone is not enough. Schools need to prevent disruption and address issues in real time as they arise just as much as a business enterprise does.
The good news is that using a reputable network monitoring tool positively impacts daily operations in an education network environment. Here’s how:
- Network monitoring software allows the IT department and network specialists to visualize the entire campus (via network mapping software functionality), its network infrastructure, and the devices that are connected to it (via network discovery software functionality).
- Real-time alerts inform IT when bandwidth is escalating to irregular levels or devices fail (via network bandwidth monitoring software functionality), allowing a far more proactive approach to network management and providing information on the following events:
- Building power outages/disrupted network access.
*Note: Real time alerts can be very noisy and need to be contained efficiently to tell the proper story.
- Building power outages/disrupted network access.
- Change: Even the best change management can have unforeseen impacts on the network services. Alerting to things that change and where they change can minimize the impact and any downtime.
- Performance of the network overall (via network fault management software functionality)
- Access to critical applications whether they are part of the network plumbing (DNS, VPN access) or learning applications in the cloud (Zoom, Canvas, Moodle, Email).
- IT can maintain more reliable connections for every classroom, supporting the students and teachers who depend on technology performance for everything from interactive smartboards to digital textbooks.
- Technicians no longer waste time and resources on trying to find the source of a network problem (or overlook warning signs until it’s too late) thanks to easy access to network performance analytics within the network monitoring system.