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Education IT Priorities: Funding, Security, Identity/Access Management

 

School Computer SecurityEDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology, recently conducted their 10th annual EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey. Given the tight IT (and overall) budgetary controls education institutions are facing today, along with increased data privacy laws and regulatory requirements, it's not surprising that "funding IT," "security" and "identity/access management" were among the top-ten issues IT leaders identified as the most critical to resolve in 2009.

These findings mirror the challenges and priorities we're seeing with our education and other customer segments out in the field every day. From an identity and access management - or more broadly, Access Assurance - perspective, we're helping them to approach each of these areas in new ways that deliver measurable ROI by improving risk and compliance while reducing costs:

Funding IT - our customers are facing CFOs that want concrete results in return for new IT spending. In response, we've developed a self-funding model that delivers "quick wins" through an incremental deployment scenario that helps to rationalize a larger, longer-term Access Assurance strategy. The process enables the customer to start improving Access Assurance one step at a time and to pinpoint where and when potential cost-savings come into play - right down to the exact timing of specific operational savings. One Courion customer recently implemented a significant Access Assurance initiative without spending a single budget dollar!

Security - higher ed IT staff are trying to mitigate the risks driven by the growing volume of information across multitudes of devices, web-based applications, and other network resources. One of the key pieces of this challenge is controlling user access to all of this data. By viewing users' behavior on the network as "body language," IT managers can get important clues that may signal inappropriate access or malicious intentions. For example, if an employee is about to resign, his or her network behavior during the weeks prior to giving notice often follow consistent patterns. For example, copying entire folders from file servers could be a signal that an employee is about to depart.  Access Assurance technology puts safeguards in place to detect various types of network body language, more effectively and efficiently control user access, and ensure continuous compliance with privacy laws and other federal regulations.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) - as campuses attempt to deal with restricted access systems, such as databases and intellectual property, and the emergence of cloud or software-as-a-service applications, setting policies and controlling user access to all of these systems and applications has become a top priority. IT staff must carefully balance a campuses' need for collaboration and information sharing with the need to protect sensitive data and meet government regulations, such as those limiting user access to non-public resources. To effectively create, manage and monitor user access, institutions need to begin looking at identity and access management as more than just password management. A holistic approach to IAM - one that incorporates on-premise and cloud-based systems as well as processes such as automated user provisioning, role management and access certification, and credentialing, among other elements - can help higher ed IT staff increase campus-wide IT security and compliance as well as user productivity while ultimately reducing costs.

We're currently conducting our own education survey looking into the IAM practices of education organizations, so stay tuned - we'll make our findings public over the coming months.

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