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Calibre Secured Networks Ltd's Graeme Walker considers choosing an MDM solution in the light of hard pressed IT resources

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 06, 2016 | Technology

New guidance on keeping children safe from classroom bullying, drugs, abuse and radicalisation that came into force in September will have a profound impact on IT provision for both private and state schools. Spanning a mix of safeguarding policies, the guidance also includes IT systems, focusing the attention on leadership needing to ensure that all staff know the systems within the school that support safeguarding and that these are explained to them as a part of the induction. 

Mobile device management (MDM) is about addressing the reliability, availability, visibility and, importantly, the security requirements that schools must meet on a daily basis. The ability of teachers to monitor, control and have sight of the content accessed while connected to a school’s network is paramount, ensuring that students follow prescribed coursework and lesson plans, and critically remain safe from exposure to inappropriate or harmful materials.

This may sound simple enough but MDM poses its own set of challenges that schools need to consider in a world where there’s an estimated 350 million mobile devices, products and types in use*. With mobility on the march, MDM has become the defacto framework for today’s education environment, heralding the rise of handsets, tablets, mobile computers and specialised network-connected devices.

Now, we undoubtedly see a further surge in the number of network-connected devices, which, when added to the diversity of mobile and other operating systems (each requiring support for multiple releases) out there, make finding a single education MDM solution, which has to be seen as the way forward for schools, challenging to say the least. So, where do you begin in getting it right? 

There are not any particular hard and fast rules but a good starting point for choosing an effective MDM is to look at what you want to achieve – lay out some simple objectives. Make sure that you are clear about usage and define any operational policies: Who is permitted to access the network and how many will there be? What’s the budget? What devices and operating systems will be used?

Calibre have impressed with their education IT expertise and skills, providing cost-effective solutions using the latest technology to transform our processes, meeting our current and future business needs

Identify a list of the features you require for all those who will use the system both for MDM and mobility management more broadly (your IT partner will be invaluable in assisting you here). Evaluate the potential of the available products and services – cloud-based MDM systems such as those from Lightspeed and Meraki, for example, are growing in popularity and offer the flexibility to manage hundreds of network devices as well as handling any future upgrade programmes. 

Consideration should also be given to limiting the variety and scope of the devices and operating systems that will use the network, and reflect too on the added value that can be achieved by investing in solutions that offer functions in addition to mobility management. Think too about the wider picture when it comes to IT management – and the role of MDM within your school should become clearer.

However, in considering all this it must also be remembered that technology is not, and should never perceived as a substitute panacea for effective teachers who engage, inspire and empower young people. This goes to the heart of the matter and underpins much of the work companies like Calibre provide for schools such as St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland, where technology combined with experience and expertise is delivering real change.

At the school, Calibre’s groundbreaking solutions utilise the advantages of cloud-based technology as the backbone for Wi-Fi, firewall and platform services that provide teachers with accessible yet secure digital services while simultaneously creating strategies built around BYOD to open up even more access to over 1,200 pupils.

When completed in 2018, the five-year IT investment programme will have been the largest of its type in the North East education sector.

Glenn Sanderson, head of Key Stage 4 at St Aidan’s Catholic Academy, believes the IT programme now entering its final phase reflects a confident school that’s looking ahead to technology as the foundation that will deliver change and, importantly, ROI. “Calibre have impressed with their education IT expertise and skills, providing cost-effective solutions using the latest technology to transform our processes, meeting our current and future business needs,” he says.  

More at www.calibre-secured.net

*Gartner, 'Hype Cyde for Enterprose Mobile Security, 2015'

 

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