Network performance monitoring, assessment, and security have become one of the most talked-about issues in technology today. Network managers need to monitor their networks to identify slow or failing components including software, servers, routers, and firewalls. Additionally, network managers need to identify areas of vulnerability that are open to attack from hackers.
The cost to monitor and assess an organization’s network can cost over $20K per year and for school districts with limited funds, these types of projects can be pushed back year after year as seemingly ‘more important’ issues are addressed. Realizing the importance of network performance and security and the need for access to these tools in the K-12 community, in 2017, The K-12 High Speed Network’s Technical Assistance and Professional Development (TAPD) program released a network monitoring tool and network vulnerability testing tool to help school districts assess network
performance and identify network vulnerabilities.
Through the TAPD program, these two tools are provided to school districts free of charge, saving participating districts thousands of dollars each year.
The network monitoring tool was developed in-house by network analyst Sean Salomon using an open-source platform. The tool allows network managers to closely monitor internal networks and diagnose network issues. In addition, it features a reporting dashboard giving the user a bird’s eye view of the network in real-time. The network vulnerability tool is made available to school districts through Nessus. The Nessus tool scans external-facing IP addresses and identifies network vulnerabilities and configuration issues that hackers could use to exploit the network. Nessus provides a full report of the scan and suggests ways to resolve any found vulnerabilities.
As a result of some good fortune with regard to time commitments for staff member Sean Salomon, the two services, network monitoring, and vulnerability assessments will continue beyond the end of the TAPD grant program. The activities are being folded into the core activities of the K12HSN.
Henry Danielson, Tech Director at Coast Unified School District was an early adopter of the network tools provided by TAPD. K12HSN staff reached out to Henry to find out how the tools have impacted his work.
K12HSN: How much has it saved you in cost?
Henry Danielson: The network monitoring tool has saved us $7000 per year since we have discontinued using Solarwinds. Nessus saves us at least $1000 per month.
K12HSN: How much has it saved you in time?
Henry Danielson: I would say over 100 hours each month. We are able to secure our network more efficiently with Nessus and the network monitoring tool gives us real-time data and alerts, it has been very effective.
K12HSN: Has it helped you be more proactive with network upgrades and/ or changes to your network?
Henry Danielson: Yes. This has helped us determine what is outdated and what we need to upgrade. We had two Windows 2008 Servers that were vulnerable and we upgraded them to Windows 2016. Our webserver was also riddled with vulnerabilities and we changed the entire system to be more user-friendly and much more efficient. It improves our security posture.
For more information about our free network tools, please the TAPD Website: https://www.k12tapd.org/diagnostic-tools.