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Move-In Weekend

The words move-in weekend echo different sentiments for most people. The pain of broken backs for the movers, freedom from rules and restrictions for students, and for some the thought of more than 5,000 students returning from a Summer vacation eager to connect to the Internet. Today, I fall in the last category, preparing with colleagues to help keep a network secure and still ensure that these returning students are able to connect to the Internet with the least amount of hassle.

As I’ve blogged before, Temple University has continued to gain an increasing amount of recognition for the various initiatives that have been coming from the Computer Services department. The 2005 CIO 100 Award recognized the department for its boldness to assume significant risk for the sake of great reward. From the outside, it’s hard to picture how a public research university could be ranked or compared to other Fortune 500 company initiatives. However, picture for example a typical student computer. Plagued with viruses, spyware, file sharing programs and the host of unknowns. Multiply this typical computer with 5,000 possible similar occurrences and the picture immediately becomes a nightmare. How do you prepare for this onslaught on your corporate network?

In past years and in my previous college, students were allowed to connect to the Internet and if found violating a network policy were then taken off the network. This reactive approach worked really well for the small class size. However, Temple University has more than 35,000 students, staff, administration and faculty members who need access to network resources. Disruption of service is out of question and so for the Fall 2005 semester, the university decided that the best way to reduce the impact of this possible nightmare on the network was with a very proactive approach. An approach that extends the vision of security on the network to the workstation level. At this level a computer cannot connect to the network without passing certain basic rules that determine that the computer is safe to proceed with a connection to the Internet. For example, ensuring that a student’s computer has an antivirus program, a firewall and the typical operating system updates immediately raise the level of protection on the computer. Once this set of rules is centrally controlled and managed the security level is further raised allowing an administrator to effectively follow a best practice to maintain security on the network. This is boldness and as the CIO 100 Award aptly describes, boldness is the willingness to assume significant risk for the sake of great reward.

So as we mentally and physically prepare for move-in weekend I’m hoping that the resulting sentiment is one of accomplishment.