What was the background?
With 6,300 students, from Pre-K through high school on its enrollment, Hutto Independent School District is one of the fastest growing public school districts in Texas.
The IT Team, headed by Travis Brown, Director of Technology, provides centrally managed IT Services to nine campuses. Access to the internet is required for students, staff, and guests, across a wide range of platforms including Macs, IPads, Androids, and Chromebooks.
Travis prioritizes the function of the IT Team as accommodating educators, rather than enforcing propriety. Travis says, “We don’t see the IT department as the moral compass of the district. It’s our job to make sure that what they need access to, when it’s legitimate, that they get access to it.”
What was the problem?
Hutto started out building their own solution modeled on DansGuardian but decided that it was time to start looking for a supported solution with the features they needed. Hours spent keeping everything up-to-date was eating into productivity.
A major problem with their custom-built filter was granularity based on an authentication method. “We wanted to set specific policies for individual users and groups for dynamic filtering,” Keith Reynolds, Network Administrator explained.
Additionally, the IT Team wanted to simplify their device management by avoiding clients on the end device. “That’s just another layer of complexity; something else to break,” says Travis.
Hutto needed a solution that was not only reliable and easy to administer, but also flexible and responsive to their needs.
How did Smoothwall help?
Travis and Keith chose a centrally-deployed Secure Web Gateway to protect their users. Now they can build customized web policies for staff, internal Bring your own device and Guest Wi-Fi. “With Smoothwall we can setup policies for specific groups of users and have weighted dynamic filtering,” explained Keith.
In addition, the Secure Web Gateway met the need for granularity because user groups could be easily mapped to Active Directory®. “The integration was seamless. We didn’t have to do a major overhaul.”
That added granularity, combined with content-aware filtering, allowed the IT department to meet the needs of students and educators in a more flexible way. “We have the confidence that it would not only keep us secure but also be as open as we needed to be, which is important in a School District,” says Travis.
Finally, staying up to date can be a challenge for anyone. Having a product that is supported saves time, not only in administration but also in getting out ahead of potential problems. “Smoothwall is able to react to changes in the market very quickly. Other competitors, I don’t think they can do that.”
Travis and Keith are confident that they made the right choice in Smoothwall. “We have no interest in evaluating other products; Smoothwall is absolutely solid.”