Cloud Monitor Provides Indiana School District With Security, Visibility, & Control in Google Workspace for Education Plus Cloud Apps
New Albany-Floyd County School Corporation is located in New Albany, Indiana. The district’s IT team of 18 in-house employees serves the technology needs of about 12,500 students and 1,570 faculty and staff.
Chris Bowers, IT Manager, and Austin Hunter, Technology Analyst, wear a lot of hats and play a part in a broad range of projects as needs arise and shift. Among other things, both work with most anything Chromebook, security, and Google related.
New Albany-Floyd made their initial move to Google Workspace several years ago, taking advantage of Google’s free basic edition and its significant cost-savings benefits.
In 2020, they made the shift to a full 1:1 district, along with many districts that needed to make technology adjustments in response to COVID-19 induced remote learning.
“K12 1:1 wasn’t in the original plan for us,” explains Hunter. “But, due to COVID-19 and CARES Act funding, we made that move to ensure we were providing as much continuity of education and digital equity as possible during this time.”
This shift required the purchase and management of an additional 5,000 Chromebooks and a full migration to Google Workspace for Education apps, including Gmail, Shared Drives, Meet, and Classroom. In the fall of 2020, they also decided to upgrade to the Plus edition to take advantage of learning features not provided in the basic edition, such as larger Meet attendance sizes, Meet recording and streaming, and originality reports.
“2020 was a bit of a new frontier for us. We’re doing things like investigating Gmail and Shared Drive issues more than we thought we would and more than we’d like. We’re appreciative of the tools we have, including Cloud Monitor, to help solve these new problems.”
— Austin Hunter, Technology Analyst
The biggest challenge wasn’t so much in the initial implementation of Google for Education. New Albany Floyd had made the move to Google Workspace several years ago, and Bowers and Hunter were comfortable with the setup and infrastructure that was in place.
Prior to 2020, the district was operating under a hybrid model with students using Google Workspace and faculty/staff having both Google Workspace and on-prem Exchange. The main challenge came late in 2019 when the district began to transition to Google Workspace as part of a larger push for scalable, standardized systems established by the Technology Director. Migrating people from using the software they were comfortable with to a web-based platform was a change management challenge.
But Bowers also knew from previous experience that they would need a proactive cloud security tool that was more robust than what they had with Google for Education basic edition.
“As we were making the final push to Google and were increasing storage and accessibility requirements due to the growing volume of email and documents, we wanted to make sure that the security tools were in place before wrapping up that migration,” explains Bowers. “The data loss prevention tools provided by Google basic edition at the time weren’t going to work for our needs. We needed something that was more granular and more powerful.”
“Compared to the several solutions we evaluated, Cloud Monitor checked the most boxes for us in terms of the features it provides, the power we were looking for, and the fact that it operates in near real-time. We also like that Cloud Monitor is a product that is focused on education.”
— Chris Bowers, IT Manager
Bowers and Hunter evaluated several potential cloud security solutions, including Google Workspace for Education Plus and Cloud Monitor, among others. At the time, the district wasn’t ready to move to the Plus edition for classroom learning purposes. And they didn’t feel like it was quite where it needed to be in terms of the security functionality that they needed.
“Compared to the several solutions we evaluated, Cloud Monitor checked the most boxes for us in terms of the features it provides, the power we were looking for, and the fact that it operates in near real-time,” says Bowers. “We also like that Cloud Monitor is a product that is focused on education.”
Bowers knew that third-party apps were going to be an issue in their Google domain. One of the main features he was looking for was the ability to revoke risky OAuth apps based on certain criteria. They also knew that they would need visibility and control into their Gmail and Shared Drives for cybersecurity and cyber safety reasons.
After upgrading to Google Workspace for Education Plus, Bowers and Hunter continue to use Cloud Monitor for a variety of data loss prevention (DLP), account behavior investigations, and Classroom admin purposes.
“Cloud Monitor’s interface is cleaner and easier to use,” says Hunter. “The Classroom admin feature is also great because it provides us with information and admin controls that simply don’t exist in Google at this time.”
“Cloud Monitor’s Google Classroom admin features are kind of a comparison between something versus nothing. I like that Cloud Monitor is able to tie Classrooms to student accounts so you can see what classes students are in. I can also easily add myself as a co-teacher to a Classroom to help troubleshoot issues teachers and students are having.”
— Austin Hunter, Technology Analyst
Upgrading to Google Workspace Plus provides school districts with a range of additional features over the basic edition. Among them are additional security investigation and DLP policy features. For Chris Bowers and Austin Hunter at New Albany Floyd, Cloud Monitor continues to provide several key benefits in securing Google.
For one, they have robust security and safety policies set up in Cloud Monitor that alert them to risks in their Google domain. These policies automatically detect issues such as inappropriate data access, anomalous account behavior, and OAuth connections by unapproved third-party apps.
“We’d set up our proactive policies with Cloud Monitor prior to purchasing Workspace Plus and we’re very, very happy with that,” explains Bowers. “That was the strength of Cloud Monitor when we initially evaluated it.”
They also enjoy Cloud Monitor’s Google Classroom admin features, which provide a level of visibility and control that they don’t have in Google Workspace Plus.
“It’s kind of a comparison between something versus nothing,” Hunter says. “I like that Cloud Monitor is able to tie Classrooms to student accounts so you can see what classes students are in. I can also go into Cloud Monitor and easily add myself as a co-teacher to a Classroom to help troubleshoot issues teachers and students are having.”
As they’ve continued to use Cloud Monitor, and as user activity in Google increased significantly, Bowers and Hunter found the visibility and control they have in Shared Drives to be an unexpected advantage.
“Support is huge in this industry, and these days it seems like a dying art. ManagedMethods has a commitment to quality support and we actually like reaching out to their people. That is worth a lot.”
— Chris Bowers, IT Manager
“When we first evaluated the platform, we didn’t think about Shared Drive security in particular. But the more we use them, the more problems we have, and the more reliant we are on our tools to help us stay secure,” said Bowers. “Cloud Monitor is absolutely vital to what we do. When we need access to the data, it’s there for us.”
Hunter agrees: “2020 was a bit of a new frontier for us. We’re doing things like investigating Gmail and Shared Drive issues more than we thought we would and more than we’d like. We’re appreciative of the tools we have, including Cloud Monitor, to help solve these new problems.”
The continual development of new platform features that are specifically built for the education market (and that don’t require pricey upgrades) and the customer support team are additional reasons why Bowers and Hunter like working with ManagedMethods.
“Support is huge in this industry, and these days it seems like a dying art. We spent three or four weeks at the beginning of the school year mainly dealing with vendor issues” says Bowers. “But, ManagedMethods has a commitment to quality support and we actually like reaching out to their people. That is worth a lot.”