Customer Story | Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5 Secures Google Workspace & Microsoft 365

Pennsylvania Regional Educational Service IT Team Finds Value In Cloud Security Platform Build for K-12

Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5 (IU5) is a regional educational service agency based in Edinboro, PA. With a staff of about 11, they provide programs and services for 17 public school districts and the non-public schools in Crawford, Erie, and Warren Counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, encompassing about 62,512 students.

Members of the Innovative Technology Solutions staff develop and maintain the information infrastructure for IU5. Vince Humes is the Director of Innovative Technology Solutions. He oversees a staff of 10, three of whom are dedicated to the core IT functions of systems, networking, and mobility.

The Board of Education sets goals annually that relate to education outcomes. The role of the Solutions staff is to support everyone at IU5 who works directly with students, teachers, administrators, and others. “It’s our responsibility to drive security and compliance to safeguard IU5 data,” explains Humes.

Right now, that responsibility is to safeguard their districts’ Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 applications in addition to other cloud applications including Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and ApplicantPro.

The Challenge

The decision to move some services to the cloud centered around better access and more convenience. Many of the IU staff move between locations regularly or are in remote offices that don’t provide easy access to internal systems. Moving to OneDrive and Google Drive gives staff data backups and easier access to sharing data.

“Moving to the cloud has reduced our equipment needs and has enhanced how we deliver services to our staff and districts,” says Humes.

Even though there were many benefits, there were also concerns. Data privacy is a major concern. For example, IU5 staff is involved with students that participate in Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and other confidential learning experiences. Any exposure of this data would violate FERPA and COPPA regulations, and potentially harm the student’s right to privacy.

Prior to using Cloud Monitor, the Solutions team relied on the vendors of cloud services to protect the data. These vendors offer different levels of tools and analytics. “Our previous process required us to learn multiple tools with varying capabilities,” recalls Humes.

After opening up the cloud, the scope of the security problem became clear during the annual in-service training for teachers. Looking at the capabilities the Solutions staff was providing, they were struck by the serious data security issues they were facing.

“At the time, we didn’t have a good way of knowing what was being shared inside or outside the organization,” explains Humes. “We have faith that most of our employees are not intentionally trying to subvert our systems, but mistakes happen. Also, bad actors are targeting district information systems at a rate that simply cannot be ignored.”

“Do not underestimate the cloud security risks facing you. Cloud Monitor is a cost-effective way to add additional layers to your data protection plans. Look around at all the products, and then implement Cloud Monitor.”
— Vince Humes, Director of Innovative Technology Solutions

The Solution

Humes and his team spent about a year researching cloud access security broker (CASB) options. They used their internal system evaluation process to evaluate vendors like Cisco, Skyhigh, and Microsoft, among others. The decision to choose Cloud Monitor was made based on capabilities and cost.

“Our vision was to have the ability to look into multiple enterprise solutions like OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox,” said Humes, “This is the first time we’ve used a tool that looks across multiple platforms.”

The team is always concerned about how technology will affect their customers. However, Cloud Monitor provides tools to monitor activities before implementing rules, so the team felt comfortable that the impact on their clients would be minimal. Additionally, since Cloud Monitor is an API-based cloud security solution, the platform does not slow down network speed or impact the end-user experience.

The Innovative Technology Solutions team found Cloud Monitor easy to work with, and were pleased that they didn’t need to make major changes to implement the software.

“We thought it was a great product and as we’ve used it over the years, we continue to see value in our decision,” says Humes.

Cloud Monitor is easy to use and it’s team is easy to do business with. This alone brings down the Total Cost of Ownership—the fact that it is affordable for school districts made our purchase decision easier. We thought it was a great product from the start and as we’ve used it over the years, we continue to see value in our decision.”
— Vince Humes, Director of Innovative Technology Solutions

The Results

Humes and his team use Cloud Monitor for identifying data file sharing violations in OneDrive and Google Drive, logins from foreign countries, and managing email issues like phishing and malware risks. One of the advantages is that they can take a comprehensive approach to data security at an affordable price. They also like the fact that Cloud Monitor makes it extremely easy to identify threats and help resolve the issues.

“We see Cloud Monitor like a security satellite that takes a 22,500-mile view of what’s happening in and outside your systems,” Humes explains, “Once it identifies an issue, it provides tools to remediate the situation.”

The team feels that their data and systems are safer with Cloud Monitor and that the software lives up to the sales pitch. They would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for ease of use, the required capabilities, and a company that is easy to do business with.

“Do not underestimate the cloud security risks facing you,” says Humes. “Cloud Monitor is a cost-effective way to add additional layers to your data protection plans. Look around at all the products, and then implement Cloud Monitor.”

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