District Technology Coordinator, James Hatz, Keeps Data Secure And Students Safe In Google Workspace With Cloud Monitor
Located in Rush City, Minnesota, Rush City Schools #139 is home to over 860 students and 150 staff. The district offers innovative educational opportunities and learning experiences through state-of-the-art technology — which, as the district’s Technology Coordinator, is right in James Hatz’s wheelhouse.
“I take care of everything from phones and computers to email and data — just about anything computer-related,” he says. In other words, Hatz keeps Rush City on the cutting edge, especially when it comes to the cloud.
“We’re a Google school district, and we’re using a lot of different teaching apps. I’m trying to get a handle on them,” he admits. “I think we’re using too many. We need to go over what we’re using and what we’re paying for.”
Luckily, he has Cloud Monitor. But before we get to that, let’s tell you the whole story.
Long before he had the power of automated cloud security, Hatz was — and still is — a one-man band (at least, as far as IT and security are concerned).
“I’m the only IT person on staff for the entire district. I’ve got about 156 staff and about 862 students, so that’s almost 1,100 email accounts altogether that I manage and take care of,” he says. “Plus, about 180 computers and 900 Chromebooks.”
It’s not hard to imagine how challenging this can be. As Hatz explains, it’s his job to keep track of everything and answer every IT question, even about things outside his area of expertise. He describes himself as a lightning rod, constantly intercepting and relaying information.
With so much data syncing across all the programs Rush City uses, it’s a real challenge keeping tabs on everything all at once. Fortunately, Hatz came up with his own way of tracking data. He keeps a chart documenting exactly where data flows between the student information system and every application into which it’s exporting.
Keep in mind Hatz manages security for an entire school district whose perimeter is continuously expanding. And it seems like there are more duties put on his shoulders every year.
“Every time we get a new web app, I have to make sure the data is correct. It’s not easy, but I’m managing and I haven’t gotten much gray hair yet.”
Rush City moved to the cloud shortly after Hatz first took the position in 2010. When he arrived, they were an Apple school with on-premise servers and a Windows box managing email. “It was horrid,” Hatz explains. The school had viruses on a majority of their Macs, plus in files that were backed up to their Apple File Server — Macs “aren’t supposed to get viruses,” he adds.
Needless to say, Hatz spent his first days on the job cleaning that up. Then, he got moving.
“In my first six months, I got the district to switch to Google. They offered it to schools for free, so there was nothing to lose,” he explains. “We jumped in and it’s been great. I got some pushback from people thinking it was going to be worse than what we had, but that wasn’t the case at all. It didn’t take long to win them over once we switched.”
“I’ve used Google Apps Manager for years, so I was able to see if anyone was forwarding emails to an outside party. We had some instances where someone in accounts payable was unknowingly forwarding emails to an outside party. I did what I could with the tools I had, but it was nothing compared to what I can do with what Cloud Monitor provides.”
At first, Hatz and his district weren’t too worried about cloud security. Eventually, however, he realized his security process wasn’t working. He described it as “inefficient and time-consuming.” Worst of all, he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
“It was basically me looking at the Admin Console for things, so it wasn’t great,” he says. “I relied on the firewall to point out risks. We’re part of a conglomerate that provides us with a shared data center and firewall. The state of Minnesota is basically our IT provider for the internet. So, they would filter stuff out, or I’d get messages if they saw some content that qualifies as a red flag. I’d have to track down where it came from internally.”
Hatz started looking for another solution. He wanted something that would let him know what’s happening behind the scenes, such as inappropriate file sharing.
“I’ve used Google Apps Manager for years, so I was able to see if anyone was forwarding emails to an outside party. We had some instances where some staff was unknowingly forwarding emails to an outside party,” he claims. “I did what I could with the tools I had, but it was nothing compared to what I can do with what Cloud Monitor provides.”
However, Cloud Monitor didn’t just fall into his lap. The search process was actually quite difficult. Eventually, Hatz’s research paid off when someone from ManagedMethods contacted him.
“During our Cloud Monitor free audit, we found out some of our student accounts were getting hacked from other countries. I would have had no idea without that early warning system. Once I was able to show the district, I could say this is important for us to have for two reasons. One, to detect it, and two, to deal with it in real time.”
“We tried Cloud Monitor, and that’s where we found out some of our student accounts were getting hacked from other countries. I would have had no idea without that early warning system,” he explains. “Once I was able to show the district, I could say this is important for us to have for two reasons. One, to detect it, and two, to deal with it in real time.”
This loosened up the strings and helped Hatz secure the funding to spend on cybersecurity. “When we found those three accounts being accessed outside the country, that was eye-opening.”
What’s the biggest benefit of Cloud Monitor? Hatz says it’s the ability to see things he couldn’t previously see. This visibility has helped him protect student data and take a more proactive approach to cloud security.
“I can proactively go into the apps and create rules that will automatically disable them if they become too risky,” he adds. “Once something happens, you don’t know how long it’s been going on for. This early warning system lets me take care of it automatically. I just have to review what’s going on and tweak it as I go.”
To that point, Hatz also enjoys the ability to customize policies over time.
“ManagedMethods calls every once in a while and we tweak the policies together. They know better than I do in terms of what’s out there and what to look for,” he explains. “It helps to have another set of eyes because I’m just one person and this is one of my many duties throughout the day. It’s really helpful knowing I’m getting the full benefit of using Cloud Monitor.”
Plus, it’s been a huge timesaver compared to his old process. He makes sure to look at the dashboard once or twice a day and check every alert he receives. “I trust it’s reacting and taking the appropriate methods for anything nefarious out there. We’ve never had malware show up.”
Of course, Cloud Monitor has also helped spot a few risky situations.
“ManagedMethods’ customer success team calls every once in a while and we tweak the policies together. They know better than I do in terms of what’s out there and what to look for. It helps to have another set of eyes because I’m just one person and this is one of my many duties throughout the day. It’s really helpful knowing I’m getting the full benefit of using Cloud Monitor.”
“Someone was trying to log in from 13 different countries,” Hatz says. “VPNs often bounce around to different locations and keep trying, so it was eye-opening to see. Without Cloud Monitor, I wouldn’t know about that.”
Schedule a free 30-day audit today to learn more about how Cloud Monitor can help you protect your school district.