Education has special antivirus needs

A company that has long been boasting its dedication to Internet security in educational institutions recently got a chance to prove itself through a contract with one of Ontario’s largest school boards.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. announced in July that the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) had signed a 10,000-user licence agreement for the Norton AntiVirus Corporate Edition security system.

It was no small undertaking, said a network analyst with TCDSB’s computer services department, but it was one that was absolutely necessary.

“The old solution was just not working and we were seeing our number of virus incidents just skyrocket,” network analyst David Klein said. “We are limited in the number of people we can hire and we were just watching more and more of our resources being taken up fighting them. We had a package that was supplied free by the ministry and it was a case of we got what we paid for.”

Klein made a business case to the board that it was costing them more in resources and productivity than it would to have a new security package, and that basically it was impacting the ability to provide an education to the students.

“Often, a virus might come in at one school and before we knew it spread to a bunch of work stations at the school and then it would hop across to another school,” Klein said from his Toronto office. “We couldn’t even track them half the time. we didn’t even now where they came from.”

Kevin Krempulec, sales manager for small and medium business and education sales with Symantec Corp. in Canada, said that all institutions – especially one like the TCDSB – are vulnerable to virus outbreaks without some protection.

“They need this because they know there are a number of known threats out there from a virus standpoint, so they wanted something to help automate that solution and protect them,” he said. “What it comes down to is that most institutions, including education, know they have to have an antivirus product in place. The payloads are more or less endless in what a virus can do.”

Norton AntiVirus is a component of Symantec Enterprise Security, a modular Internet security solution that includes products in three major security categories: intrusion prevention, virus protection and content filtering. Norton AntiVirus provides automatic protection against viruses and other codes at all virus entry points, including shared e-mail attachments and Internet downloads, as well as floppy disks, drives, and networks.

Because of the education sectors’ unique needs, Symantec has a team in Canada that focuses specifically on the K-12 and post-secondary education market.

“The education community has a very specific set of needs, as compared to the corporate world,” Krempulec said. “They are restricted in terms of budgets, in terms of the amount of IT staff they have, so they face some big challenges.”

Klein said that, after an evaluation process and a call for proposals, the TCDSB selected Symantec based on the company’s reputation and credibility, in addition to the product’s reliability, administrative tools and ease-of-use.

“We looked at it from a technical evaluation, like which one did the best job, and then we figured out which one gave us the best protection for the best price,” he said. “It turned out that, Symantec, even though it was slightly more expensive than the next competitor, we found that it was more than offset by the extra technical capabilities.”

But deciding to go with Norton was the easy part, Klein said. Before rolling it out at any of the workstations at the schools, Klein and his staff had to manually uninstall the old software on every computer.

“We went through every possible option and there was no way of automating that removal process,” he said. “It’s a big job. We actually do have the antivirus software out on all of our elementary schools because we were able to roll it out as part of a networking project. The only ones that are remaining are secondary schools and they have more computers per school.”

He doesn’t expect to have it fully functional by the first day of school, but the project should be complete before Christmas.

“We had a shortage of resources to do the project itself,” he said. “In terms of actually getting the software running and monitoring, it was almost a no-brainer. The most difficult part is getting it on to the systems in the first place.”

He said he particularly enjoyed installing the elementary school portion of the software because he was able to use a systems management server.

“One day I watched my count of covered workstations go from about 150 to around 4,000,” he said. “It really is easy to push the software out as a package and then as soon as it is activated, it shows back up on my console.”

He said the school board has run into only minor problems and Symantec’s response has been excellent.