Xirrus, Google partner on K-12 SSO wi-fi

April 27th, 2016

wi fi google

New technologies aim to offer more personalized and easy-to-use access

The latest Xirrus EasyPass feature adds new functionality that lets schools and businesses integrate wi-fi network access with Google application ecosystem. Why is this important? Because it finally provides a simple way for organizations to secure access to their networks leveraging the cloud-based Google authentication system they are already using. With the education sector increasingly adopting new technologies to enable a more personalized learning experience, this feature can bolster security and ease-of-use for students, teachers and staff.

Many K-12 schools today provide a laptop, such as a Google Chromebook, for each student and/or allow them to bring their own device to use for their classwork, (e.g. reading textbooks, preparing and submitting schoolwork, and taking online tests). But buying and maintaining the learning management systems, software applications, local area networks and internet bandwidth to support digital learning can be astronomically expensive – especially when thinking about larger districts who need to support as many as a million students at once.

To save on costs, schools are moving away from self-hosted or stand-alone applications to cloud-hosted offerings. Google Apps for Education has seen tremendous adoption in K-12 schools over the past few years. It offers word processing, storage, spreadsheets, social media and other capabilities together in an integrated, online system. It promotes today’s trend toward personalized learning, which moves away from the “one-to-many” teaching style to allow students to learn at their own pace.

Let’s look at one critical piece of this equation – the wi-fi network. Schools now require wi-fi services, but how do you protect students, teachers and staff from outside intruders joining the network and reeking havoc? The ideal approach is to tie the user authentication for network access to your user directory service, such as AD (Active Directory). However, in many schools today, IT admins bypass this since it means installing additional servers and software, plus the ongoing maintenance to run it. So schools fall back on running networks where security and user authentication are compromised.

The EasyPass Google integration helps solve these challenges by combining authentication through the Google ecosystem with authentication to the local wi-fi network. Users simply open their browser and log in with their Google credentials to access both their Google account and the wi-fi network. Until they have logged in, they cannot access anything on the network – this means single sign-on (SSO) access to both Google and the network.

Google login information is unique to every person. But the possibility remains that users could share their credentials with others to gain access. For environments needing additional safeguards, optional two-factor authentication is available with the EasyPass Google integration. If configured to do so, the Google log in requires an additional passcode. The user receives the passcode via SMS to the phone number configured per account.

EasyPass Google integration makes it easier and less expensive to secure your school’s wi-fi network. By using the Google authentication system to connect devices to your network, you leverage a system you already have in place instead of installing and maintaining your own authentication system. This ultimately simplifies the student and teacher experience while reducing the administrator’s “to do” list. Whether students are working on solo projects, collaborating with their peers, or studying from home, fully utilizing cloud technologies available to us opens up new possibilities to integrate, simplify and lower costs.

About the Author:

Material from a press release was used in this report.