More than 500 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference in Philadelphia. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering school network administration products and services:

3Com Corp. and Edward Jones announced an agreement in which Edward Jones will purchase 3Com Convergence Applications Suite for IP Telephony, IP Conferencing, IP Messaging, IP Mobility, and IP Contact Center services. 3Com also celebrated Chief Technology Officer Marc Willebeek-LeMair’s “Shaping Information Security 2005” award for his leadership and vision in the security industry. The award honors those who transform the security market through technology, education, and awareness. Willebeek-LeMair was appointed as CTO of 3Com in May 2005. TippingPoint, a division of 3Com, announced that its Intrusion Prevention System received the Best Deployment Scenario 2005 Award from Info Security Products Guide. The Info Security Product Guide Awards honors people and technologies shaping the security industry today.

8e6 Technologies, a maker of internet filtering and reporting appliances for schools, celebrated its 10th anniversary during NECC by showcasing its line of customizable content filtering tools, including the recently released R3000IR, which combines the power of 8e6’s older-generation R3000 Filtering Appliance with the reporting capabilities of 8e6’s Enterprise Reporter on a single hardware platform, and the R3000S high-end filtering appliance. The company also announced the promotion of David Angier, who joined 8e6 in 2004, to director of product management.

Centurion Technologies announced the addition of new features to its CompuGuard CornerStone hard-drive protection software for schools and businesses. The basis of the CornerStone software is its ability to erase all temporary changes to the hard drive and shield the computer from “malware” attempting to cause computer malfunctions. New features allow for greater flexibility and convenience for users with the addition of the remote CompuGuard Control Center (CCC) feature. This feature makes it possible to execute almost every available client command, such as filtering and scheduling, and apply them to your client machines from a remote location. With the software installed, users are empowered to experiment safely without harming their computers, and IT administrators will be saved de-bugging time, the company said.

Recently named a CODIE Award finalist, ClassLink demonstrated its ClassLink System 2000, a thin-client program management application that enables schools to deploy their chosen curriculum software across multiple desktops with minimal computing power. Currently deployed in more than 150 schools nationwide, the ClassLink System 2000 aims to help schools get more bang for their technology buck by providing a customizable computing environment for students, teachers, and parents alike. With ClassLink, users can access educational software products provided by their school from the classroom as well as from home. Students and teachers can save their work and create a personalized desktop built specifically for their own unique needs. Parents who, according to federal law, are entitled to greater involvement in their children’s schoolwork can use the ClassLink system to access grades and keep an eye on their child’s progress, among other benefits, the company said. On the back end, the ClassLink system provides centralized management for IT staff, allowing technicians to isolate and solve problems across the thin-client network before they affect the use of technology in the classroom. Plus, ClassLink provides training and project assessment services to help district and school customers get the most out of their investment, the company said.

Education Networks of America (ENA) released “Managed Internet Network Services: Making the Case for Schools,” a white paper written by the consulting firm BLE Group that evaluates the benefits of using a Managed Internet Service Provider (MISP) for planning, developing, and operating broadly distributed networks in large school systems or state education agencies. The paper is a follow-up to “Networks Have to Work & Or Education Doesn’t,” released in May, which addresses the critical need for a state or district-wide K-12 managed internet network to enable and support accountability and learner-centered education. As networks have become the platform for the delivery of education and the operation of management and instructional systems, managed internet service has emerged as a viable and cost-effective alternative to purchasing a large number of a la carte individual network products and services, explained Lillian Kellogg, vice president of client services for ENA. The new report provides an overview of what managed internet service is and an understanding of how the MISP model works more efficiently and effectively for schools, she said.

Network security firm Lightspeed Systems Inc. showcased its Total Traffic Control (TTC) solution. In conjunction with the company’s spam-blocking and security tools, TTC features the capability for school IT managers to monitor network use by controlling access points and red-flagging suspicious or potentially destructive program installations, the company said. In a demonstration for eSchool News, company executives showed how the product can produce reports on everything from total network capacity to individual usage, giving technology coordinators the opportunity to isolate problems while speeding up network maintenance and overall computing efficiency. From a single, centralized location, technology directors have the ability to grant or restrict networking access, create reports detailing usage patterns, and control spam and content-blocking protocols. Lightspeed’s spam and content-blocking filters enable IT administrators to modify their own master list, the company said, making it possible for educators to determine what words should be filtered out and in what context certain words should be deemed accessible. Lightspeed is a leading provider of content filtering and spam-blocking software to K-12 school districts in California, where TTC reportedly protects more than 200 school districts and millions of children from inappropriate web content. In addition to California, TTC is used in school districts throughout Texas, Arizona, Idaho, and Washington, the company said. Beginning in 2005-06, TTC will be available nationwide directly and through channel partners, according Lightspeed announced.

Microsoft Corp. unveiled a host of new products intended to increase the quality of student work and improve the overall security and manageability of shared PCs. Available in time for the upcoming school year, Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP, Microsoft Student 2006, and Microsoft Encarta Academic Online are intended to help teachers optimize their preparation time, allow students to concentrate on producing high-quality assignments, and simplify the setup and maintenance of instructional computers, the company said.

Starting this month, schools that subscribe to a Microsoft Academic Volume Licensing program for Microsoft Office will be licensed automatically to use Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office at no additional cost. Learning Essentials, which runs atop any version of Office XP or Office 2003, provides students and teachers with a customized Office environment with tools to help them start and complete assignments more efficiently and intuitively.

Microsoft also released a public beta version of its Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP, a combination of software tools and documentation meant to help optimize computers running genuine versions of Windows XP for shared environments. Customers now can download the beta version from The Shared Computer Toolkit is expected to help reduce the total cost of owning and operating shared Windows XP-based computers by making them easier to configure, more reliable, and less difficult to maintain. Microsoft is scheduled to launch version 1.0 of the Shared Computer Toolkit later this summer, just in time for school libraries and computer labs to prepare for the new school year.

The third product, Microsoft Student 2006, is designed to help middle- and high-school students complete high-quality homework assignments and projects. The software guides students through the learning process by offering subject-specific tools that can help them achieve academic success. (For more information, see “eSN’s sneak peek at MS Student 2006“.)

Lastly, Microsoft on Aug. 3 plans to launch Encarta Academic Online Edition, a new academic-specific, online version of its award-winning reference library, suite of homework tools, and rich multimedia content. Encarta Academic Online features a new interface optimized for academic searches and gives students one-click access to Encarta reference content in seven languages for 11 countries, Microsoft said.

NetSupport announced that the Niagara University Library has selected NetSupport School to improve visual instruction in the classroom and enable more involved classroom interaction. Additionally, NetSupport School v8.0 computer lab software received a 4 out of 5 Cows rating by Tucows. The Tucows rating scale is determined by adding the total points gained for a range of criteria, from the general installation and the unique features to overall usability and supporting help or documentation.

Nortel has completed new customer deployments that are providing advanced teaching tools such as secure distance learning, wireless access, web-based curricula, and real-time online collaboration to students, faculty, and staff at four North American educational institutions, the company said. Nortel solutions for education are designed to enable IP-based multimedia capabilities, such as IP audio and video conferencing, web-based document sharing, and secure instant messaging, to engage students and improve the learning experience. Nortel said its solutions are now a part of improving the way school systems conduct research, teach students, and collaborate at the State University of New York (SUNY), Potsdam; Saskatoon Catholic Schools and Saskatoon Public Schools in Saskatchewan, Canada; and the Calgary, Alberta, Board of Education.

Software Shelf International showcased its printer network accounting solution, Print Manager Plus. This product is a completely software-based print management solution that gives the user control over costly printers, paper, and toner. Recent studies have shown the tool saves the average school more than $1,000 every month while paying for itself in three weeks, Software Shelf says. The product tracks, controls, and reports printing usage and costs across networks. It permits administrators to budget or restrict paper usage by dollar amount, number of pages per job, job size, and file type. The program costs from $745 for 1 to 4 print servers at client sites to $18,795 for unlimited print servers at client sites.

SonicWALL announced that an increasing number of school districts and other academic establishments are using the company’s content filtering solutions to secure and manage content accessed through their networks. Included in SonicWALL’s security technology is the Content Security Manager, which allows organizations to give network access only to safe, relevant material.

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