In a perfect world, public school acceptable-use policies (AUPs) wouldn’t be necessary. However, school network administrators know that access to the internet and other network resources can be too tempting for students at times.
On any given day, abuse of the network can range from inadvertent to criminal, and the network administrator’s challenge is to prevent minor annoyances from turning into major problems. The answer starts with comprehensive network monitoring software built on solid reporting functionality. At the Bullard Independent School District in Bullard, Texas, we use a product from California-based network services provider Lightspeed Systems called Total Traffic Control v6.0.
Total Traffic Control serves as our first step in identifying significant non-educational internet usage. When we first implemented this tool, the traffic hitting our T-1 line was averaging about 900 Mbps during peak times of the day.
Using Lightspeed’s customized reporting tools, we identified a large amount of non-educational traffic hitting the internet from school computers. We shared this information with the district’s campus administrators who, in turn, held a series of meetings with school staff to discuss the district’s AUP. We also reinforced with all students the terms of the AUP agreement they signed along with their parents. Very precise reports gave us the tools to do that in a way that left no room for debate.
Second, we used Total Traffic Control’s reports to quickly identify who and where the users and abusers were on the network. Using these reports, we began to realize that many of the bandwidth issues we were experiencing were the result of students using our computers as their own personal radio devices, downloading music files or sharing curious files.
After installing Total Traffic Control and sharing the reports with campus administrators, total bandwidth usage dropped 30 percent within two weeks. Music downloads, accessing inappropriate web sites, and anything else that contradicted the AUP was made more difficult, giving the district more available internet bandwidth.
Finally, we implemented procedures to provide appropriate reports to the district superintendent and principals when users violated the terms of the AUP. Total Traffic Control formats these reports to demonstrate compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act and, if necessary, to provide forensic evidence to law enforcement.