A lesson in security: BUiD updates its endpoint protection
The British University in Dubai moves to a brand new endpoint protection suite
The British University in Dubai (BUiD) is a 10-year-old higher education institution that specialises in post-graduate courses. Indeed, the university bills itself as the Middle East’s first research-based, post-graduate university, and was established as a not-for-profit organisation by the Al Maktoum Foundation, Dubai Development and Investment Authority, the National Bank of Dubai, the British Business Group, and Rolls-Royce. It has received backing from local and international organisations in the form of funding and scholarships, and all Masters programmes from the university are accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Located at Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), BUiD educates more than 600 students, and has close to 100 people on staff. In terms of its technology requirements, staff need PCs and landlines, with all of the core network services that this entails — servers, firewalls and the like — while students need Internet access via Wi-Fi, which is provided on a siloed network designed to provide internet access only. Aside from this wireless network, which was implemented recently, all of the ingredients to a healthy network have been in place since the university moved to DIAC several years ago.
However, while the network has served the organisation’s requirements for a number of years, one aspect was creating a headache for Joma Cabales, IT officer at BUiD. The issue, he says, was with the endpoint protection solution, from Symantec, that he was using to protect corporate PCs. Having worked with the solution since the university’s inception, he knew how to get the best from it, but he claims that, for a number of reasons, it was causing a drain on his team’s time.
From a security protection point of view, Cabales had no complaints about the old solution, but he did have some qualms with the manageability of the product. Specifically, with the licence that BUiD had, there was very little in the product that allowed Cabales or his team to manage issues with endpoints.
“On a typical day, let’s say there’s a problem with an existing computer — let’s say it doesn’t update. I could not just push the update to the device — I had to physically go to the device and find out what was really wrong with it. The client didn’t communicate back to the server, so I could not see the status. Here, we’re a very small team, and I cannot have my people going around and checking each individual device for updates. We should be able to do it remotely, provide support remotely, wherever they are inside the campus, from the single management window,” he explains.
Another problem that Cabales was facing was that, as Symantec brought out newer versions of its endpoint protection solution, the load became heavier on BUiD’s computing resources. Cabales explains that, from a protection and anti-virus point of view, the existing solution worked fine, but he was beginning to tire of these headaches that required attention. With the existing contract due to expire in a couple of months, then, he began looking at other options.
After being approached by a reseller, Cabales conducted a two-week trial of ESET Endpoint Protection. While willing to conduct the trial, he had his reservations about opting for an ESET solution — his assumption was that the vendor made good products in terms of personal anti-virus protection, but that it wasn’t as strong for the enterprise.
“At the time, I was kind of sceptical about ESET. Yeah, they’re good, but in the enterprise environment, I wasn’t quite comfortable going with them. But they provided me a trial licence and I tried it in my environment,” he explains.
Cabales says that the trial was easy enough to set up — it adapted to his virtual environment through a wizard, and then he was ready to test it with real applications on a few staff computers. He installed the solution on a few staff computers, expecting it to be something of a hassle, but what struck him was how light the solution was on compute resources — both at the endpoint and on the virtual server. Along with the standard anti-virus protection, Cabales was able to set policies on the endpoints through a centralised dashboard.
Another thing that impressed Cabales during the trial was the ability to manage updates on the endpoints. If, for example, a corporate PC hadn’t updated the latest Windows patches, he would get a notification on his central dashboard, alerting him to the fact that the PC was out of date. Then he would be able to push a script through, telling the PC to update to the latest version.
Finally, the thing that really sold Cabales was the price. While not going into detail of BUiD’s three-year agreement with ESET, he explains that ESET offered him a very competitive package on the licences.