Interview | Denny LeCompte and Jeff Stewart Unleash SolarWinds

Before joining SolarWinds as a sales engineer, Jeff Stewart (r) worked as a network specialist and then engineer at Western Kentucky University for over five years. At Western Kentucky, Jeff was responsible for installation, setup and configuration of network switches and routers, network troubleshooting, on-call response for network outages, and development and maintenance of network documentation. Denny LeCompte is the VP of Product Management at SolarWinds. Denny has spent the last decade building IT management software, first as a usability engineer and then as a technical product manager. Denny believes that if a company understands its customers and the problems that they face every day, creating products that they can enjoy using becomes simple. Here, Jeff and Denny answer a few questions about mobile, rogue devices and the future of networks in education.

Victor: With the explosive growth of mobile, “always-on” devices, do school IT departments need to change the way they think about managing their networks?

Denny: Yes. With the new diversity and advancements in technology network administrators face new challenges to provide “always-on” and simplistic access to their networks. The days of forcing or expecting users to conform to a Windows-type operating system have come and gone. A new network administrator, especially within education, must expect to see the bleeding edge in technology with each new semester.

Victor: Has the growth in mobile devices adversely affected network capacity?

Jeff: Yes, it has.  Mobile devices allow for ease of use and access to the network at any time.  Previously students, professors and University employees were limited to accessing the network from their desks or dorm rooms.  Now users have access from anywhere on campus – even outside.  This increase in ease of access has a direct correlation to the need for network capacity.

Victor: Many students and faculty members are storing their data via the cloud.  What types of considerations come into play as a result of the proliferation of cloud services? 

Denny: The move to cloud services, for both students and the rest of the University, creates a greater dependency on network administrators to keep their network performing efficiently and up and running 24 x 7 x 365. The “new” network administrator faces challenges in increased bandwidth and pressure to provide a service. They have essentially become an ISP to a community of students, faculty and staff.

Victor: How can school IT administrators overcome these “cloudy” issues?

Jeff: Administrators must stay ahead of the curve to overcome any sort of “cloudy” issues.  They need to be aware of new technologies within their space and the technology industry as a whole.  A network administrator must not only be ready for today, but tomorrow or even next week.  Having the proper technology in place – as well as the proper knowledge – will keep administrators ahead of any potential issues.

Victor: How important is it for school networks to keep tabs on “rogue” devices?  What entails a rogue device and what problems do they cause?

Denny: This really depends on the threat level of the rogue device.  If the device is interrupting or impacting service to the network community or other potential users then the priority becomes high. If the device is simply an unauthorized access point in a dorm room, the threat is relatively low. However, in either case a network administrator should be able to identify any type of rogue device.

Victor: What other problems could potentially arise as a result of this so-called “mobile device-aggedon”?

Jeff: Not sure I would go so far as to call this a “mobile device-aggedon,” but with any new technology adopted by mass users there is always the potential for new security threats that users and network administrators should try to prepare for.

Victor: What is SolarWinds and how does the company’s products help school IT departments? 

Denny: SolarWinds is the leader in IT management monitoring software that can help any network administrator stay ahead of the curve.  Our products help administrators – including those working with educational institutions – monitor today’s infrastructure for availability, threats and performance while helping them prepare for tomorrow’s network needs.

Victor: What are your thoughts, in general, on the role networking technology plays in education?

Jeff: Networking is the underlying technology that users never see or think about until it’s unavailable. With the move to online courses and cloud services within education, networking is essential in helping students achieve their educational success. 

Victor: What is your outlook on the future of networks in education?

Denny: Education networks are going to continue grow and help shape tomorrow’s technology.  With the demand students create on networks and the move to more cloud type services, education networks will continue to evolve to meet the demand of its users.

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Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com

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