Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Email and Spam - Putting BVSD at Risk

Spam is something that most would agree is a nuisance, but it can also be very damaging to the entire district. Clicking on a malicious link can shut down BVSD email services for days.

Today, we had BVSD employees receive spam messages related to cleaning up their computers. These emails looked real enough for two people to click the link. The result was that their PCs became spam generators, sending thousands of emails without their knowledge from their BVSD accounts.

When email providers receive bvsd.org-generated emails en mass, they blacklist the district so that no email from any bvsd.org address can get through. It can take IT hours or days to convince the email companies to take us off their blacklist.  

Being blacklisted by a major email provider can severely limit or shut down the business operation that supports education.

Many times the offending PCs need to be reimaged to ensure the issue is resolved, causing further loss of productivity for the individual and for IT service staff.

What does IT do to help?

Approximately 95% of all emails sent to BVSD are discarded before they reach anyone’s mailbox. The remaining 5% are scrutinized by our email filter to determine if they are legitimate. Most times the filters get it right, but sometimes the filter believes a message is legitimate when it is actually spam. It is in this case that we need your help. 

What can you do to help?

Think Before You Link - Never click on email links or attachments unless you are absolutely sure they are from a trusted sender.  When email arrives from outside the district, beware. Look closely at the subject and sender without opening the email. Some spam looks legitimate because it appears similar to an email you might get from a reputable company. If you are in doubt, it is probably spam - delete it!

Official institutions, including BVSD, will never ask for your username, password, credit card number, or other personal information via email. 

If you do inadvertently click any links or attachments in or reply to the spam email, please change your password immediately. That will stop the spammers from using your system and will help protect district assets. 

If you have immediate concerns, please call the IT Service Desk at x5065 or place an IT Service Request. If you have suggestions or comments please chime in here. Just remember you need to be logged in to comment (upper right corner).  


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The BVSD Transition to Google Collaborative Tools

On April 23, 2012, BVSD will be transitioning to the Google collaborative tools known as Google Apps. I'm happy to be communicating the details of this transition since many of you have been requesting these very same tools for a long time.
The Basic Google Apps
Over the last few months IT and Monarch HS (staff and students) have piloted the transition to the basic suite of Google Apps: Gmail, calendar, and instant messaging. These tools have some immediate benefits.
You will have immediate online access at any time and on any device (PC, Mac, iPad, Droid, etc.). 
Your inbox will increase from 200 MB to 25 GB, which is over 10 times your current storage space. You also get the power of the Google search engine to find archived emails. 
Instant Messaging (IM)
IM allows you to instantly communicate (or "chat") with any BVSD employee, student, or Gmail user who is available to start an online chat session. The IT staff and I use this feature all the time to quickly communicate in lieu of email or phone. Please IM me with you questions or thoughts anytime you see I'm online. (Google will show you when I'm available.)
Google Apps for Document Collaboration
As Google becomes part of the BVSD culture, I anticipate a steady transition to collaboration at new levels. Google has several Apps that allow multiple people to collaborate on documents at the same time. We've already experienced the benefits of document sharing and collaboration in IT and Curriculum.  
In the schools, teachers will be able to have students submit assignments within Google and provide feedback online when appropriate. Peer collaboration within the classroom becomes an easier experience when teachers can easily see who is collaborating and to what level on any assignment. 
Administrators will also be able to collaborate with their staff members in new, fluid ways. Surveys can be easily created in an App called Google Forms.
These Google Apps are just a portion of the entire suite of Apps that are available to BVSD Google users. You can find a complete list of BVSD-accessible Google Apps at the end of this blog.
Google Ninjas: Your School's Experts
The list of benefits in using Google is long, but a transition of this scale is rarely without some bumps in the road. To help with the rollout, Kelly Sain (Ed Tech Manager) has created a program that will put Google experts in each school. The experts, known as Google Ninjas, will be trained over the next couple of months in preparation for the April 23 rollout. Principals have provided Kelly with a list of the experts for each school who will become your resident Google Ninjas.
Your First Days in Google
You probably have a lot of questions about what to expect in the transition to Google Apps. I recommend taking a look at the Google Transition Site, which is specifically designed to address your first days as a Google Apps user in BVSD. If you are a Gmail user in your personal life, then you already know how to use some of these tools.
Please chime in on this blog and let me know what you are looking forward to with the move to Google Apps and what concerns you most about the transition.
Thank you for your time!
Initial Google Apps Available at BVSD    
AviaryAviary is a powerful suite of browser-based design tools for people who create.
Google ContactsAddress Book
Google GmailEmail
Google CalendarCalendar
Google DocsWord processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations
Google SitesWebsites
Google TalkChatting
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