The Digital Art Of Secure Access


How UserLock enables the School of Engineering & Digital Arts, University of Kent, to provide secure 24-hour access to computer suites

The Department of Engineering & Digital Arts is a school within the University of Kent. The department is provided with fundamental IT systems by the Central Information Services Department but the nature of the school means that it has particularly high technology requirements and therefore one of the only schools within the university with its own data centre and dedicated IT infrastructure.

lockThe challenge

The standard Microsoft operating system does not allow for the management of concurrent logins on PCs and it became apparent over a number of years that the school’s students, especially those on design heavy courses like the Animation Module, were using multiple PCs in order to render their work. This resulted in whole computer suites being locked at once, at times just as classes were due to begin meaning not enough machines were available to use and subsequently schedules were disrupted. At times PCs would be left completely locked until they were manually restarted.

Security has also been an issue for the department in the past. The department is fortunate enough to be able to offer its students 24-hour access to the computer labs. However, students would then share their login details with students from other schools who did not have the same privilege resulting in multiple instances of the same account.

The Solution

UserLock has enabled the school to implement restrictions around concurrent user logins, disabling students from logging in to more than one machine at any one time. Over the course of three years UserLock has enabled the school to tailor access for each student with up to three logins where necessary, allowing them the flexibility to carry out their assignments but also ensuring maximum security for the school. This has gradually been reduced to one single login for each student, achieving the school’s original goal.

A team of staff use UserLock, making adjustments as and when it’s necessary with the software running from a virtual machine.

The benefits

UserLock has enabled the department to successfully monitor concurrent logins for all its student facing PCs as well as controlling the locking process of each machine. Furthermore it has given the department the ability to control the sharing of logins resulting in a far better use of department resourcing, ensuring PCs are continuously available for all students as required.

When looking to address both security,as well as resourcing, UserLock was the only solution that would provide minimum impact to the login process for students while being easy to implement and manage for the IT staff. As opposed to other potential software on the market, the department found UserLock to be the only one that targets the issue of concurrent logins specifically rather than tying this in with other unnecessary elements, which may have otherwise been restricting to students.

The department currently has three main Active Directory groups set up and UserLock has been configured to treat each one separately, with one each for staff, undergraduates, and post-graduates. However, they also have specific groups created for UserLock for situations where the standard response may need to be considered and a student may require more than one session. Staff can drop these individuals into specific groups without having to change UserLock settings at all.

Paul Sinnock, School of Engineering & Digital Arts, University of Kent, said: “From our point of view not only was UserLock very easy to install, but once it is set up we can rest assured that it will work flawlessly. Not only has it bolstered security, it has allowed us to resolve a difficult resourcing issue in a way that no other tool we have come across has been able to.”

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