Technology Helps Save the WorldBy Nick Wreden | Posted 2009-10-28 Email Print
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The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Salvation Army and the World Wildlife Fund must deal with many of the same technology challenges facing for-profit enterprises, but they don’t have the same resources available to them.
Giving kids the keys to the Internet without exposing them to malware and other dangers that lurk on the Web. Making sure relief teams can stay in touch during disasters. Communicating effectively with donors and other supporters.
These are just a few of the challenges facing the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), the Salvation Army and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These nonprofit organizations must deal with many of the same technology challenges facing for-profit enterprises, but they don’t have the same resources available to them.
So how do they meet these challenges? With help from corporate benefactors, by making the same equipment serve double-duty and by using technology to cut costs.
Take the BGCA, which is headquartered in Atlanta. It provides everything from homework help and nutritional tips to sports and other recreational activities, primarily to at-risk kids. Almost all of the more than 4,300 BGCA clubs nationwide, run by 1,100-plus organizations, have computers with Web access for research, communications and games.
At a time when even sophisticated corporate staffs strain to maintain barricades against Web threats, the BGCA was challenged to ensure Internet protection and safety with club staffers who were more skilled at working with kids than with computers. Compounding the challenge was an extremely heterogeneous environment comprising more than 60,000 workstations, with autonomous locations making their own hardware and software selections—including those that affect security.
Additionally, the 4,300 BGCA clubs represent a patchwork of network environments. Some are networked as part of larger organizations that have at least some IT staff, while others are standalone clubs.
“We needed an automated solution that could work well within a fragmented environment where there might not be much computer expertise on-site,” says John Goslin, CTO of the BGCA. “The kids aren’t always Internet savvy, so a best-of-breed automated solution was needed to protect equipment and provide a safe online environment, without requiring a lot of time, attention or expertise.”
Any solution to what Goslin calls a “Heinz 57” environment had to meet three criteria. First, it had to be easily updated to meet shifting digital threats. Second, it had to work on individual PCs or among WANs. Finally, it had to be financially palatable to the clubs, which struggle to raise adequate funds to accomplish their mission.
To achieve these goals, the BGCA relied on a partnership with CA, which included more than $4.6 million in donations. The three-year partnership provides the clubs with CA Internet Security Suite and technical consulting, which deliver sophisticated network and PC protection.
“It took about a year to correlate the number of PCs with the number of licenses; develop simple instructions for the local staff to load the software with the appropriate license onto each PC; automate software distribution to the clubs; and then ensure that once software was downloaded, each PC could be updated in the background, regardless of whether it resided on a network or an individual PC,” says Goslin.
About half the clubs have now been automated, and the BGCA is aggressively pushing implementation into the remaining clubs.
The BGCA also relied on CA to improve business continuity. Previously, backup had been a manual, time-consuming process that included off-site storage. “The system was rudimentary, subject to human error,” Goslin recalls. “It would have taken a long time to get a data center up and running after a disaster.”
To avoid that scenario, BGCA automated backups using CA NSM. It also created a warm disaster recovery center in an existing warehouse in Atlanta.
“We now can quickly come online with e-mail for employees and other critical tier 1 applications,” Goslin reports. “The relationship with CA helps our organization operate better and frees up resources that we can use to work with the kids.”