Case Study: Usherwood Helps Northwood School with Online Confidence and Security

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Northwood is a boarding school located in Lake Placid, NY. The school includes grades 9-12, plus a post-graduate year, and offers competitive academic and athletic programs. There are about 190 students from all around the United States (and the world) that attend and about 85% of them live on campus. Northwood is a very well-rounded educational institution, that helps students gain the knowledge necessary to sculpt them for future success.  


Learning During a Pandemic 

Due to COVID-19, sending students to schools the way it was done traditionally was no longer an option. Whether it meant going to fully remote learning, bringing students in and splitting up into smaller sizes, or doing a hybrid with half in-person and half online, it was still far from what was considered to be “normal”. The pandemic forced many institutions, such as Northwood, to reevaluate their previous teaching structures.  In Northwood’s case, they had to come up with a plan that would allow their students to receive a superior education, all while accommodating the structure of going fully online for classes.

Northwood School was looking for the ability to provide the most interactive experience, both in and outside of the classroom. They also wanted to consolidate onto a single platform, instead of having separate conferencing, voice, and email platforms. For such a prestigious school, it was important they have a workflow solution that would allow both faculty and students to operate at their highest efficiency. The solution would need to grow with the school as the environment continued to expand and change. Usherwood then came along and wanted to make sure Northwood was provided with just that.  


Solving Remote Learning through Technology 

Prior to Northwood looking for a remote education solution, there were already ties with the Usherwood family. Louis Usherwood, Chief Executive Officer, Lauren Usherwood, Business Development Executive, and Leslie Usherwood, Strategic Technology Consultant, were previous students and then Alumni of the school. Usherwood and Northwood were already connected, so it made sense Usherwood would be the one to offer a helping hand.

Usherwood’s mission was to provide Northwood with a solution that would deliver the highest level of education to its students. Together, Usherwood and Northwood created a solution that would allow them to integrate all their communication methods into a single solution. Usherwood deployed the twelve-room solutions in a single day. The deployment included three buildings on campus, as well as their Innovation Hub located in downtown Lake Placid. The overall solution included: 


Implementation of Microsoft Office 365 for staff: 

Microsoft Office 365 was chosen because it uses powerful cloud services, device management, and advanced security allowing students and faculty to communicate effortlessly, share documents, create meetings, and create virtual classrooms. 


Migration from Skype to Microsoft Teams: 

Teams is a powerful extension of Microsoft Office 365. Teams was implemented because it seamlessly integrated voice communication, video conferencing, and virtual classroom communication. 


Email Migration from Google to Microsoft Office 365: 

Switching from Google to the Microsoft Office 365 email platform allowed all the applications that make up the solutions to have a more seamless integration. 


Industry Leading Equipment: 

Classrooms were outfitted with durable and versatile carts housing 65” displays, voice, and video equipment allowing for the application to create a virtual classroom. Staff was outfitted with a mix of headsets, compact speaker phones, handsets, and high-resolution video cameras so that they would be able to communicate seamlessly with other staff and students. 


What Did the Implementation Look Like? 

The application portion of the solution was configured prior to deployment. Northwood’s staff was trained on how to use the solution and was encouraged to practice utilizing demo systems in the weeks prior to the solution going live. The hardware portion was preassembled and configured at Usherwood. The entire solution was then wrapped and readied for transport at Usherwood. To be sure that the delivery didn’t interfere with the students or staff working at Northwood, the solution was delivered based on room availability and class schedules. 

Each solution was unwrapped, powered on, and tested to validate proper connectivity. Usherwood executed the deployment in a single day, to assure that Northwood was up and operational with it in no downtime. To assure that there were no surprises on day two, a Senior Applications Engineer and a Managed Solutions Specialist were onsite to verify that there were no issues and assist with any questions that may arise.  


Ensuring Cybersecurity After Big Changes

Usherwood’s assistance with Northwood’s transition to utilizing more digital classroom tools had an overall positive impact. Remote learning and having a larger utilization of online tools have allowed Northwood to ensure staff and students all have the necessary resources under one accessible solution.

However, after assisting them with switching their education tools to easier online access to remedy the new trend of remote education, Northwood faced a new problem after the pandemic.

After the hardships of the pandemic, there were new issues to find solutions for. As a result of many businesses converting to online platforms to create remote workspaces during the pandemic, cyberattacks saw a dramatic increase.

This meant many businesses, including Northwood School, were seeing more and more threats to their networks.“Some of the fallout from a much bigger online presence was increased frequency of scamming, hacking, phishing, identity theft, etc,”

Northwood School’s Technology Coordinator, Jeffrey Martin said, “So, we added Managed Services 18 months ago to help improve our user account and network security as well as our ability to respond to threats and attacks.” 

Once again, Usherwood offered a helping hand to Northwood. Usherwood added security barriers such as disaster recovery and 2-factor authentication, improved Northwood’s anti-virus and malware protection, monitored accounts and malicious activity, and provided the staff with education and training on safe cybersecurity practices. 

“This has definitely made us safer. We work almost daily with Usherwood on maintenance, analysis, support, and threat response,” said Martin.


An Opportunity for Growth in the Education Space 

Northwood now has the ability to communicate, hold online classrooms, and give assignments effortlessly while maintaining cyber safety.  Students are even getting the opportunity to use and master an application that is heavily prevalent in the business world. Using Teams as a platform for school will prepare them for using it in their careers upon graduation. Northwood quickly adapted to its new environment in order to give its students the education they deserve, and for that, we were so excited to have had the opportunity to work with them and become collaborators. 

“The Usherwood Family has transitioned from Northwood Students to Alumni to trusted business partners,” Jeffrey Martin stated.

If there is anything positive to come of the pandemic, COVID-19 provided an opportunity for the world to reimagine education and cybersecurity  As new problems arrived for schools, technology companies like Usherwood are able to develop new solutions to help navigate a new learning/teaching process. This was the first time Usherwood entered the classroom with a Microsoft Teams solution. 

However, Usherwood, like many institutions, found the need to create virtual classroom settings and secure infrastructures to solve the new challenges facing educators. This period has been a new journey for so many industries and as a technology company, it has been a rewarding experience working with clients like Northwood to uncover new opportunities and areas of growth. 

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About Darrian Breedlove, Content Writer

Darrian Breedlove is Usherwood's Content Writer. She manages Usherwood's message by integrating educational content into our company culture.