THE MAGAZINE

One Campus, Many Devices

By Holly Gilbert

When it comes to managing a Wi-Fi network, organizations typically do one of two things. They can allow for public access of their Wi-Fi networks, which wouldn’t require a username and password, or they can have a user log on each time. If they leave their network open for any users, unwanted or unauthorized devices can come on the network. However, protecting the network with usernames and passwords can add work for the IT staff in resolving help desk issues with forgotten passwords and account lockouts.

Certificates provide a more nuanced solution for authenticating users. Certificates are electronic files generated by a network’s central server that contain some type of information identifying the user of each device. When these files are installed on a device, a user can be authenticated onto the network because they are “trusted,” as the network recognizes their certificate.

In August of last year, the IT team at NDSU began looking into mobile device enablement solutions that would cut down on the amount of hours spent managing certificates. Eventually the IT team at NDSU came across XpressConnect from CloudPath Networks, a holistic solution that allows the university to manage its array of devices while maintaining security and efficiency.

With XpressConnect, the IT department can create certificates for all users and manage levels of access on the network for those users. IT’s workload shrinks because users can get the certificates themselves in a “self-service” manner. A certificate is generated when users log onto the network’s captive portal page, the Web page that displays the university’s acceptable use policy and prompts for a username and password. After the certificate is downloaded onto that specific device, it’s valid for however many years the network administrator determines. Each time after that the user wants to log on to the wireless network, their device is automatically authenticated.

“It takes care of generating all the certificates, authenticating the users, absolutely everything for us, and it gives us the enterprise system that controls the four major operating systems, Windows on the desktop, Android, iOS, and Mac OS 10,” says Frovarp of the solution.
 

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