By GREGORY ZELLER //
A new collaboration between two Long Island tech firms could prove a digital godsend for regional school administrators.
Tools4Ever, a Netherlands-based global provider of digital identity and access-management solutions with U.S. operations headquartered in Lynbrook, has joined forces with eSchoolData, a Bohemia-based provider of digital frameworks – databases, email services and more – for school districts in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Tools4Ever’s mission: to integrate eSchoolData’s student information services with Microsoft’s Active Directory (a special-purpose database focused on read-and-search operations), G Suite (Google’s bundle of intelligent apps) and Office 365 (Microsoft’s flagship software package).
The problem, as explained by eSchoolData Product Manager Eric Erhardt, is massive – and still climbing – overhead facing school districts looking to manage thousands of student and staff accounts across these software suites.
“As school districts continue to utilize new applications and grow their ecosystem of new applications for their students and teachers, they’re really looking to centralize control of those accounts in one place,” Erhardt told Innovate LI.
Enter Tools4Ever, which has created what Dean Wiech, managing director of U.S. operations, called a “connector” that “takes information from eSchoolData’s system and automatically creates, updates, disables and deletes user accounts as necessary.”
“Instead of spending hours having somebody manually enter these accounts, it now takes just a few minutes to automatically create them,” Wiech said.
That’s pure gold for eSchoolData and the districts it serves, where the proliferation of accounts, user IDs and security protocols can be a major headache.
“It really reduces the overhead, which is nice,” Erhardt noted. “And it enables the district to provide just a singular set of credentials for each student and staff member, rather than trying to remember a user name and password for each separate application.”
Equally important – perhaps more so – is the Tool4Ever connector makes it just as quick and easy to delete accounts when staffers and students depart a district and its myriad databases. That’s no small feat around graduation time, for instance, when hundreds or even thousands of accounts could suddenly become obsolete, depending on the size of a district.
“Student data privacy is one of the main value adds of this integration,” Erhardt noted. “Giving a district the ability to turn off an account for all applications with a push of a button when a student or staff member leaves is big.”
While they share a fair number of preexisting crossover clients, the two companies first hooked up in Hauppauge in April, when eSchoolData hosted its annual User Conference, a networking showcase demonstrating the Bohemia firm’s newest features and “future roadmap,” according to Erhardt.
Tools4Ever was a vendor at the conference, and “we kind of approached each other and said, ‘Hey, does this make sense?’” according to Wiech. “They said a lot of their customers were looking for this kind of integration.”
So Tools4Ever got busy on the connector – “basically, a programmatic way to get data from one system to another,” Wiech noted – and just over a month hence, the new software has been deployed on its first field test: The Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District in Westchester County is giving it a whirl, with the “proof of functionality” shakedown cruise slated to run two to three weeks, Wiech said.
Assuming all goes well, the new partners will engage “joint marketing efforts” to spread the word, according to Tools4Ever’s U.S. director, with other regional school districts – including some on Long Island – already lining up.
Exactly how the two firms will market their new offering remains to be seen, Erhardt noted, though some sort of promotional push is certainly in the cards.
“I think now that we’ve got the integration in place, we’ll be meeting with the Tools4Ever group to see how we can market this, whether it’s through a series of webinars or finding ways to educate existing Tools4Ever users,” he said. “But I was at [an eSchoolData] user group in Westchester a few weeks ago and came across several current Tools4Ever clients that didn’t even know they could access this kind of integration.
“So, whether it’s webinars or emails, we’ll definitely reach out to them.”
Whatever happens next, Tools4Ever knows it has a worthy collaborator in eSchoolData, which is “absolutely right in our wheelhouse,” according to Wiech.
“Their customers are extremely happy with the service they provide, and they’re looking at this as a way to provide additional functionality to those customers at a minimal cost,” he said. “I think this could be a very big deal, for us and for eSchoolData.”