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Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine

Proactively addressing vulnerabilities with PDQ Connect

feature image OSU VetMed
feature image OSU VetMed
osu vetmed logo

Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine

Headquarters: Corvallis, Oregon

Industry: Veterinary Medicine, Higher Education

Opened in 1979, the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University (OSU) consists of educational degree programs, research programs, a veterinary teaching hospital, and a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. As of March 2023, the college had 358 students enrolled and 243 instructors and staff employed. In all, close to 700 people require some level of support from the IT team.

Susie Strangfield is the Director of IT, and her team consists of eight people, including herself and two student workers.  

“Our total device count is large given we support instructional, hospital, diagnostic laboratory, and research instruments and equipment in addition to the student population. It’s a very large fleet for us to manage. 

osu campus

“Our team of eight relative to 600+ users drove the need for a way to automate and streamline device management,” shared Susie. 

Prior to her time at OSU, Susie had worked with PDQ Deploy & Inventory.  

“When I joined the veterinary medicine college, we didn’t have tools to assist with automation — the team was doing their best to leverage an Access database and old scripts. We were very excited to bring in a product I’d already been using, and Mark dove in to lead the implementation effort.” 

Mark Williams is the IT Technical Solutions Manager on Susie’s team. Together, they work tightly on setting the IT strategy for their team. Mark leads the technical and information security architecture and continuously works to address technical debt. Mark has worked at OSU for 25 years and has spent 7 years with the veterinary medicine college.  

“Prior to PDQ, it was a lot of hands-on work, and machines just weren’t getting touched fast enough," said Mark. “We began using PDQ Deploy & Inventory and loved using it. But we noticed that our remote devices were falling through the cracks because of network policies that wouldn’t let a lot of the PDQ traffic through to control the devices.” 

Other outside factors of recent years didn’t help, either. “In 2020, and throughout the pandemic, with the increased cybersecurity attacks on higher education, we needed to be able to patch as fast as possible. We did really well with PDQ Deploy & Inventory, but we needed a better way to reach everyone who was using a remote laptop,” recalled Susie. 

man using connect on computer inside a vet clinic

“I had always felt like PDQ Deploy & Inventory needed an agent,” said Mark. “When we heard about PDQ Connect, I was so excited. We got a demo and immediately thought, yes — that's it. That’s what we need and how we imagined it working. We jumped in headfirst and had ours up and running within a week or so, and we’ve had a lot of success.” 

Installing the PDQ Connect agent was straightforward for the team. “We put the agent on a GPO, so when devices connected to our domain, they got the agent,” said Mark. “We were able to enroll hundreds at a time. It took a couple months to get all the stragglers on.” 

Oregon State University has the largest student population of any college or university in the state. The university has a central IT unit and several distributed IT units serving individual colleges with overarching policies and unified governance.  

“The university has several enterprise tools that we leverage for endpoint management. We continue to use PDQ Connect due to its ability to provide real-time, actionable data across our entire fleet,” said Susie.  

“PDQ Connect has been a game changer for increasing efficient issue resolution. We can immediately isolate the endpoints affected and schedule targeted fixes, which is important in a large, federated environment like a university. 

osu campus 2

“There’s a confidence that Connect gives us. It’s more than just visibility. We know that we can manage our entire fleet quickly.” 

“Coming from PDQ Deploy & Inventory, initially PDQ Connect had a lighter feature set,” said Mark. “But as time goes on, more and more of those features are appearing in PDQ Connect. The roadmap is really exciting. I look at it every month and am always looking forward to what’s on there. And everything has been added to the product on schedule, which is great to see. It's not just promises — they do appear.”

Mark detailed the ways that PDQ Connect benefits his team the most, from overall ease of use to having better visibility into the college’s environment. 

“With PDQ Connect, I just think through what information I need and it’s so easy to pull,” said Mark. “Once you understand the groups, variables, and things like that, you can literally create anything and have it monitored for as long as you need it.”

computers in classroom

Hard drive tracking

“Classroom lecture computer hard drives are something we can now keep an eye on,” said Mark. “If 50 faculty and students are signing in one after another, their user profiles take up a big chunk of the hard drive. We created a dynamic group where we can immediately see if the hard drive on a device is filling up.” 

Custom roles

“With the new roles that recently came out,” said Mark, “we were able to give our student workers the right level of access. We created a role where they can see everything but can’t make changes, to protect them from accidentally deploying something to the whole fleet, for example.” 

Proactively addressing vulnerabilities

“We’re keeping our workstations patched and updated at a rate that wasn’t possible before PDQ Connect,” said Mark. “We work hard to reduce risk to the university. Across OSU, the IT teams receive bulletins about vulnerabilities that we need to address. Given the frequency Google Chrome pushes updates, we don’t worry about it now because we built an automation to patch Chrome every night. This automation in PDQ Connect checks in the off-hours essentially for, ‘if you don’t have the latest version of Chrome, you get the latest Chrome.’” 

“For things like browsers, we ensure it won’t interrupt the user experience and push updates as often as possible. For most everything else, we have a weekly scheduled patch window. It includes restarts, anything miscellaneous that’s needed, and any deployments we need to make as well.” 

college students on computer

“I like the product, and I like how it’s constantly evolving. I wish I’d had something like Connect throughout my career. To have it now is amazing. The way it operates with the agent, so it’s not limited by our network policies, makes it super powerful to me. I would recommend it to anybody,” said Mark. 

“We no longer have to go to multiple data sources to monitor for vulnerabilities; we just go to one place — it has streamlined our workflow,” Susie shared. “The product is not as difficult to use as some of our other tool sets, it is intuitive, and easy to learn. Being able to get new folks up to speed fast and proficiently is huge.” 

“The whole team can spend less time trying to isolate issues and more time on actually executing — and even stepping away from device management to focus on strategic projects and operational needs.

For me in a leadership role, PDQ Connect has made time spent on device management one less thing that I have to worry about.

I, too, would recommend it to others based on ease of use and overall business value.” 

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